What would possess a left-leaning 24 year old from Kenosha, WI to co-write, direct, produce and star in a motion picture intended to skewer the oligarchs who controlled the American media in the 1930’s? In Orson Welles’ own words, “Ignorance.” Having already achieved critical acclaim as a theater actor, playwright and director, perhaps it is this audacity of scope combined with the fresh technological innovations of the silver screen that led Welles to create what is now almost universally agreed to be one of the greatest films ever made.
Citizen Kane, a fictional biopic of the newspaper magnate Charles Kane, is Welles’ first film and employs numerous experimental techniques developed for this movie. Many of these contributions to style and cinematography have entered the movie making lexicon. Today these remain as fresh and important to the story as when Citizen Kane was released in 1941.
Charles Kane, played by the young Orson Welles, is transparent in life and mysterious in death. Welles and his co-writer, Herman Mankiewicz, ask the viewer to share in the detective work of newsreel reporter Jerry Thompson, played by William Alland, to discover Kane’s deepest secrets by investigating the mundane meaning of the final utterance on his deathbed: “Rosebud.” This thinly veiled misdirection provides the audience the opportunity to approach and receive the film on numerous levels. Today, the parallels to our culture remain as strong as they did 76 years ago with just as much opportunity to be challenged and entertained.
With a handpicked cast, many of whom such as Agnes Moorehead and Joseph Cotten would go on to storied careers, Citizen Kane represents a high watermark in cinematic storytelling. Whether you are a fan of film, student of history, have interest in the media’s role in modern politics or simply want to share this experience with friends and family, the Waukesha Civic Theatre invites you to join us at 6:30 pm on Monday, June 5th to watch and celebrate this Hollywood masterwork.