Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane"

Variety (April 16, 1941)

FILM REVIEW: 'CITIZEN KANE’
By John C. Flinn Sr.

Orson Welles, who nearly scared the country half to death with his memorable broadcast of a blitz by invaders from Mars, has uncovered for press review his initial production, of which he is co-author, star, director and producer, following an advance publicity barrage that has made it the most widely exploited entertainment of the season. When its plan for exhibition finally is set by RKO, probably as a roadshow attraction in key spots, it is certain to draw heavily at the box office. Welles has found the screen as effective for his unique showmanship as radio and the theatre.

Citizen Kane is a film possessing the sure dollar mark, which distinguishes every daring entertainment venture that is created by a workman who is a master of the technique and mechanics of his medium. It is a two-hour show, filled to the last minute with brilliant incident unreeled in method and effects that sparkle with originality and invention. Within the trade, Kane will stimulate keener creative efforts by Hollywood’s top directors.

Although the public generally will find it wholly satisfactory as living up to its unusual advance ballyhoo, the film is a job of picture producing that will make indelible impress on contemporary production. It might have been of conventional design and still qualify as a big grosser. It happens to be a first-class film of potent importance to the art of motion pictures.

Audiences, of course, will seek in the film’s story of a multi-millionaire newspaper publisher, political aspirant and wielder of public opinion such incidents that may be interpreted as uncomplimentary to William Randolph Hearst, since the protests against the film release, which have been kept alive for the past three months, were made by executives and employees in his organization. There is, in part, a parallel of the exciting, early years of the Hearst career and the adventures of Welles’ hero, Kane. But any observer of the film who possesses some slight knowledge of the private life and business activities of the publisher can scarcely interpret the screen character as a deliberate, unkindly handling of the Sage of San Simeon. It cannot be denied that Hearst has played an important role in the American scene for the past half-century, which is the period of the film’s story. And it is accepted generally (or, perhaps, soon will be) that the era which produced such colorful figures as Hearst and a score of other hardy and audacious individualists in American life, is swiftly passing into history. The central character of the film is a composite, rather than either portrait or caricature.

One cannot help but wonder what all the shooting was about.

Swift moving world events since before the turn of the century until the present furnish the background for Citizen Kane. Story is credited jointly to Herman J. Mankiewicz and Welles. Its unfolding is unusual and original to films, inasmuch as it is related through the experiences of five separate characters, other than the main figure. It is a narrative technique not infrequently employed by novelists. Wilkie Collins told the story of The Moonstone after this fashion.

Thus the early, rebellious, youthful years of the powerful Kane are described by the family attorney, who neither understood nor had any deep affection for the young man. The thread is picked up by Kane’s faithful business manager, then by his second wife, by his only earnest friend and finally by his butler. Each account spans an extended period of time, providing a different point of view and varying estimate of character. Pieced together, like a jigsaw puzzle, the parts and incidents omitted by earlier narrators are supplied by others.

When completed, the authors’ conception of Kane is a man who had every material advantage in life, but who lacked a feeling of human sympathy and tolerance. It is a story of spiritual failure. While the case is well-drawn and relentlessly expounded, the over-emphasis of harshness and selfishness militates against complete audience enjoyment. So intent is the effort to prove Kane a frustrate that no allowance is made to picture him as a human being. On this account he is not wholly real. Neither he nor his associates is blessed with the slightest sense of humor. There aren’t half a dozen snickers in the film.

Welles portrays the chief character with surprising success, considering that the picture marks his debut as a film actor. His associates are selected from his Mercury Theatre’s actors, few of whom have had previous screen experience. It would seem that their marquee obscurity might react unfavorably among prospective customers. The contrary is more likely, because whatever else Citizen Kane may be, it is a refreshing cinematic novelty, and the general excellence of its acting is not the least of its assets. Outstanding performances are given by Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Everett Sloane, George Coulouris, Ruth Warrick, Ray Collins, Paul Stewart and Fortunio Bonanova.

Technically the film benefits by Gregg Toland’s fine photography and Vernon L. Walker’s special effects, which include new uses of montage. Musical score by Bernard Herrmann is dramatic. The professional polish which brightens the production indicates that the RKO studio is capable of the highest standard of output.

Citizen Kane is a triumph for Orson Welles, who overnight, so to speak, joins the top ranks of box office film personalities.

