Howard Hawk and Orson Wells
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1941 Movie Review of Welles' Citizen Kane

Orson Welles's Controversial 'Citizen Kane' Proves a Sensational Film at Palace -- 'That Uncertain Feeling' at Music Hall -- 'Great American Broadcast' at Roxy - NYTimes

MOVIE REVIEW
Citizen Kane (1941)
Orson Welles's Controversial 'Citizen Kane' Proves a Sensational Film at Palace -- 'That Uncertain Feeling' at Music Hall -- 'Great American Broadcast' at Roxy

By BOSLEY CROWTHER
Published: May 2, 1941
Within the withering spotlight as no other film has ever been before, Orson Welles's "Citizen Kane" had is world première at the Palace last evening. And now that the wraps are off, the mystery has been exposed and Mr. Welles and the RKO directors have taken the much-debated leap, it can be safely stated that suppression of this film would have been a crime. For, in spite of some disconcerting lapses and strange ambiguities in the creation of the principal character, "Citizen Kane" is far and away the most surprising and cinematically exciting motion picture to be seen here in many a moon. As a matter of fact, it comes close to being the most sensational film ever made in Hollywood.

Count on Mr. Welles; he doesn't do things by halves. Being a mercurial fellow, with a frightening theatrical flair, he moved right into the movies, grabbed the medium by the ears and began to toss it around with the dexterity of a seasoned veteran. Fact is, he handled it with more verve and inspired ingenuity than any of the elder craftsmen have exhibited in years. With the able assistance of Gregg Toland, whose services should not be overlooked, he found in the camera the perfect instrument to encompass his dramatic energies and absorb his prolific ideas. Upon the screen he discovered an area large enough for his expansive whims to have free play. And the consequence is that he has made a picture of tremendous and overpowering scope, not in physical extent so much as in its rapid and graphic rotation of thoughts. Mr. Welles has put upon the screen a motion picture that really moves.

As for the story which he tells—and which has provoked such an uncommon fuss—this corner frankly holds considerable reservation. Naturally we wouldn't know how closely—if at all—it parallels the life of an eminent publisher, as has been somewhat cryptically alleged. But that is beside the point in a rigidly critical appraisal. The blamable circumstance is that it fails to provide a clear picture of the character and motives behind the man about whom the whole thing revolves.

As the picture opens, Charles Kane lies dying in the fabulous castle he has built—the castle called Xanadu, in which he has surrounded himself with vast treasures. And as death closes his eyes his heavy lips murmur one word, "Rosebud." Suddenly the death scene is broken; the screen becomes alive with a staccato March-of-Time-like news feature recounting the career of the dead man—how, as a poor boy, he came into great wealth, how he became a newspaper publisher as a young man, how he aspired to political office, was defeated because of a personal scandal, devoted himself to material acquisition and finally died.

But the editor of the news feature is not satisfied; he wants to know the secret of Kane's strange nature and especially what he meant by "Rosebud." So a reporter is dispatched to find out, and the remainder of the picture is devoted to an absorbing visualization of Kane's phenomenal career as told by his boyhood guardian, two of his closest newspaper associates and his mistress. Each is agreed on one thing—that Kane was a titanic egomaniac. It is also clearly revealed that the man was in some way consumed by his own terrifying selfishness. But just exactly what it is that eats upon him, why it is there and, for that matter, whether Kane is really a villain, a social parasite, is never clearly revealed. And the final, poignant identification of "Rosebud" sheds little more than a vague, sentimental light upon his character. At the end Kubla Kane is still an enigma—a very confusing one.

But check that off to the absorption of Mr. Welles in more visible details. Like the novelist, Thomas Wolfe, his abundance of imagery is so great that it sometimes gets in the way of his logic. And the less critical will probably be content with an undefined Kane, anyhow. After all, nobody understood him. Why should Mr. Welles? Isn't it enough that he presents a theatrical character with consummate theatricality?

