RKO 281 (1999)
There are so many genres of movies that I enjoy and as a student of film history I do indeed love a good film about the making of films. That’s exactly what we get here in this HBO presentation about the making of Citizen Kane and it’s effect on those surrounding it’s production and the fallout to come.
We have a top notch cast playing our real life characters starting with Liev Schreiber as Orson Welles at odds against James Cromwell as Randolph Hearst. Melanie Griffith stars as silent film star Marion Davies who was of course devoted to Hearst in real life and rounding out our leading players we have John Malkovich as writer Herman Mankiewicz and Roy Scheider as George Schaffer head of RKO studios. For film buffs, all the names are present from Mayer and Cohn to Disney and Gable. Let’s not forget Hedda and Louella as they figure prominently here as well. The plot lines are clearly drawn and taken from what we know was the history of the production right down to the studio heads trying to buy the film outright from RKO and burn the negatives due to pressure exerted from Hearst. Of course we all know how things turned out with Kane and with Welles career. The movie does a good job at pointing out his flaws behind the scenes and what would ultimately lead to his troubles at getting films off the ground in the coming years.
The performances in this film are first rate but special mention has to be given to Melanie Griffith and James Cromwell as I think they really shine in this cable production that was actually produced by Tony and Ridley Scott and directed by Benjamin Ross. There is also a great scene where Malkovich tells the story of Thomas Ince and his untimely demise. For more on that episode of the Hearst/Davies affair one should check out Peter Bogdanovich’s film The Cat’s Meow from 2001. Check this one out if you can.