3 Likes

The Brooklyn Eagle (April 27, 1941)

’OFF-THE-CUFF’ SHOOTING SPARKS 'CITIZEN KANE’

Orson Welles, working with greatest leeway, revised picture as he saw fit

It isn’t so many years ago that motion picture directors had no written scenarios, no high-priced writers, no rules demanding that they stick exactly to the approved script.

That method of operation is referred to in Hollywood as “shooting off-the-cuff.” And it’s responsible for many a notable cinema achievement, D. W. Griffith’s Intolerance and Birth of a Nation among them.

Nowadays, few of the film town’s guiding light have the temerity to improvise – or even to embellish the script with their own ideas. Charlie Chaplin does it, of course, but Chaplin is entirely his own boss.

Young Mr. Orson Welles had the temerity, though, and he had the time of his life devising, improvising, augmenting and inventing as he went along in the filming of his first movie, Citizen Kane, which has its world premiere at the Palace Theater on Thursday.

Welles was under contract to RKO Radio to produce, write, direct and act, and his unusual contract gave him the greatest of leeway to make a picture as he, one of the outstanding theatrical figures of the century, saw fit. Welles, however, did not proceed in the making of his first production without wise counsel. His first move was to retain Gregg Toland as cinematographer. Toland’s reputation is unparalleled in world film circles.

There was a definite script for Citizen Kane. But that script discovered early that it was subject to revision. Plenty of revision. Orson is a young man with ideas, and hesitated not at all to try them out. The result is a strange spontaneity that pervades Citizen Kane. Welles’ own Mercury Players make up the majority of the cast – their first appearance in films, for the most part.

Radical departures in the technique of building sets are obvious in many scenes, and Toland has attained startling results in photographic effects designed to emphasize dominant characteristics of the players.

Welles, though, is no “artsy” young man experimenting merely for the sake of art.

On the contrary, he believe that audiences are entitled to robust, exciting film fare. He likes it that way himself.

3 Likes

The Brooklyn Eagle (May 1, 1941)

680px-Citizen_Kane_poster,1941(Style_A)

Premiere tonight at the Palace!

3 Likes

These are the days I want to invent a time machine :slight_smile:

3 Likes

The Brooklyn Eagle (May 2, 1941)

ORSON WELLES’ ‘CITIZEN KANE’ HAS PREMIERE AT R.K.O. PALACE

Sets new styles in movie-making

By Herbert Cohn

e56baeb4aef822832e70efb52a00062a

citizenkane

Citizen Kane, Orson Welles’ Mr. Who-is-it, made his bow last night on the screen of the RKO Palace Theater. There may be questions around town today about Citizen Kane, what he stands for, who he is supposed to be. But there can be no question whether Orson Welles, precocious child of the Mercury Theater, bearded prankster of Hollywood Boulevard, sober producer-writer-director-star of Citizen Kane, is the most brilliant newcomer the screen has had in years. He is.

In Citizen Kane, he has made a motion picture that will go down as one of the screen’s classics – a film that scraps practically every hackneyed formula of motion-picture making. From beginning to end, it is packed solid with fresh film techniques. From start to finish, it is different. Even its credits are tacked on at the end instead of the beginning; even its cameras, shooting up from cradles sunk into the studio floor, catch angles that cameras seldom have caught before; and even its soundtrack, sometimes adding a hollow echo to its voices, serves wittily as a symbol as few soundtracks (save Disney’s perhaps) have ever served.

There are brilliant innovations in Citizen Kane, innovations that are bound to make Hollywood sit up and take stock anew, that should make American audiences sit up, too, and realize that there is something live and fresh and vital in the screen that had hardly been touched until Orson Welles, heading a company of players practically unknown to the screen, came from Broadway to touch it first.

It isn’t only in its technical qualities, but in its method of storytelling too, that Citizen Kane is different. It is a film that attempts to tell its story indirectly by examining a personality. Garson Kanin had the germ of the Welles idea in A Man to Remember. Welles has done the job on a bigger scale, made his Charles Foster Kane a more powerful man than Kanin’s horse-and-buggy-doctor, his story more ramified, his effect more devastating, his goal in life less precise, and his motivations more complex. When Charles Foster Kane – in a room high in a turreted castle that is atop a rocky cliff behind tall iron gates warning against trespassing – first comes to the screen, it is to die so that the camera can see his last gasp and watch his lips as they speak his last word:

Rosebud.

From the first scene through the last, Orson Welles is searching for the meaning of that word, and as he searches, he discovers the human being behind the name of Charles Foster Kane, the personality of the man and the personalities of the men and women with whom he lived and worked and through whom he sought happiness. But always there is the search for “Rosebud,” and always there is the mystery of who or what “Rosebud” is and why it should have been his last word.

