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1.0 out of 5 stars Monstrous, hateful nonsense, 27 Aug. 2014
This review is from: RKO 281 [DVD] (DVD)
This is a foulness. One might think that the making of the greatest of all American films would be a gift of a subject, but this isn't really about the making of "Citizen Kane" at all; it's about the jealousy felt by screenwriter John Logan towards Orson Welles. No-one is ever more hated than a genius, it seems, and this film denigrates Welles at every turn. He is shown as untruthful, ungrateful, exploitative, hypocritical and just plain nasty, and Logan's sympathies are all with the ghastly William Randolph Hearst, only too clearly. The facts are elaborately altered, so that the very reason for Welles's making the film becomes merely an act of petty revenge for being insulted at San Simeon. In reality, Welles never went there and he and Hearst never met until after the film had opened, when they accidentally found themselves sharing a lift in San Francisco. This is also depicted, but the story is again changed, so that, this time, childish, petulant Orson is crushed by righteous Randolph. Welles is seen quarrelling with everyone (although most of the actors were friends from the Mercury Company), and driving the studio crazy with his extravagance, whereas in reality the film came in on time for an economical $842,000 and the only person to whom Welles was ever unpleasant during the shoot was his leading lady, Dorothy Comingore - who, in this version, is one of the few people to whom he's consistently charming! Admirers of Benjamin Ross's earlier film, "The Young Poisoner's Handbook", were devastated at the sheer poorness of "RKO 281", which doesn't even seem to have much idea about the way in which films are made. (Ross has barely been heard of since). There is one effective scene, where Hearst is shown cunningly putting the frighteners on Louis B. Mayer; it could have been more incisively written, but the acting of James Cromwell and David Suchet is here extremely good. Fiona Shaw and Brenda Blethyn amusingly display variations in cattiness as Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons. And that's it; there really isn't anything else at all to say in this film's favour.
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