Citizen Kane was on the tube the other night, and had Joe all wound up watching it yet AGAIN.
He’s lost count of how many times he’s seen Orson Welles’ 1941 masterpiece considered by most film historians and critics to be the best film ever made. (We’ll get to that point in a minute.)
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, back again and all we have to say today is ‘Rosebud.’ (Actually we DO have more to say — notably that the tension is rising.)
For over a year now in the pages of this blog we’ve touted that a true classic is a film that no matter how many times one watches it, one can always discover something new.
So what did Joe discover on his last viewing of Citizen Kane?
Only that Welles may have been the first to use a ‘musical interlude.’ You know what that is. The action in a dramatic picture stops and a musical number is introduced. Joe had always thought that the ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head’ bicycle ride of Paul Newman and Katherine Ross in director George Roy Hill’s 1969 western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid had started the trend.
But, no. The ‘musical interlude’ in the Welles classic does not refer to any of the operatic blasts from Kane’s second wife (Dorothy Comingore) but comes earlier in the picture when the staff of ‘The Inquirer’ throws itself a raucous stag party (the newspaper was celebrating a circulation milestone, following its hire of the competition’s best reporters).
In the midst of the festivities, Welles as Kane sends off a shrill whistle cuing the introduction of a bubbly, gaudy musical number featuring an MC and a line of shapely chorus girls.
The witty number, both praising and sending up Kane as The Inquirer’s publisher, is marvelous. It’s fully enjoyable on its own terms and at the same time prompting key snatches of dialogue foreshadowing the larger drama to come.
So, chalk this up as one of the million reasons why Citizen Kane is commonly regarded as the best movie ever made. And that’s where our parenthetical reference above to ‘the tension is rising’ comes in.
The highly respected British movie journal Sight & Sound — published by the British Film Institute — has been polling international critics every 10 years since 1952, asking them to identify the best movies of all time. This is the gold standard of movie polls, an extensive culling of the views of cineastes all over the world.
In 1952, the first-place pick was Italian director Victoria DeSica’s moving 1947 film, The BicycleThief. But Citizen Kane took over as the critics’ No. 1 choice in all the polls since, from 1962 through 2002.
The magazine is currently completing its 2012 poll, and the tension is indeed rising. A S&S subscriber, Frank just received a hot flash announcing that the 2012 poll findings will be released at any time now on S&S’s newly created digital edition. Poll results will also be splashed across S&S’s September print edition.
The Greatest Films of All Time — the results are in! Explore our celebrated once-in-a-decade poll of the world’s critics and directors, says S&S by way of self promotion.
Our question is: will Citizen Kane retain the No. 1 spot it has held for 50 years? We certainly hope it will. In any case, as soon as the poll results are disclosed, we’ll let you know in detail.
In the meantime, we are keeping our fingers crossed.