Welles sends a film reporter to learn the significance of “Rosebud.” The reporter goes first to an Atlantic City dive to find Susan Alexander, drunk and ugly, the second wife of Kane who walked out on him and Xanadu. And then he searches out the dairy of Banker Thatcher who was guardian of the young Kane and his unheeded financial adviser in later years. He talks to Bernstein, general overseer of Kane’s newspapers, and to Jedediah Leland, Kane’s college friend, adviser and critic. He goes back to Susan Alexander at El Rancho Club, and finally he bribes old Kane’s butler, and from each he collects a flashback memory of some incident in his or her life with Kane. And from this collection of flashbacks, there emerges the picture of a man who had wealth and power and position, who made people think and do as he wanted them to, a man who had the world at his feet and who, anyway, failed to find happiness.

It makes no difference who was the model – or models – for Kane or if there was a model at all. It matters only that he is a figure who represents the least-commendable things about wealth, a man who professed to champion the underprivileged but who really was base and willful and selfish. Yet, whoever may imagine himself to have been one of the models for Kane must know that he was let off leniently. For Welles, in the end, does not hate his Kane the way his Kane deserves to be hated. Welles is sympathetic toward him.

Citizen Kane is a triumph not only for Orson Welles, but for his entire company as well. His players scale their performances to his portrayal of Kane. Joseph Cotten is close on his heels as Jedediah Leland, the one man who saw through Kane, realized his baseness and refused to pander to his hypocrisies. Dorothy Comingore is perfect as the wife he forced to sing because he wanted to prove to the world that he had found a singer. Everett Sloane is grand as Bernstein, George Coulouris as the banker, Ruth Warrick as Kane’s first wife, Agnes Moorehead as his mother. And no less-deserving is the balance of the cast.

Its separate merits and its tiny shortcomings, the questions it raises and even the doubts it might create are all things that are infinitely less important than Citizen Kane as an integrated whole. As a motion picture, it marks the beginning of a bright new era. It is a magnificent addition to the record of the American screen.

2 Likes

The New York Times (May 2, 1941)

THE SCREEN IN REVIEW —
Orson Welles’ controversial ‘Citizen Kane’ proves a sensational film at Palace
By Bosley Crowther

Citizen-Kane-Welles-Podium

Within the withering spotlight as no other film has ever been before, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane had its world premiere 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 screenplay 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 III . . . . . 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

2 Likes

The Brooklyn Eagle (May 8, 1941)

MOVIE TIME TABLE

Brooklyn

ALBEE

They Met in Argentina 11:15 4:50 7:45 10:40
Cowboy and the Blonde 12:45 3:40 6:40 9:35

FOX

Road to Zanzibar 11:00 1:52 4:44 7:36 10:28
Blondie Goes Latin 12:42 3:34 6:26 9:18

METROPOLITAN

That Hamilton Woman 12:14 3:29 6:44 9:59
Free and Easy 11:18 2:33 5:48 9:03

PARAMOUNT

The Great Lie 12:25 3:38 6:51 10:04
Mr. District Attorney 11:11 2:24 5:37 8:50

STRAND

The Wild Man of Borneo 11:30 2:15 4:50 7:30 10:10
The Great Train Robbery 1:05 3:40 6:20 9:00

Manhattan

ASTOR

I Wanted Wings 2:45 8:45

BROADWAY

Fantasia 2:40 8:40

CAPITOL

Ziegfeld Girl 10:15 1:09 4:03 6:57 9:51 12:45

CRITERION

People vs. Dr. Kildare 9:30 11:27 1:24 3:21 5:18 7:15 9:12 11:09 1:06

MUSIC HALL

That Uncertain Feeling 11:05 1:51 4:44 7:50 10:37
Stage show 12:43 3:29 6:42 9:30

PALACE

Citizen Kane 2:30 8:30

PARAMOUNT

Reaching for the Sun 10:01 1:07 4:10 7:23 10:26 12:11
Stage show 11:54 3:00 6:13 9:16

ROXY

The Great American Broadcast 11:15 2:05 4:50 7:35 10:20
Stage show 1:10 3:55 6:40 9:25

STRAND

The Great Lie 9:30 12:12 2:54 5:36 9:38
Preview of The Wagons Roll at Night 7:23 11:25
Stage show 11:25 2:07 4:49 8:51
2 Likes

Variety (May 9, 1941)

