Citizen Kane at the Oscars

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  • Sab227
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    #111042

    Obviously Citizen Kane is regarded as the best film of all time and it should have won best picture and basically all other awards it was nominated for IMO. Do you guys think it should have won more than just Original Screenplay at the Oscars? Also do you guys think anyone else from the film was worthy of a nomination and win?

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    Scottferguson
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    #111044

    Actually, Vertigo displaced it last year on the Sight & Sound All Time Best Critics Poll (which I agree with), generally regarded as the most prestigious, and one which Kane led each decade from 1962-2002, and incredible achievement.
    It was for me the best film of 1941, but it lost to what for me is the greatest film (along with Sunrise) to ever win Best Picture (How Green Was My Valley), so the disgrace isn’t that bad.
    Orson Welles was 26 at the time of the awards. At the time of making the film, for which he was director, producer, co-writer, star, with final cut and unprecedented control (because of his achievement in theater and radio) he was regarded with a lot of resentment (his age made it worse). Then William S. Hearst, the most powerful media force of his time – imagine Rupert Murdoch 10 times stronger – understandably was angry to the parallels to his life, and more so, the opera singer/lovers with his unmarried partner Marion Davies (who was actually quite talented). Hearst got other studio chiefs to go to the head of RKO and pay the costs of the film if they would agree not only not to release it, but burn the negative, rather than release it.
    The film did OK initially in big cities, but it made less impact beyond. At that time, BP was always a mass-market success to a greater extent than Kane was.
    It should have won BP, actor, supporting actor, supporting actress, editing, cinematography, art direction, musical score, sound as well as screenplay. But like so many other films that didn’t win BP, it has thrived since (even if alas Welles didn’t so much, although for me he made three or four films as or more interesting to me than Kane, led by Touch of Evil and Chimes at Midnight.

    The irony of the result is that Welles not only worshipped Ford, he regarded him as his model. When he was prepping Kane, he used a print of Ford’s great Stagecoach (1939) and screened it in full with every craft person in charge of an area – his DP, his editor, his costume designer, art director – and went through the use of each craft in that film as a model for what he wanted in Kane. So I doubt he was as upset about losing as he would have been to, say, Blossoms in the Dust.

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    Halo_Insider
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    #111045

    I also really do love How Green Was My Valley. It’s a terrific little treat of a film with a great supporting performance by Donald Crisp as the patriarch.

    Regarding Kane, though, I do find it a shame that it couldn’t have claimed top honors. Actually, I think that it’s one of the rare films that could have swept every category that it was nominated for.

    Just to clarify, Scott, you’re referring to Joseph Cotton and Dorothy Comingore as the Supporting players that should have gotten attention, right?

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    Scottferguson
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    #111046

    Comingore for sure, honestly best supporting actor could have been 10 people from Kane, How Green and Maltese Falcon and they’d all have been deserving winners. I love Everett Sloane as much as Cotton in Kane.

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    Halo_Insider
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    #111047

    Comingore for sure, honestly best supporting actor could have been 10 people from Kane, How Green and Maltese Falcon and they’d all have been deserving winners. I love Everett Sloane as much as Cotton in Kane.

    That is so true. My top pick in that category constantly flip-flops between Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre in Falcon, with Crisp right behind them. I’d probably have to rewatch Kane at some point to determine which of the guys might make my list, though I recall enjoying Cotton quite a bit.

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    Scottferguson
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    #111048

    Another aspect of this year – it was the first when extras were allowed to vote (Tom’s history is more specific about this) at least for certain categories – they usually voted for the wider appeal/more scene film, rather than the critics’ choice – one of the reasons Casablanca and Going My Way were upset winners.

    It was also an era when some studios required their contract employees (perhaps not the top names) to turn over the ballots to the studio, at least for BP, and under that system Kane was likely to suffer.

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    JayDF
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    #111049

    I’m not sure of my history, but I believe extras voted before 1941…I think it was in one of Tom’s books I read that being a theory why Walter Brennan had won every other year for the first couple of supporting actor races.  Brennan had come up through the ranks of extras.

    Another aspect of this year – it was the first when extras were allowed to vote (Tom’s history is more specific about this) at least for certain categories – they usually voted for the wider appeal/more scene film, rather than the critics’ choice – one of the reasons Casablanca and Going My Way were upset winners.

    It was also an era when some studios required their contract employees (perhaps not the top names) to turn over the ballots to the studio, at least for BP, and under that system Kane was likely to suffer.

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    Scottferguson
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    #111050

    You could be right – somehow after reading Tom and elsewhere I thought it was b/w 41-44 that they voted, but a reference elsewhere says in ended after 1940, and Brennan’s 3 wins (which were overkill, as good an actor as he was) was part of the reason.

    Welles had enough enemies and people otherwise jealous/afraid of him otherwise in any case.

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    KT
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    #111051

    Citizen Kane lost for obvious reasons.  It was political and controversial, and it rubbed some powerful people the wrong way.

    I don’t think How Green Was My Valley was a bad winner, at all.  It is a very powerful film, heartbreaking even, and it has gotten a bad rep for beating Citizen Kane, unfortunately.  I think this is the case where winning the Oscar actually hurt how people perceive this film, as it has done for several very good films that won Best Picture.  Is it a better film that The Searchers or Stagecoach?  Is it one of Ford’s best, or should it be considered one of his “sentimental” movies?  It is simply not cool for cinephiles to praise the Best Picture winners to the pantheon, and that means some very good films haven’t held up well as other movies simply because they are not studied in Film Studies or still aren’t seen as “cool” or acceptable to support.  It’s sad, but that’s what happens when art is subjective and defined by critics, professors, and filmmakers—many of whom have their own agendas and would prefer certain people to be overlooked and forgotten.