We would, indeed, like to say as many nice things as possible about everything else in this film—about the excellent direction of Mr. Welles, about the sure and penetrating performances of literally every member of the cast and about the stunning manner in which the music of Bernard Herrmann has been used. Space, unfortunately, is short. All we can say, in conclusion, is that you shouldn't miss this film. It is cynical, ironic, sometimes oppressive and as realistic as a slap. But it has more vitality than fifteen other films we could name. And, although it may not give a thoroughly clear answer, at least it brings to mind one deeply moral thought: For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? See "Citizen Kane" for further details.


CITIZEN KANE; original screen play by Orson Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz; produced and directed by Orson Welles; photography by Gregg Toland; music composed and conducted by Bernard Herrmann; released through RKO-Radio. At the Palace.
Charles Foster Kane . . . . . Orson Welles
Kane, aged 8 . . . . . Buddy Swan
Kane 3d . . . . . Sonny Bupp
Kane's Father . . . . . Harry Shannon
Jedediah Leland . . . . . Joseph Cotten
Susan Alexander . . . . . Dorothy Comingore
Mr. Bernstein . . . . . Everett Sloane
James W. Gettys . . . . . Ray Collins
Walter Parks Thatcher . . . . . George Coulouris
Kane's Mother . . . . . Agnes Moorehead
Raymond . . . . . Paul Stewart
Emily Norton . . . . . Ruth Warrick
Herbert Carter . . . . . Erskine Sanford
Thompson . . . . . William Alland
Miss Anderson . . . . . Georgia Backus
Mr. Rawlston . . . . . Philip Van Zandt
Headwaiter . . . . . Gus Schilling
Signor Matiste . . . . . Fortunio Bonanova


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"Give me that old time religion": Sound Used to Form Motifs in the Movie

A scene from an old time film - "Sergeant York" 1941.

 

"Sergeant York" is placed during WWI when I man, claiming to be a pacifist gets drafted in the war. This scene in the movie was intended to reinforce the strong influence of the characters religious faith. Music like this was often used to better establish a point and still be unobtrusive.


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Howard Hawks | Camera Obscura

Howard Hawks | Camera Obscura | Howard Hawk and Orson Wells | Scoop.it

Howard Hawks. The golden era of Hollywood is symbolised by a number of household names – Billy Wilder, Orson Welles, John Ford, Ernst Lubitsch, Cecil B. DeMille. When held against these luminaries, Howard Hawks is ...


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Hamlet discussed 1963

Hamlet discussed 1963 | Howard Hawk and Orson Wells | Scoop.it

Orson Welles, Peter O'Toole and Ernest Milton discuss and analyse William Shakespeare's Hamlet in a 1963 edition of Monitor, the BBC's flagship TV arts programme at the time (I love Peter O'Toole's glasses,Orson Welles' sheen & the unashamedly...


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Orson Welles… the quest for perfection | Take Me To Your Cinema

Orson Welles… the quest for perfection | Take Me To Your Cinema | Howard Hawk and Orson Wells | Scoop.it

Of course I'm sure you've heard the news this month that the latest Sight And Sound Magazine poll unseated Orson Welles' first movie 1941′s 'Citizen Kane' from it's half-century as the semi-official “Greatest film of all time”.


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1953 Movie Review of Hawks' Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

MOVIE REVIEW
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; ' Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' at Roxy, With Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell

By BOSLEY CROWTHER
Published: July 16, 1953
A sideline exchange of conversation, tossed off early in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," the new Twentieth Century-Fox musical with Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe as its stars, gives a pretty fair indication of the fundamental aspects of this film, which bumped and gyrated broadly into the Roxy yesterday.

Says one bug-eyed fellow to another as the Misses Russell and Monroe do a languid parade up the gangplank of the Le Havre-bound Ile de France: "If this ship hit an iceberg and sank, which one would you save?" To which his admiring companion gurgles: "Those girls couldn't drown."

That subtle backlash of burlesque banter not only tags the brand of wit that flows with old-fashioned charm through the picture, but pointedly explains the buoyancy and survival of the young ladies in this bumptious film. For the simple fact is that the conveyance in which they are bravely embarked takes water almost from the beginning and sinks lower and lower as it goes. Along toward the end, it wholly flounders and sinks dismally into those depths reserved for the wreckage of screenplays that haven't the structure or the steam. But the Misses Monroe and Russell, with their famous charms and airy graces, keep bobbing like chips on a wave.