CITIZEN KANE CARRIES HOLLYWOOD BY A LANDSLIDE

welles and rio
Dolores Del Rio smiles with the hero of the day, Orson Welles, writer, producer, director and star of Citizen Kane. It was Welles’ first motion picture; the one “they” said he’d never make; the one that took one year of preparation before a camera turned. The audience who saw it last night at El Capitan hope he does not wait a year before making his next.

lee
Anna Lee, blonde and vivant.

menjou
Verree Teasdale and Adolphe Menjou. A study in sophistication.

sonja
Sonja Henie and Anne Shirley, two of the most winsome little women.

hopper
Hedda Hopper. Reporting and enjoying it.

laughton
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Laughton (Elsa Lanchester).

neal
Frances Neal and Vic Orsatti. Neal is an RKO Radio starlet.

bobhope
Bob Hope. He’ll write his own caption.

2 Likes

Funny they’d say that…

The Los Angeles Times (February 2, 1941)

HEDDA HOPPER’S HOLLYWOOD

Citizen Kane, with Orson Welles as writer-producer-director-actor, is one of the “hot” films of the month, not because it’s a screen masterpiece, but because it’s asserted to be based on the life of Citizen Hearst.

In our business, we have to be careful enough about doing the life story of anyone who has passed into the beyond, and it’s a much greater risk to go ahead and put on the screen the life of a man who’s still with us.

It seems incredible that even a genius (and they say Orson is one) could have been given $1,000,000 without any supervision, and with no one in the organization knowing what he was putting on the screen except one man – George Schaefer, the head of RKO.

However, this amusement industry is like no other business in the world and perhaps they’ve got something which will clean up for them, but I doubt it.

The picture’s chopped up into short scenes, and flashes by almost like a newsreel, so that there’s no sustained acting and you can’t even tell whether Orson Welles is a fine picture actor or not.

There are some sensational shots, yes; but I don’t think it took any great imagination to write the story. And if the picture is released, I think the paying customers will go out of curiosity to see something which has caused such great controversy, rather than because it’s a great film.

2 Likes

The Pittsburgh Press (May 11, 1941)

Parry

3 Likes

The Pittsburgh Press (June 8, 1941)

Parry

I DARE SAY —

Movie tycoon backs bearded boy wonder
Studio chief’s faith in Orson Welles is justified at last

By Florence Fisher Parry

I went to the Mercury Theater to see Julius Caesar, I don’t remember how many years ago. I’d been to a good many “experimental” theaters in my life, but this was of the essence!

You know the atmosphere. Newsies outside, looking like apaches, selling the New Masses. Usherettes, who looked as though they were going to burst out any moment, singing “The Internationale.” A general feeling of revolt, rebellion and renaissance. All that was needed was picketers threading through the aisles. I felt that any moment I would be accosted by some matty-haired female demanding to know how I had come by the dollar I had paid for my seat.

I was completely unimpressed by the production. It was artsy, theatric, affected. It was Shakespeare in a Black Shirt. Brutus (Orson Welles) was a sad-eyed cherub who couldn’t be heard beyond the fourth row in his attempt to read Shakespeare as though he were reading Westwood Pegler. His mutilating abridgement of the text, which omitted the whole essence of the play (the immortal friendship between Brutus and Cassius), seemed to me an affront against taste. The Boy Wonder impressed me as being a phoney.

Just about that time (maybe in the same audience, for all I know), there was seated in the audience one George J. Schaeffer, the head of RKO and one of the great directing forces in the motion picture industry. His reaction to the production of Julius Caesar (and the Boy Wonder who animated its machinations) was different (just as different as genius is from mediocrity). He went out of that theater resolved to keep his eye on “that young man.” He did. He never deviated from his conviction that Orson Welles “had” something which could be turned into greatness if ever it was given complete and unhampered ROOM to grow. He kept watching the boy try out that genius.


It was plays for a while, then it was radio. One night on the air, there was given a drama so realistic that millions of listeners were made to believe, actually believe, that the men of Mars had reached Earth and were taking over. Next day, the Boy Wonder owned the earth. Never mind how cockneyed and undisciplined his genius, it WAS genius. The trouble was, nobody knew how to label it. Because it was a new kind of genius, it was unpredictable and therefore dangerous. Who wanted to “back” anything so… so risky?

George Schaeffer did. It didn’t take an added stroke of genius on Orson Welles’ part to sell himself to RKO.