    Now, re: How Green Was My Valley, I do have a few qualms with its voice-over narration and downright cheesiness in some places, but that ending is really well done.  I love the flashback to the valley with Huw and his father and Angharad.  It is one film that genuinely captures nostalgia and change of one place over time, something many other films have attempted and failed.  And that scene of Angharad’s wedding with the floating veil…beautifully rendered by Ford.  I know Kane is praised to the heavens, but there is some greatness here too.  While I wouldn’t call it the BEST Best Picture winner—-that’s probably Lawrence of Arabia in my book, or The Godfather—but it is much better than perceived and has been undeservedly hated.

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    Scottferguson
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    #111052

    Kane is praised (justifiably) for Gregg Toland’s deep focus cinematography. But Arthur Miller’s work in HGWMV does much of the same thing (as did Wyler’s The Letter, also shot by Toland, the previous year).

    Kane is an amazing film – but for me it suffers from being a film by a prodigiously talented 25 year old who wanted to show he could do everything. Hardly a fault – but there is ultimately a level of Kane that has less depth for me that some of Welles’ later films, whatever their flaws.

    The first hour of Magnificent Ambersons – the part of that film that was relatively untouched by the destruction Robert Wise and RKO wreaked on it – might be the finest hour of any American film. And he was only 26 when he made that.

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    KT
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    #111053

    My points were less on Welles and Kane (I’m not criticizing that film in the slightest), but more on HGWMV and its reputation, and the reputation of films in general.  The Best Picture Oscar is an incredible honor for the people behind any film, but for legacies and history of the films themselves it can be a damning designation.  I’m curious what people think are the truly best best picture winners.  I don’t think HGWMV is really investigated or relooked at, at least not at the level of Ford’s films like The Searchers, Stagecoach, and even My Darling Clementine.  Does the Oscar hurt its reputation in the long run, as I suggested above?  

    There are certainly other examples out there…of course scholars will always look at The Godfather and critics cite it for Sight and Sound lists.  But are there films that fall through the cracks, like perhaps this Ford film, which should be held up?  Maybe On the Waterfront?  Casablanca?  Rebecca as the one Hitchcock film that won Best Picture—is that an automatic knock down for people, when Vertigo and Rear Window were ignored?  It Happened One Night is usually substituted for Hawks’ His Girl Friday when choosing the definitive screwball comedy.  What about the epics?  Has even Lawrence of Arabia’s reputation slipped?  How about The Last Emperor, which Martin Scorsese at one time ranked among his best films?  What about The Best Years of Our Lives (coming out the same year as the omnipresent It’s a Wonderful Life, as well as Lean’s wonderful Brief Encounter the year before)?  I think it’s a fascinating question: the impact of the Oscar on great films.

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    Scottferguson
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    #111054

    I love HGWMV, but I’m not sure it is one of my 10 favorite Ford films (only Stagecoach and maybe Quiet Man among them was even BP nominated).
    Rebecca is also one of the best BP winners, but I wouldn’t have that in my 20 favorite Hitchcock’s.

    I think the biggest Oscar impact is elevating films that otherwise would be mostly forgotten – in past years a clearl majority of them, in recent years films like Crash, The King’s Speech and Argo would be mostly unseen in future decades, while my guess is (variable response personally to them) Brokeback Mountain, The Social Network and Amour will only rise in reputation. The worst thing about Oscars most of the time is the way it elevates mediocrity into a degree of immortality.

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    JayDF
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    #111055

    Tony Gaudio was the DP on THE LETTER.  Toland worked with Wyler on THE LITTLE FOXES.

    I would pretty much give Citizen Kane all of it’s nominations (director, ctor, writing, cinematography, art direction, editing) but not best picture.  Crazy but I put The Maltese Falcon first, followed by The Little Foxes.

    Kane is praised (justifiably) for Gregg Toland’s deep focus cinematography. But Arthur Miller’s work in HGWMV does much of the same thing (as did Wyler’s The Letter, also shot by Toland, the previous year).

    Kane is an amazing film – but for me it suffers from being a film by a prodigiously talented 25 year old who wanted to show he could do everything. Hardly a fault – but there is ultimately a level of Kane that has less depth for me that some of Welles’ later films, whatever their flaws.

    The first hour of Magnificent Ambersons – the part of that film that was relatively untouched by the destruction Robert Wise and RKO wreaked on it – might be the finest hour of any American film. And he was only 26 when he made that.

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    Scottferguson
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    #111056

    thx Jay – didn’t double check my Wyler films – shows that the director, not the DP, actually controls these things

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    Logan
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    #111057

    On Stagecoach, Welles said, “I wanted to learn how to make movies, and that’s such a classically perfect one….not by any means my favorite Ford, but what a textbook!” Some things you see that Welles was influenced by: low angles, depth of field, many characters in frame, shadows. Kane’s full of stylistic features worth noting – low-key lighting, diagonal perspectives (w/ ceilings), splitting of action into two or more distinct frames, the use of an enlarged foreground plane, persistent frontality (almost as if the actors are looking at the camera). There are also refererences to German expressionism: the mentioned Chiaroscuro lighting, but theatrical set pieces, anti-montage stye (long takes – remember the scene with Moorehead in the beginning -, not so many cuts), moving camera, tracking shots all used instead of cuts. The sound was used in the same way as deep focus to create layering; with competing lines of dialogue, sound effects, music; visual and aural superimposition (just look at the party scene).

    Repeating what some might have mentioned – Hearst blocked the opening of the film at Radio City Music Hall. RKO showed the film at an independent theater in LA and a refurbished Vaudeville house in NY. Fox and Paramount were legally forced to exhibit the film and booked but did not screen it. Who really knows what a movie palace opening would have made to the film’s reception? 

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