CLOSE
Original image
YouTube

13 Classic Facts About Citizen Kane

Original image
YouTube

All art is subjective, and it’s therefore perhaps pointless to argue over which movie is the “greatest” ever made. We still argue, though. And when discussing the best film ever made, there is, remarkably, an apparently universal answer. Roger Ebert used to joke that Citizen Kane is “the official answer” to the question “What’s the greatest film of all time?”—and it’s easy to see why. In the nearly eight decades (it turns 75 years old today) since its release, Citizen Kane has remained one of the clearest expressions of creative freedom and artistic innovation ever put on film. Its co-writer, director, producer and star—Orson Welles—was granted an incredible amount of control over its production, and he put it to good use, setting new standards for cinematography, makeup effects, and storytelling on the big screen.

If much of what we see now in Citizen Kane seems commonplace in the landscape of cinema, it’s because this is the film that set the precedent. If much of how we view auteurs in film now seems clichéd, it’s because Welles got there first. When stating the importance of Citizen Kane, Ebert said it best: “It consolidated the film language up until 1941 and broke new ground in such areas as deep focus, complex sound, and narrative structure.”

So, in celebration of the “official” Greatest Film of All Time, here are 13 facts about Citizen Kane.

1. ORSON WELLES GOT UNPRECEDENTED CREATIVE CONTROL.

By the time he came to Hollywood, Orson Welles was regarded as one of the great young geniuses of his time. His work in the theater earned him the cover of TIME magazine by the age of 23, and the 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds—arguably the first “mockumentary” ever made—caused such a national panic that he was forced to apologize for it. It was no surprise when Hollywood began seeking his talents, but what was surprising was just how much freedom he was given.

When George Schaefer, the head of RKO Pictures, was hoping to generate a creative shakeup at his studio, he signed a deal with Welles that granted the wunderkind direct access to Schaefer himself and, among other things, gave Welles final cut on his films. Because Welles was a first-time film director, the move generated immense controversy in Hollywood, particularly when Schaefer cut the salaries of RKO employees while still granting Welles creative freedom over his work.

2. WELLES’ FIRST IDEA WAS AN ADAPTATION OF HEART OF DARKNESS.

When Welles was granted his ambitious RKO movie deal, his initial plan was to make an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s classic novel Heart of Darkness, featuring first-person camera techniques, elaborate sets, and Welles’ own narration. Though production got far enough that test footage was shot featuring miniature set designs, RKO ultimately shut the movie down because the budget grew too high. In searching for an alternate project, Welles happened upon a massive screenplay by Herman J. Mankiewicz called American. After several rewrites, this screenplay would become Citizen Kane.

3. AUTHORSHIP OF THE SCRIPT IS STILL DISPUTED.

In the end, both Mankiewicz and Welles would win an Academy Award for the screenplay for Citizen Kane, but it’s still not entirely clear how much work each man did on the final product. Welles once claimed that Mankiewicz was responsible for the first two drafts, while he had significant input on the third. A contract signed by Mankiewicz apparently stipulated that the studio was allowed to omit his name on the script, while a Screen Writers Guild rule at the time stated that a producer (in this case, Welles) could not be given a writing credit unless he wrote the script “entirely without the collaboration of any other writer.” In the end, the two parties agreed to share credit.

4. WELLES WAS INSPIRED BY WATCHING STAGECOACH.

At the beginning of filming Citizen Kane, Welles was an acclaimed theater and radio director with no real experience in cinema. In an effort to learn the ropes of a new craft, Welles turned to one of the most acclaimed films of the day: John Ford’s iconic Western Stagecoach. He once claimed he watched the film “every night for a month” in an effort to dissect the craft behind its production, and when asked to name his cinematic influences, he once gave the following answer: "The old masters, by who I mean John Ford, John Ford, and John Ford."

5. WELLES’ EATING AND DRINKING HABITS IMPACTED HIS HEALTH DURING PRODUCTION.

Though he was not yet famous for the excesses that would make him notorious later in life, Welles nonetheless had some peculiar eating and drinking habits during the production of Citizen Kane. His habit of consuming more than 30 cups of coffee each day led him to succumb to caffeine poisoning. He switched to tea, believing that the time it took to make each cup would slow him down, but having an assistant make it for him meant that he drank so much his skin changed color. In addition, Welles would sometimes simply not eat for long stretches, then sit down to a meal that included “three large steaks with side items.”