RKO – hardheaded, conservative, cautious, dignified RKO. The one studio of all that would be least likely to fall for a Boy Wonder! (but then, on the other hand – remember Fred Astaire? Katharine Hepburn? Watch RKO. They have a funny way of making us eat our words)

But this time, it wasn’t RKO. It was RKO’s president, George J. Schaeffer. Sometime, I’m going to write about this quiet and unassuming man who has a genius for getting his way; but today we’ll just remember that it was he who stood by Orson when the others in his firm would have been glad to sell him for a nickel; when Orson’s million-dollar flops were pushed, one by one, into the RKO wastebasket; when the favorite pastime of the other studios was to call RKO a sucker; and when the Boy Wonder was getting – and earning with interest – the amused contempt of the whole industry. He never failed his baiters on a single point. He wore a beard (he is 24 years old now). He carried a Retinue. He loved and suffered over a Hollywood beauty. He defiled, outraged and ignored the advice of experts in a field he had never worked in before. Each day he asked for another impossible. His first two pictures had to be scrapped: Heart of Darkness and The Smiler With the Knife. The studio was on the point of mutiny.


All but Mr. George J. Schaeffer. He believed in his man. This boy has something. Give him the tools and he will finish the job, he paraphrased Mr. Churchill; it’s a new world to him here and he may get lost, but he’ll find himself. And when he does – it’ll be SOME DISCOVERY.

Faith. That did it. Faith worked the miracle. Schaeffer had set his faith on his own judgment. If his judgment was off, why then what had he to offer his company? He HAD to have faith in his judgment; and his judgment had singled out Orson Welles as a new instrument of genius in the motion picture industry.

Remember, no one had ever had such faith before, no one in the motion picture industry. No one before had ever reposed authority in ONE MAN. YOU BE THE ONE AND ONLY, he had said to Orson Welles. Even when it looked as though the prodigy had fizzled out, he kept on saying it. Talk now about the genius of Orson Welles! Let’s look a little closer at the genius of George J. Schaeffer.


Well – one day, there was a meeting of the executives at RKO. They were pretty well fed up. They’d lost a fortune on a bearded boy who couldn’t add a single column of figures and who’d been driving everyone nuts expecting them to pass a new miracle every day on the production lot. He was there at that meeting, and so was the man who still believed in him. What would have happened to that boy from that moment on, without that one remaining mortal who believed in him, no one knows; all we know is that it would have been a loss to creative art, and we can’t spare such losses.

He faced the hostile group. He said:

I know you hate me. I have squandered your money, I have brought for them ridicule upon myself and my sponsors, I have come here today with not one thing to show for. I’ve been more than a bad investment, I’ve been a calamity. I’ve put a half a million dollars down a bottomless hole.

But there’s one man here who still believes in me. With his faith, I’ll make good yet. I’ll work without pay, until every penny I lost is made up. I have only an idea, but it’s a good idea. I want to make a picture about the life of an American tycoon. He can be any successful American. I have no special person in mind. It’ll be his life through the eyes of those who know him, and to each one he’ll be a different person. A tyrant to his employees, a bandit to his competitors, a hero to the woman who loves him, a saint to those he helps. I don’t know much more than that. It’ll come. But when I’ve done with it, it’ll be a great picture. Different. Revolutionary. I know I can do it because I still have the faith of one person of vision. Yes, he’s a visualist of the highest order; FOR HE CAN VISUALIZE ANOTHER KIND OF GENIUS THAN HIS OWN. He doesn’t possess, he doesn’t understand, he may not even approve, my kind of genius; but he has faith in it, just as I have faith in HIS kind. Our imaginations make room for each other.

I owe this man a debt. I have to pay it back. It’s debt of faith. Will you gentlemen let me go about minting my own coin for payment?

When he had finished speaking, the executives voted him in. What’s good enough guarantee for Schaeffer is good enough for us, they said. One man, George Levy (who told me this story the other day) said:

I knew then that there are things outside one’s own concept. I’m a practical concrete sort of person. But I knew that this boy was a genius. No, he was more than a genius. He was GOOD.

Now there’s no more room to finish this story… I meant it to be an story of faith. One man’s faith in a youth whom everyone else thought was an phoney. And when you see Citizen Kane, remember: This picture that now has the whole industry talking, and all the critics raving, and all the public dumbfounded, it’s simply the coin Orson Welles minted with which to pay back George J. Schaeffer.

It’s funny about genius. It can grow or die, it can become counterfeit or genuine, all through an act of faith. It was a toss-up, with Orson Welles. For the elements of genius were so mixed up with dross, that it took the faith of a master alchemist to turn it into gold.