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RKO 281
Australian poster
Based onThe Battle Over Citizen Kane
by Richard Ben Cramer
Thomas Lennon
Written byJohn Logan
Directed byBenjamin Ross
StarringLiev Schreiber
James Cromwell
Melanie Griffith
John Malkovich
Brenda Blethyn
Roy Scheider
Liam Cunningham
Kerry Shale
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Production
ProducersSu Armstrong
Ridley Scott
Tony Scott
Running time86 minutes
Production companiesScott Free Productions
BBC Films
WGBH Boston
HBO Pictures
DistributorHBO
Budget$12 million (est.)
Release
Original releaseNovember 20, 1999 (1999-11-20)

RKO 281 is a 1999 American historical drama film directed by Benjamin Ross and starring Liev Schreiber, James Cromwell, Melanie Griffith, John Malkovich, Roy Scheider, and Liam Cunningham. The film depicts the troubled production behind the 1941 film Citizen Kane. The film's title is a reference to the original production number of Citizen Kane.

Plot

In 1940, Orson Welles (Schreiber), RKO studio head George Schaefer (Scheider), and screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Malkovich) struggle in making what will be considered the greatest American film, Citizen Kane. Welles and Mankiewicz attend a party at Hearst Castle where meeting the hypocritical and tyrannical William Randolph Hearst (Cromwell) gives Welles the inspiration to make a film about Hearst's life. Mankiewicz is against it as he knows Hearst's wrath will be horrible but Welles says this is the film. Mankiewicz finally agrees.

After learning from the gossip columnist, Hedda Hopper, who had viewed a press screening, that Welles' film is actually a thinly veiled and exceptionally unflattering biography of him, publishing tycoon Hearst uses his immense power and influence to try to deny the release of the picture. Hearst's mistress, actress Marion Davies (Griffith), endures the embarrassment of having their private lives exposed and vilified. Later on in their relationship many years after the release of Citizen Kane she gives Hearst money when his finances begin to diminish (by selling all the jewellery he gave her and giving him the money in the form of a check).

In the end, after considerable delays and harassment, plus the disintegration of the professional relationship between Welles and Mankiewicz and a costly blow to Schaefer's career, the film is finally released. Its publicity is muted by Hearst's ban on its mention in all his publications and its commercial success is limited. Welles ultimately has the satisfaction of having created one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time.

Cast

Filming locations

Producer Ridley Scott wanted to film in the Hearst Castle, but was refused access.[1] RKO 281 was filmed in the United Kingdom, mostly around London. The Gothic stairwell in Hearst Castle was filmed in the St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel. Hearst's private quarters and office, including a marble fireplace, were filmed in the high-ceilinged Gamble Room in the Victoria & Albert Museum.[1] The fireplace seen in the room was saved from Dorchester House prior to that building's demolition in 1929.[citation needed] The Hearst castle dining hall and ballroom was filmed in the Great Hall of the London Guildhall.[2]

Reception

On aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a "fresh" rating of 93%, based on 14 reviews.[3]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Motion Picture for Non-Commercial Television Alex Mackie Nominated
Casting Society of America Best Casting for TV Movie of the Week Lora Kennedy Won
Columbus International Film & Video Festival Entertainment RKO 281 Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Miniseries or Television Film Won
Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film Liev Schreiber Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film Melanie Griffith Nominated
Il Festival Nazionale del Doppiaggio Voci nell'Ombra Best Character Actor Voice Luca Biagini (for dubbing John Malkovich) Nominated
Nastro d'Argento Best Foreign Director Benjamin Ross Nominated
Online Film & Television Association Best Motion Picture Made for Television RKO 281 Won
Best Actor in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Liev Schreiber Won
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture or Miniseries James Cromwell Nominated
John Malkovich Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Brenda Blethyn Nominated
Melanie Griffith Nominated
Best Direction of a Motion Picture or Miniseries Benjamin Ross Won
Best Writing of a Motion Picture or Miniseries John Logan Won
Best Costume Design in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Stewart Meachem Nominated
Best Editing in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Alex Mackie Won
Best Lighting in a Motion Picture or Miniseries RKO 281 Won
Best Makeup/Hairstyling in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Elaine Browne, Lesley Noble, Demelza Rogers, Roseann Samuel, Aileen Seaton, Karen Z.M. Turner and Christina Webster Nominated
Best Music in a Motion Picture or Miniseries John Altman Nominated
Best New Theme Song in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
Best New Titles Sequence in a Motion Picture or Miniseries RKO 281 Nominated
Best Production Design in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Maria Djurkovic, Lucinda Thomson and Tatiana Macdonald Nominated
Best Sound in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Clive Derbyshire, Mark Taylor and Mike Dowson Nominated
Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture or Miniseries RKO 281 Won
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Made for Television Movie Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie Liev Schreiber Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie James Cromwell Nominated
John Malkovich Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie Melanie Griffith Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or Special Benjamin Ross Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or Special John Logan Nominated
Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie Maria Djurkovic, Lucinda Thomson and Tatiana Macdonald Nominated
Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or Special Lora Kennedy and Joyce Nettles Won
Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries, Movie or Special Roseann Samuel, Elaine Browne, Karen Z.M. Turner, Aileen Seaton and Lesley Noble Nominated
Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie or Special John Altman Won
Outstanding Single Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or Special Alex Mackie Nominated
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or Movie Clive Derbyshire, Mark Taylor and Mike Dowson Won
San Francisco International Film Festival Best Television – Drama-Television Feature Benjamin Ross and Su Armstrong Won
Satellite Awards Best Television Film RKO 281 Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Long Form – Adapted John Logan Won[a]

Notes

Sources

  1. ^ a b Gritten, David (1999-09-05). "The Los Angeles Times Television Section September 05, 1999". Retrieved 2010-10-23.
  2. ^ "The City of London - Guildhall". Archived from the original on May 13, 2008. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  3. ^ "RKO 281 Review". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 24, 2012.

See also