RKO 281
Australian poster
GenreHistorical drama
Based on
The Battle Over Citizen Kane
by
Written byJohn Logan
Directed byBenjamin Ross
Starring
Music byJohn Altman
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Production
Executive producers
ProducerSu Armstrong
CinematographyMike Southon
EditorAlex Mackie
Running time86 minutes
Production companies
Budget$12 million
Original release
NetworkHBO
Release
  • November 20, 1999 (1999-11-20)

RKO 281 is a 1999 American historical drama television film directed by Benjamin Ross, written by John Logan, 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. It premiered on HBO on November 20, 1999.

Plot

In 1940, Orson Welles, RKO studio head George Schaefer, and screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz 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 gives Welles the inspiration to make a film about Hearst's life. Mankiewicz is against it because he knows Hearst's wrath will be horrible but Welles says this is the film. Mankiewicz finally agrees.

At first, Welles tries to take credit for everything, including the script, and is furious with Welles--he faces him and Welles says he has every right and cuts ties with Mankiewicz. Orson later reconsiders and asks Mankiewicz to continue re-drafting the screenplay. 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, endures the embarrassment of having their private lives exposed and vilified. Hopper threatens to do the same to the studio executives of Hollywood if they release the film. Later on in their relationship many years after the release of Citizen Kane Marion gives Hearst money when his finances begin to diminish (by selling all the jewelry 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

Production

The script is based in part on the 1996 American documentary film The Battle Over Citizen Kane written by Thomas Lennon and Richard Ben Cramer.[1]

Producer Ridley Scott wanted to film in the Hearst Castle, but was refused access.[2] 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.[2] The fireplace mantelpiece seen in the room was saved from Dorchester House prior to that building's demolition in 1929.[3] The Hearst castle dining hall and ballroom was filmed in the Great Hall of the London Guildhall.[4]

Reception

On aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a "fresh" rating of 93%, based on 14 reviews.[5]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2000
American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Motion Picture for Non-Commercial Television Alex Mackie Nominated [6]
Artios Awards Best Casting for TV Movie of the Week Lora Kennedy Won [7]
Columbus International Film & Video Festival Chris Award (Entertainment) Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Won [8]
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
Online Film & Television Association Best Motion Picture Made for Television Won [9]
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 Won
Best Writing of a Motion Picture or Miniseries Won
Best Costume Design in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
Best Editing in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Won
Best Lighting in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Won
Best Makeup/Hairstyling in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
Best Music in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
Best New Theme Song in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
Best New Titles Sequence in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
Best Production Design in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
Best Sound in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Won
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Made for Television Movie Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Diane Minter Lewis,
Chris Zarpas, and Su Armstrong
Nominated [10]
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Liev Schreiber Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie James Cromwell Nominated
John Malkovich Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie Melanie Griffith Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special Benjamin Ross Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special John Logan Nominated
Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special Maria Djurkovic, Lucinda Thomson, and
Tatiana Macdonald
Nominated
Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special Lora Kennedy and Joyce Nettles Won
Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special Roseann Samuel, Elaine Browne, Karen Z.M. Turner,
Aileen Seaton, and Lesley Noble
Nominated
Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special John Altman Won
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special Alex Mackie Nominated
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a 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 Nominated [11]
2001
Nastro d'Argento Best Foreign Director Benjamin Ross Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Long Form – Adapted John Logan;
Based in part on the documentary
The Battle Over Citizen Kane (from American Experience)
Won[a] [12]

See also

Notes

Sources

  1. ^ Linden, Sheri (January 28, 1996). "The Battle Over Citizen Kane". Variety. Retrieved December 27, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Gritten, David (1999-09-05). "The Los Angeles Times Television Section September 05, 1999". Retrieved 2010-10-23.
  3. ^ "Chimneypiece". Victoria and Albert Museum. 1873. Retrieved 2022-06-11.
  4. ^ "The City of London - Guildhall". Archived from the original on May 13, 2008. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  5. ^ "RKO 281 Review". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  6. ^ "Nominees/Winners". IMDb. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  7. ^ "2000 Artios Awards". www.castingsociety.com. Retrieved 2020-06-28.
  8. ^ "RKO 281 – Golden Globes". Golden Globe Awards. Retrieved June 26, 2023.
  9. ^ "4th Annual Television Awards (1999-2000)". Online Film & Television Association. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  10. ^ "RKO 281". Emmys.com. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved June 26, 2023.
  11. ^ "International Press Academy website – 2000 4th Annual SATELLITE Awards". Archived from the original on 1 February 2008.
  12. ^ "Writers Guild Awards Winners". WGA. 2010. Archived from the original on May 25, 2012. Retrieved March 7, 2019.