A Casual Script Job

Credit their happy survival not so much to the inventions in the script, which was casually scribbled by Charles Lederer from the musical comedy by Joseph Fields and Anita Loos, or to the rambling and random direction of the oddly assigned Howard Hawks. Credit it simply to the well-defined construction and the outgoing natures of the girls, to one or two rampant song numbers and the Technicolor flash of the ladies' clothes.

For the screenplay contrived by Mr. Lederer is less the classic saga of two smart dames, which was originally played beneath this title, than it is a silly tale of two dumb dolls. And Mr. Hawks' direction is uncomfortably cloddish and slow. Whatever there was of Miss Loos' memorable Loreli Lee, the blonde whose hobby was money back in the easy-salad days, is lost, strayed or possibly stolen in the foolish stunts set for Miss Monroe. And the gags pulled out for Miss Russell are devoid of character or charm.

Absence of Class

Except for one plush production number, in which Miss Monroe sings that candid refrain, the theme song of the gold-diggers, "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," there is not much class in this picture. The humor is mainly in such things as Miss Monroe's finding it difficult, for anatomical reasons, to squeeze her way through a porthole, or she and Miss Russell's conspiring to pull the pants off a gentleman friend. And the music is figured in such numbers as Miss Russell's violent chant to he-man love, sung for a bunch of squirming athletes, or in her rendering of a torrid shimmy in a French court.

Neither do the gentlemen in this dido—Charles Coburn, as a babbling diamond king; Tommy Noonan, as a dunce with lots of money, and Elliot Reid, as the one who loses his pants—come up with anything other than usual helpings of slightly stewed corn.

And yet, there is that about Miss Russell and also about Miss Monroe that keeps you looking at them even when they have little or nothing to do. Call it inherent magnetism. Call it luxurious coquetry. Call it whatever you fancy. It's what makes this a—well, a buoyant show.

On the "ice-colorama" stage at the Roxy is a summer revue, "Boardwalk Fancies," featuring Marleen Smith, Peggy Wallace, Trixie, Tommy McGinnis, Marc Nelson, Larry Griswold, the Roxy Blades and Belles and the Choraleers.


GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, screen play by Charles Lederer, based on the musical comedy by Joseph Fields and Anita Loos; directed by Howard Hawks; produced by Sol C. Siegel for Twentieth Century-Fox. At the Roxy.
Dorothy . . . . . Jane Russell
Loreli . . . . . Marilyn Monroe
Sir Francis Beekman . . . . . Charles Coburn
Malone . . . . . Elliott Reid
Gus Esmond . . . . . Tommy Noonan
Henry Spofford 3d . . . . . George Winslow
Magistrate . . . . . Marcel Dalio
Esmond Sr . . . . . Taylor Holmes
Lady Beekman . . . . . Nonna Varden


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Cinema History: Classic Films from the Hollywood Studios, 1934-1946

Cinema History: Classic Films from the Hollywood Studios, 1934-1946 | Howard Hawk and Orson Wells | Scoop.it

The Old Classics: The Wizard of OZ (1939), Gone With the Wind (1939), Meet John Doe (1941), Notorious (1946), etc.  


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Deconstructing Through The Cut – Orson Welles And F For Fake «

Deconstructing Through The Cut – Orson Welles And F For Fake « | Howard Hawk and Orson Wells | Scoop.it

There's a certain charm in seeing one of the cinema's great “mythological” figures produce one of the defining works in the medium on the subject of truth. F For Fake, Orson Welles' 1973 movie is a thesis on reality, perception ...


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CITIZEN KANE - Movies - Film Forum

CITIZEN KANE - Movies - Film Forum | Howard Hawk and Orson Wells | Scoop.it

New York's leading movie house for independent premieres and repertory programming; a nonprofit cinema since 1970.


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