'Citizen Kane,' at the Charles, deserves its 50 years of acclaim


Orson Welles' 1941 "Citizen Kane" is showing at the Charles, 50 years after the film was first released. It is a film that deserves all the attention it has won over the decades.

The film didn't win the Academy Award for "best picture of the year" ("How Green Was My Valley" was best film of 1941), but it should have. It didn't because of pressure from newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Everyone knew that "Kane" was really Hearst, including Hearst, who forbade the mention of Welles' name in any of his publications after the film was released. Welles was young at the time -- only 25. His youth

worked for him and against him. It worked for him because he was young and brave enough to take on one of the country's most powerful men. It worked against him because the film became his bete noir, the movie that was always associated with the Welles name, a film the director may have come to hate.

That was the impression he gave to a group of television reporters some years back. All the questions were leading to one -- would Welles have preferred to have done the film later in life, was he sorry that he had peaked so early?

When it was finally posed, the Welles temper exploded. "I don't think it's a good film," he said, angrily. "It was not a success."

Welles came to resent the movie because he was never able to match it. Some say "The Magnificent Ambersons," his second film, would have, had the studio not butchered it, but we will never know, not unless someone finds the excised footage and restores it.

"Citizen Kane" remains a masterpiece, a work of art, a visionary film that used techniques that were new to the art form. Its only weakness was Welles' performance. He was a good radio actor, but his work on screen was never outstanding.

Pauline Kael wrote a book on the authorship of the script. Welles submitted his name and Herman Mankiewicz's as authors of the script, for consideration by the Motion Picture Academy, but Kael says it was Mankiewicz who really did the script.

Joseph Cotten, who worked with Welles in a number of films, beginning with "Citizen Kane," said a few years ago that the tempest was hardly worth the teacup. "It hardly matters who wrote it," he said. "The important thing is that Welles'

stamp is on it. It is his film."

Much was said about the word uttered by Kane on his deathbed,"Rosebud." Columnists wrote acres on it, and today you wonder why. It was made clear that Kane's sled, as a boy, was named "Rosebud" and that when the tycoon uttered the word shortly before he died it was his remembrance of a simpler time,a happier time.

" Citizen kane" is in black and white.Ted Turner owns it but hasn't dared color it.He probably never will.

The film will show at the Charles through Aug.4. If you're a film buff and have somehow missed seeing the movie,now is the time to right that wrong.

* The Act II Dinner Theater is redoing one of its more successful productions, "Sugar Babies," the salute to burlesque that brought Mickey Rooney and Ann Miller together on the stage.

This Act II "Babies" is not quite as good as the 1989 version, but there is fun to be had. Chuck Richards, who was top banana in the previous version, is repeating that role, and as before, he moves things along. He is funny. He knows how to play an audience.

Joseph A. Senatore, who directed, has changed a few things. Some of the musical numbers are different, but the familiar skits are there: "Meet Me Round the corner," "The Salute to Sally Rand, "The Little Red Schoolhouse," the Madame Alla Gazaza number in which an opera diva tries but never manages to finish her aria, the courtroom silliness, and "Old Glory," the finale that was an essential part of burlesque.

Richard Leckinger is Rick, the house emcee and lead singer, and others who help the show bubble along are Thomas C.Hessenauer, Andrew Karl, Michael Pierorazio, John Henry Rose and Tammy Brandwein.

"Sugar Babies" will continue through Sept. 29 at the Act II Dinner Theater. You've heard all these jokes a dozen times, but that doesn't mean they are no longer amusing.

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