6. THE MAKEUP EFFECTS WERE MADE BY A NON-UNION EXPERIMENTER.

Throughout the course of the film, Charles Foster Kane has to look, at various times, impossibly youthful and very, very old. Welles once recalled that, for the scenes of Kane’s early years, his face was “yanked up with fish skin” to give him a youthful look, even at 25, that’s “impossible in real life.” For the scenes of Kane’s later years, he turned to Maurice Seiderman, an aspiring (non-union) makeup artist who was, at the time, sweeping the floors in the RKO makeup department. Welles noticed that Seiderman was using his spare time experimenting with latex to create artificial face appliances and, impressed with his ingenuity, asking him to work on Citizen Kane. Latex face appliances are now common practice in movie makeup effects.

7. THE CINEMATOGRAPHY WAS REVOLUTIONARY.

If any name can rival Welles’ in discussing the making of Citizen Kane, it is that of Gregg Toland, the iconic cinematographer who turned the film into an exercise in cinematic innovation. According to Welles, Toland actually approached him and volunteered to shoot the film. When Welles said “I don’t know anything about movies,” Toland replied: “That’s why I want to do it, because I think if you’re left alone as much as possible, we’re going to have a movie that looks different. I’m tired of working with people who know too much about it.”

So, the pair got to work, and Toland was given the freedom he so craved. He modified cameras and lenses to create the film’s famous “deep focus” shots. He worked with visual effects expert Linwood Dunn to create masterful composite shots (the scene in which Kane discovers Susan Alexander’s suicide attempt, for example, isn’t just one shot, but three shots stacked atop one another). He stretched muslin over the tops of sets to allow the ceilings to be visible while microphones could also be placed above the actors, and he and Welles famously chopped holes into the floors to allow for even lower camera angles. All of these elements combine to make Citizen Kane a master class in cinematography, and an example of every camera trick of the era finally combined into a single film. As Welles would later put it: “In this case I had a cameraman who didn’t care if he was criticized if he failed, and I didn’t know that there were things you couldn’t do. So anything that I could think up in my dreams, I attempted to photograph.”

8. WELLES WAS INJURED TWICE DURING FILMING.

Welles’ commitment to his performance as Charles Foster Kane meant that he poured tremendous energy into the role, sometimes at the risk of his own wellbeing. During the scene in which Kane rampages through Susan’s room, smashing furniture and ripping things off the walls, he badly cut his left hand. Then, during the scene in which Kane confronts Boss Jim Gettys (Ray Collins) on a staircase, Welles fell and injured his ankle so badly that he was forced to reschedule certain scenes and direct the film from a wheelchair for several days.

9. WELLES DID MAGIC TRICKS TO DISTRACT STUDIO EXECUTIVES.

Though he’d been granted incredible creative freedom to make the film, Welles still had to answer to studio executives who wanted the film to turn a profit, and was apparently worried they wouldn’t approve of the often innovative nature of his production. For the “News of the World” newsreel sequence, he even went so far as to claim the footage shot was just “tests,” so the RKO office wouldn’t worry about it.

When RKO executives actually did visit the production, Welles used his natural flair for showmanship to distract them. According to Seiderman, the crew was told during these occasions: “Don’t do anything. Smoke cigarettes and talk.” Meanwhile, Welles would perform card tricks for executives until they left.

“He would invite us over but he’d keep us outside the screening and then do tricks and stuff to amuse us,” George Schaefer’s then-assistant Reginald Armour recalled.

10. IT CONTAINS PTERODACTYLS.

Though he had massive creative freedom on the film, Welles also still had a budget, and as a result certain creative shortcuts were used to reduce cost on Citizen Kane. In one instance, a scene between Kane and Susan that was originally intended to take place in an ornate Xanadu living room was instead shot in a redressed hallway. In another, the production got even more creative: For the scene in which Kane and his entourage visit the beach, the large birds flying in the background are actually a previously created shot of pterodactyls from either King Kong (1933) or Son of Kong (1933).

11. IT LAUNCHED MANY FILM CAREERS.

Because he had worked for many years with the Mercury Theatre Company (which he co-founded with John Houseman), it was Welles’ natural inclination to include his theatrical collaborators in Citizen Kane. Among the actors making their cinema debuts are Mercury players Joseph Cotten (Jedediah Leland), Everett Sloane (Mr. Bernstein), Agnes Moorehead (Mary Kane), and Ray Collins (Jim Gettys).

12. WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST TRIED TO KEEP IT OUT OF THEATERS.

Even before its release, rumors swirled that Charles Foster Kane and his life story were based on the life of media baron William Randolph Hearst, one of the most powerful men in America at the time. Like Kane, Hearst built a massive California palace and stocked it with exotic animals. Like Hearst, Kane fell in love with a performer and became a sort of patron to her (in the film it’s Susan Alexander; in real life it was Marion Davies). One Kane line in particular—“You provide the prose poems; I’ll provide the war”—seemed to be directly lifted from a famous Hearst quote: “You furnish the pictures. I’ll furnish the war.” There’s even a popular legend that the film’s inciting MacGuffin, “Rosebud,” was inspired by a pet name for a portion of Davies’, um, anatomy.

Though he denied the film was based on Hearst at the time, Welles would later say: “I thought we were very unfair to Marion Davies, because we had somebody very different in the place of Marion Davies, and it seemed to me to be something of a dirty trick, and does still strike me as being something of a dirty trick, what we did to her. And I anticipated the trouble from Hearst for that reason.” He would later effusively praise Davies in the foreword to her memoir.

Louella Parsons, a Hearst columnist and tremendously influential media figure at the time, requested a private screening of the film prior to its release. According to post-production sound engineer James G. Stewart, Parsons left, “outraged,” before the film even ended. (Her chauffeur, who stayed until the end, called it a “very good picture.”) Parsons then began demanding to speak to Schaefer, claiming that RKO Pictures would face “the most beautiful lawsuit in history” if the film was released. Editor Robert Wise was then asked to screen the film for the heads of all the other major studios of the day, as they all feared Hearst’s influence and worried that the film’s release would impact all of Hollywood if it incurred the full measure of his wrath.

Hearst’s vast newspaper empire banned all advertising of Citizen Kane, and numerous theater chains refused to show it, contributing to its eventual financial failure at the box office. Welles once claimed that the retribution grew so vicious that he was warned by a policeman that “an underage girl, undressed, and photographers” were waiting for him in his hotel room, so he simply abandoned the room and left town.

13. STEVEN SPIELBERG OWNS “ROSEBUD.”

The film hinges on the word “Rosebud,” and on a group of reporters attempting to find out why it was Charles Foster Kane’s last word. It’s eventually revealed that “Rosebud” was written on a sled Kane owned as a child, symbolizing a sense of joy and innocence that he constantly worked for in adulthood but perhaps never gained. This plot device is among the most iconic in cinema history, and has been parodied in everything from The Simpsons to Family Guy. In 1982, one of the “Rosebud” sleds from the film was put up for auction at Sotheby’s in New York City. The buyer was director Steven Spielberg. Though some of the “Rosebud” sleds were burned during the Citizen Kane production as part of the final scene, it’s still unclear if Spielberg’s copy is the only one remaining.

Additional Sources:
The Complete Citizen Kane (1991)
The Making of Citizen Kane, by Robert L. Carringer

Original image
iStock
arrow
Live Smarter
8 Tricks to Help Your Cat and Dog to Get Along
Original image
iStock

When people aren’t debating whether cats or dogs are more intelligent, they’re equating them as mortal foes. That’s a stereotype that both cat expert Jackson Galaxy, host of the Animal Planet show My Cat From Hell, and certified dog trainer Zoe Sandor want to break.

Typically, cats are aloof and easily startled, while dogs are gregarious and territorial. This doesn't mean, however, that they can't share the same space—they're just going to need your help. “If cats and dogs are brought up together in a positive, loving, encouraging environment, they’re going to be friends,” Galaxy tells Mental Floss. “Or at the very least, they’ll tolerate each other.”

The duo has teamed up in a new Animal Planet series, Cat Vs. Dog, which airs on Saturdays at 10 p.m. The show chronicles their efforts to help pet owners establish long-lasting peace—if not perfect harmony—among cats and dogs. (Yes, it’s possible.) Gleaned from both TV and off-camera experiences, here are eight tips Galaxy and Sandor say will help improve household relations between Fido and Fluffy.

1. TAKE PERSONALITY—NOT BREED—INTO ACCOUNT.

Contrary to popular belief, certain breeds of cats and dogs don't typically get along better than others. According to Galaxy and Sandor, it’s more important to take their personalities and energy levels into account. If a dog is aggressive and territorial, it won’t be a good fit in a household with a skittish cat. In contrast, an aging dog would hate sharing his space with a rambunctious kitten.

If two animals don’t end up being a personality match, have a backup plan, or consider setting up a household arrangement that keeps them separated for the long term. And if you’re adopting a pet, do your homework and ask its previous owners or shelter if it’s lived with other animals before, or gets along with them.

