Linwood Dunn: Celebrating a Visual Effects Pioneer - 'Citizen Kane' Screening

Citizen Kane Orson Welles

“Linwood Dunn: Celebrating a Visual Effects Pioneer,” will explore the work of special effects artist Linwood Dunn (above, lower photo), including the techniques he used in creating optical effects for Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, on Friday, October 9, at 8 p.m. at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' appropriately named Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood. A newly struck print of Citizen Kane from the Academy Film Archive will be screened. This event is sold out, but standby tickets may become available.

Presented by the Academy's Science and Technology Council, “Linwood Dunn” will be hosted by Oscar-winning visual effects artist and Academy governor Craig Barron. The evening will also feature an onstage discussion with Dunn's daughter, Nancy Dunn; Paramount technology executive Garrett Smith, who was mentored by Dunn; and visual effects artists who were influenced by his work, including Jonathan Erland, Michael Fink and Bill Taylor. All that, plus rare recorded interviews with Dunn.

Among Linwood Dunn's credits in various optical effects capacities are Cimarron (1931), King Kong (1933), Cat People (1942), Mighty Joe Young (1949), The Thing from Another World (1951), West Side Story (1961), Hawaii (1966), for which he earned a Special Visual Effects Oscar nomination, The Exorcist (1973), and the TV series Star Trek.

Dunn was honored by the Academy in 1944 and in 1980 for the Acme-Dunn Optical Printer he designed in the 1940s with machinist Cecil Love. In 1978 Dunn earned the Academy's Medal of Commendation, and took home the Gordon E. Sawyer Award in 1984 “for his lifetime of contributions to the art and technology of motion pictures.” The Linwood Dunn Theater at the Academy's Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study was dedicated in his honor in 2004, six years after his death.

As per the Academy's press release, “Dunn introduced Welles to the optical printer during production of Citizen Kane, and under Welless' direction the device was used 'like a paintbrush' to help drive the visual narrative of the film. Instead of jarring cuts, optical dissolves were used to slip between scenes, and sometimes between shots within scenes; during post-production, new elements such as miniature effects and matte painting were added to previously photographed scenes on an unprecedented scale. These effects, together with Gregg Toland's cinematography, made Citizen Kane a visual masterpiece.”

Citizen Kane was nominated for nine Academy Awards; it won one Oscar for best original screenplay (Welles, Herman J. Mankiewicz). Also in the Citizen Kane cast: Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Agnes Moorehead, Ruth Warrick, Ray Collins, George Coulouris, Paul Stewart, Fortunio Bonanova, and Everett Sloane.

Though “Linwood Dunn: Celebrating a Visual Effects Pioneer” is sold out, additional tickets typically become available at the last minute due to no-shows and cancellations. There will be a standby line at the west doors of the Pickford Center on October 9. Standby numbers will be given out at approximately 5:30 p.m. The number of standby tickets that can be sold will be determined shortly before the event's 8 p.m. start time.

Tickets to Citizen Kane are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID.

The Linwood Dunn Theater is located at 1313 Vine Street in Hollywood. For more information call (310) 247-3600 or visit

Photos: Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library

Linwood Dunn: Celebrating a Visual Effects Pioneer - 'Citizen Kane' Screening © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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1 Comment to Linwood Dunn: Celebrating a Visual Effects Pioneer - 'Citizen Kane' Screening

  1. Most of the early pioneers in the field of special effects have done phenomenal work. Its sad that some of it has gone unnoticed. Thanks for highlighting such work in this post.