Citizen Kane Oscar auction: Orson Welles’ Best Original Screenplay statuette to be sold
Orson Welles’ Academy Award for Citizen Kane, considered by some The Greatest Story Ever Told on Film, is set to be auctioned by its current owner, the Los Angeles-based charity Dax Foundation, next December 2007. Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz shared the 1941 Best Original Screenplay Oscar, Citizen Kane‘s only win out of nine nominations, including Best Picture (produced by Orson Welles), Best Director (also Welles), and Best Actor (Welles once again). (Image: Orson Welles in Citizen Kane.)
The Academy frowns upon the buying and selling of Oscar statuettes, but it can’t prevent this particular sale. Only post-1950 Oscar winners are contractually obligated not to sell their trophies.
Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane Oscar – the only competitive one the actor-producer-director-screenwriter ever won – is estimated to fetch between $800,000 and $1.2 million. (Welles was handed an Honorary Oscar at the 1971 ceremony. More on the convoluted history of Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane Oscar.)
Citizen Kane screenplay
Inspired by the life of William Randolph Hearst (and, clearly, by Preston Sturges’ screenplay for William K. Howard’s 1933 drama The Power and the Glory), Citizen Kane tells the story of a greedy, megalomaniac tycoon who discovers that money doesn’t bring happiness and that untalented mistresses shouldn’t be pushed into opera stardom. (Hearst’s real-life mistress, however, was quite talented. Marion Davies was an outstanding film comedienne, as can be attested by her work in, among others, Show People, The Cardboard Lover, The Fair Co-Ed, and The Patsy.)
For the record, Citizen Kane lost the Best Picture and Best Director Academy Awards to John Ford’s family drama How Green Was My Valley. The 1941 Best Actor Oscar went to Gary Cooper for his performance in the title role in Howard Hawks’ flag-waving war comedy-drama Sergeant York.
Besides Orson Welles, Citizen Kane also features Dorothy Comingore (in the un-Marion Davies role), Agnes Moorehead, Ruth Warrick, Joseph Cotten, Ray Collins, Everett Sloane, William Alland, George Coulouris, Paul Stewart, Fortunio Bonanova, Philip Van Zandt, and, in a bit part, future Paramount superstar Alan Ladd.
Orson Welles Citizen Kane image: RKO Pictures.
The Trouble with Harry: Chicago Critics’ 100 Scariest Films
In Broadcastellan, Harry Heuser (mildly) demonizes the Chicago Film Critics Association’s list of 100 scariest films:
“Inexplicably, though, my personal favorite did not make the bloody cut. It is Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon (1957), based on “Casting the Runes,” a short story by the aforementioned ghost storyteller M. R. James. [Adapted by Charles Bennett and Hal E. Chester.] On US radio the story was dramatized under its original title on the literary thriller series Escape. When it was shown on BBC 2 TV here in Britain a few nights ago, I seized the opportunity to go once more into that not so gentle Night. Much to my relief, I had not yet become immune to its powers.
“Once again, I was startled by that hand on the banister; once again, my skin showed pimply evidence of the film’s workings upon my imagination.”
I can’t remember any hands on a banister – perhaps I had my eyes closed at that point – but I do recall a mad doctor, a floating bright light that turns into something deadly, and former Fox leading man Dana Andrews looking puzzled at all the weird happenings. (In the above photo, Andrews discovers that seeing the light isn’t always such a good thing.)
And, of course, I do recall quite vividly that final monstrous apparition that totally freaked me out.
In sum, I fully agree with Harry that Night of the Demon is a first-rate, spooky-as-hell horror film. One that most of the Chicago film critics have probably never even heard of.
Also in the Night of the Demon cast: Peggy Cummins, Niall MacGinnis, Maurice Denham, and veteran Athene Seyler. Additional great work by cinematographer Ted Scaife and editor Michael Gordon.
Right: The face that launched a thousand nightmares. (I wish I were kidding.) In the US, the film was renamed Curse of the Demon.
Here’s the Chicago critics’ 100 Scariest Films list from last year.
And here’s a very detailed analysis of Night of the Demon and other Jacques Tourneur films, including the horror flicks Cat People (1942) and I Walked with a Zombie (1943), and the thriller The Fearmakers (1958).
Paramount on Parade all-star early musical. (Image: Clara Bow and [apparently] Mitzi Green.) Paramount on Parade, a 1930 all-star musical extravaganza produced by none other than Paramount, was directed by about a dozen men (Edmund Goulding, Ernst Lubitsch, Victor Schertzinger, and Frank Tuttle among them) and one woman (Dorothy Arzner).