2. TRAIN YOUR DOG.

To set your dog up for success with cats, teach it to control its impulses, Sandor says. Does it leap across the kitchen when someone drops a cookie, or go on high alert when it sees a squeaky toy? If so, it probably won’t be great with cats right off the bat, since it will likely jump up whenever it spots a feline.

Hold off Fido's face time with Fluffy until the former is trained to stay put. And even then, keep a leash handy during the first several cat-dog meetings.

3. GIVE A CAT ITS OWN TERRITORY BEFORE IT MEETS A DOG.

Cats need a protected space—a “base camp” of sorts—that’s just theirs, Galaxy says. Make this refuge off-limits to the dog, but create safe spaces around the house, too. This way, the cat can confidently navigate shared territory without trouble from its canine sibling.

Since cats are natural climbers, Galaxy recommends taking advantage of your home’s vertical space. Buy tall cat trees, install shelves, or place a cat bed atop a bookcase. This allows your cat to observe the dog from a safe distance, or cross a room without touching the floor.

And while you’re at it, keep dogs away from the litter box. Cats should feel safe while doing their business, plus dogs sometimes (ew) like to snack on cat feces, a bad habit that can cause your pooch to contract intestinal parasites. These worms can cause a slew of health problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia.

Baby gates work in a pinch, but since some dogs are escape artists, prepare for worst-case scenarios by keeping the litter box uncovered and in an open space. That way, the cat won’t be cornered and trapped mid-squat.

4. EXERCISE YOUR DOG'S BODY AND MIND.

“People exercise their dogs probably 20 percent of what they should really be doing,” Sandor says. “It’s really important that their energy is released somewhere else so that they have the ability to slow down their brains and really control themselves when they’re around kitties.”

Dogs also need lots of stimulation. Receiving it in a controlled manner makes them less likely to satisfy it by, say, chasing a cat. For this, Sandor recommends toys, herding-type activities, lure coursing, and high-intensity trick training.

“Instead of just taking a walk, stop and do a sit five times on every block,” she says. “And do direction changes three times on every block, or speed changes two times. It’s about unleashing their herding instincts and prey drive in an appropriate way.”

If you don’t have time for any of these activities, Zoe recommends hiring a dog walker, or enrolling in doggy daycare.

5. LET CATS AND DOGS FOLLOW THEIR NOSES.

In Galaxy's new book, Total Cat Mojo, he says it’s a smart idea to let cats and dogs sniff each other’s bedding and toys before a face-to-face introduction. This way, they can satisfy their curiosity and avoid potential turf battles.

6. PLAN THE FIRST CAT/DOG MEETING CAREFULLY.

Just like humans, cats and dogs have just one good chance to make a great first impression. Luckily, they both love food, which might ultimately help them love each other.

Schedule the first cat-dog meeting during mealtime, but keep the dog on a leash and both animals on opposite sides of a closed door. They won’t see each other, but they will smell each other while chowing down on their respective foods. They’ll begin to associate this smell with food, thus “making it a good thing,” Galaxy says.

Do this every mealtime for several weeks, before slowly introducing visual simulation. Continue feeding the cat and dog separately, but on either side of a dog gate or screen, before finally removing it all together. By this point, “they’re eating side-by-side, pretty much ignoring each other,” Galaxy says. For safety’s sake, continue keeping the dog on a leash until you’re confident it’s safe to take it off (and even then, exercise caution).

7. KEEP THEIR FOOD AND TOYS SEPARATE.

After you've successfully ingratiated the cat and dog using feeding exercises, keep their food bowls separate. “A cat will walk up to the dog bowl—either while the dog’s eating, or in the vicinity—and try to eat out of it,” Galaxy says. “The dog just goes to town on them. You can’t assume that your dog isn’t food-protective or resource-protective.”

To prevent these disastrous mealtime encounters, schedule regular mealtimes for your pets (no free feeding!) and place the bowls in separate areas of the house, or the cat’s dish up on a table or another high spot.

Also, keep a close eye on the cat’s toys—competition over toys can also prompt fighting. “Dogs tend to get really into catnip,” Galaxy says. “My dog loves catnip a whole lot more than my cats do.”

8. CONSIDER RAISING A DOG AND CAT TOGETHER (IF YOU CAN).

Socializing these animals at a young age can be easier than introducing them as adults—pups are easily trainable “sponges” that soak up new information and situations, Sandor says. Plus, dogs are less confident and smaller at this stage in life, allowing the cat to “assume its rightful position at the top of the hierarchy,” she adds.

