|© Courtesy Everett Collection|
“Kane”s episodic narrative was another thoroughly unique aspect of Welles’ creation. The story is concerned with the life of a very public and very powerful man. It commences with his death and then follows a trail of witnesses of varying degrees of dependability interviewed by a persistent reporter. The writing and acting is of a very high caliber. Most of the cast were making their motion picture debuts, having gained their experience on stage and in radio. The acting talent of Welles, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead, Everett Sloane and the rest of the cast was apparent from the start and they were mainstays of American cinema for many years. As an example of the quality of the writing, the line (spoken by Sloane) “Old age is the one disease that you don’t look forward to being cured of” has, quite naturally, gained resonance with the passing years.
I first saw “Citizen Kane” when I was in my early twenties and my initial reaction was in the vein of “What’s the big deal?” I didn’t quite have that historical approach to film that I would develop but when I saw it again several years later, I got it. I completely understood what an incredible work it was in the context of movies circa 1941. I’ve probably watched Kane twenty or more times in the intervening years and I’m amazed at just how fresh and inventive it seems with every passing year. A knowledge of where film was in 1941 and just what Welles achieved certainly adds to an appreciation of this genuine work of art, but one’s appreciation isn’t dependent on that knowledge. “Citizen Kane” remains a fascinating, unique, masterpiece more than 70 years later.