Written by future Oscar winner Joseph L. Mankiewicz (A Letter to Three Wives, All About Eve), Paramount on Parade consists of a series of musical numbers and comedy sketches featuring just about every one of Paramount’s top players at the dawn of the sound era. Among those were Clara Bow, Clive Brook, Evelyn Brent, Nancy Carroll, Gary Cooper, Fredric March, Ruth Chatterton, George Bancroft, Fay Wray, Kay Francis, William Powell, Jack Oakie, Maurice Chevalier, Jean Arthur, Warner Oland, Richard Arlen, Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers, and countless others.
Paramount on Parade: ‘Screening by appointment only’
At Vitaphone Varieties, Jeff Cohen called Paramount on Parade“one of the most elusive [of] all the surviving early all-star screen revues — that despite the fact it has been largely restored (carefully cobbled together from extant picture and sound elements) but with the frustrating status of a ‘screening by appointment only’ archive gem.
“To be sure, Paramount on Parade can be viewed in any number of smeary bootleg Beta-to[-]VHS-to[-]DVD dubs which can be readily found on internet auction sites (and in eye-straining pixilated clips on YouTube) but even these stem from miserable, highly mangled, murk and blur source prints that once played regularly on Public Television and early cable venues. Here then, an original highly detailed dialogue script serves dual roles as a curiosity and reference tool, allowing us a glimpse of the content of Paramount on Parade as it originally appeared to audiences in early 1930.”
In that same post, Jeff also discusses other early musicals, including Luther Reed’s Hit the Deck, starring Jack Oakie, and Ralph Ince’s Coney Island, with Lois Wilson (Daisy Buchanan, in the 1926 film version of The Great Gatsby). As a plus, there’s a medley from Warner Bros.’ 1929 all-singing, all-talking, all-revueing The Show of Shows, directed by John G. Adolfi, and featuring a whole array of WB stars and featured players, from John Barrymore and Dolores Costello to Lupino Lane and Rin Tin Tin.
Note: The Paramount on Parade directors are Dorothy Arzner, Otto Brower, Edmund Goulding, Victor Heerman, Edwin H. Knopf, Rowland V. Lee, Ernst Lubitsch, Lothar Mendes, Victor Schertzinger, A. Edward Sutherland, and Frank Tuttle. Also in the cast: James Hall, Helen Kane, Nino Martini, Zelma O’Neal, Mitzi Mayfair, Dennis King, Eugene Pallette, Lillian Roth, Leon Errol, Stuart Erwin, and Mary Brian. As per the IMDb, in addition to uncredited newcomers Phillips Holmes, Iris Adrian, Mischa Auer, Virginia Bruce, and Joan Peers.
“As you may have guessed by now, Scarlet Seas is a lost film — a double loss really, as it not only seems to have been an absolute corker of a film that would boast the best of both worlds of silent and sound cinema, but it’s also probably a film that [Richard] Barthelmess would have much wanted to survive long past his career and life. Given that Richard Barthelmess died in 1963, it’s disturbing to realize that chances are that as he was entering his final decade of life, the film elements for Scarlet Seas were busily destroying themselves, aided by neglect and profound lack of interest from the company that owned it.”
That’s Jeff Cohen in Vitaphone Varieties, discussing the making of Scarlet Seas off Santa Monica Bay in 1928. Directed by the now utterly forgotten John Francis Dillon, the silent (with synchronized score) adventure drama stars Barthelmess and popular 1920s leading lady Betty Compson. (More on Betty Compson in my review of The Barker.)
On his site, Jeff also offers MP3 recordings of excerpts from the film’s surviving Vitaphone disc soundtrack, quite possibly the only copy in existence, and some great posters (including the one found in this article).
Scarlet Seas was produced by First National — initially a distributing company; later one of the top studios in the 1920s. Warner Bros. acquired First National and its film holdings at the dawn of the sound era.
Time Warner currently owns the WB and First National films.
At Vitaphone Varieties, Jeff Cohen discusses early talking pictures with a South Seas setting in the article “Melody Native.”
A brief quote:
“The Pagan, an MGM feature released in April of 1929, hit the mark with escapist minded audiences and devout fans of it’s [sic] star, Ramon Novarro, alike. Although a silent film with a synchronized music, vocal and sound effects score, The Pagan had enough drawing power to succeed at a time when theaters were swelling with all-talkie product. Visually stunning, and containing what many justly believe to be Novarro’s signature performance and perhaps even role of a lifetime, [the] success of The Pagan was also due in no small way to the film’s theme song, which swept the country and globe before, during and after the film’s release.”
The theme song in question, by the way, is the “Pagan Love Song,” with lyrics by Arthur Freed, and music by Nacio Herb Brown. An MP3 recording of the song has been attached to Jeff’s article.