Remain watchful, though, to ensure everything goes smoothly—especially when the dog hits its rambunctious “teenage” stage before becoming a full-grown dog.

arrow
Animals
10 Juicy Facts About Sea Apples

They're both gorgeous and grotesque. Sea apples, a type of marine invertebrate, have dazzling purple, yellow, and blue color schemes streaking across their bodies. But some of their habits are rather R-rated. Here’s what you should know about these weird little creatures.

1. THEY’RE SEA CUCUMBERS.

The world’s oceans are home to more than 1200 species of sea cucumber. Like sand dollars and starfish, sea cucumbers are echinoderms: brainless, spineless marine animals with skin-covered shells and a complex network of internal hydraulics that enables them to get around. Sea cucumbers can thrive in a range of oceanic habitats, from Arctic depths to tropical reefs. They're a fascinating group with colorful popular names, like the “burnt hot dog sea cucumber” (Holothuria edulis) and the sea pig (Scotoplanes globosa), a scavenger that’s been described as a “living vacuum cleaner.”

2. THEY'RE NATIVE TO THE WESTERN PACIFIC OCEAN.

Sea apples have oval-shaped bodies and belong to the genus Pseudocolochirus and genus Paracacumaria. The animals are indigenous to the western Pacific, where they can be found shuffling across the ocean floor in shallow, coastal waters. Many different types are kept in captivity, but two species, Pseudocolochirus violaceus and Pseudocolochirus axiologus, have proven especially popular with aquarium hobbyists. Both species reside along the coastlines of Australia and Southeast Asia.

3. THEY EAT WITH MUCUS-COVERED TENTACLES.

Sea cucumbers, the ocean's sanitation crew, eat by swallowing plankton, algae, and sandy detritus at one end of their bodies and then expelling clean, fresh sand out their other end. Sea apples use a different technique. A ring of mucus-covered tentacles around a sea apple's mouth snares floating bits of food, popping each bit into its mouth one at a time. In the process, the tentacles are covered with a fresh coat of sticky mucus, and the whole cycle repeats.

4. THEY’RE ACTIVE AT NIGHT.

Sea apples' waving appendages can look delicious to predatory fish, so the echinoderms minimize the risk of attracting unwanted attention by doing most of their feeding at night. When those tentacles aren’t in use, they’re retracted into the body.

5. THE MOVE ON TUBULAR FEET.

The rows of yellow protuberances running along the sides of this specimen are its feet. They allow sea apples to latch onto rocks and other hard surfaces while feeding. And if one of these feet gets severed, it can grow back.

6. SOME FISH HANG OUT IN SEA APPLES' BUTTS.

Sea apples are poisonous, but a few marine freeloaders capitalize on this very quality. Some small fish have evolved to live inside the invertebrates' digestive tracts, mooching off the sea apples' meals and using their bodies for shelter. In a gross twist of evolution, fish gain entry through the back door, an orifice called the cloaca. In addition expelling waste, the cloaca absorbs fresh oxygen, meaning that sea apples/cucumbers essentially breathe through their anuses.

7. WHEN THREATENED, SEA APPLES CAN EXPAND.

Most full-grown adult sea apples are around 3 to 8 inches long, but they can make themselves look twice as big if they need to escape a threat. By pulling extra water into their bodies, some can grow to the size of a volleyball, according to Advanced Aquarist. After puffing up, they can float on the current and away from danger. Some aquarists might mistake the robust display as a sign of optimum health, but it's usually a reaction to stress.

8. THEY CAN EXPEL THEIR OWN GUTS.

Sea apples use their vibrant appearance to broadcast that they’re packing a dangerous toxin. But to really scare off predators, they puke up some of their own innards. When an attacker gets too close, sea apples can expel various organs through their orifices, and some simultaneously unleash a cloud of the poison holothurin. In an aquarium, the holothurin doesn’t disperse as widely as it would in the sea, and it's been known to wipe out entire fish tanks.

9. SEA APPLES LAY TOXIC EGGS.

These invertebrates reproduce sexually; females release eggs that are later fertilized by clouds of sperm emitted by the males. As many saltwater aquarium keepers know all too well, sea apple eggs are not suitable fish snacks—because they’re poisonous. Scientists have observed that, in Pseudocolochirus violaceus at least, the eggs develop into small, barrel-shaped larvae within two weeks of fertilization.

10. THEY'RE NOT EASILY CONFUSED WITH THIS TREE SPECIES.

Syzgium grande is a coastal tree native to Southeast Asia whose informal name is "sea apple." When fully grown, they can stand more than 140 feet tall. Once a year, it produces attractive clusters of fuzzy white flowers and round green fruits, perhaps prompting its comparison to an apple tree.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios