This past Friday night, the iconic Orson Welles film Citizen Kane, considered by many to be the best movie ever made, screened in a very unlikely location.
According to Variety, Hearst Castle — the former home of Hearst Corporation patriarch William Randolph Hearst — was the site of a screening for the 74-year old film, which is largely known for using Hearst himself as the basis for Welles’ and screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz’s character, Charles Foster Kane. The event was held at the property now owned by the state of California as a benefit for the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, along with the Friends of Hearst Castle preservation group for about $1,000 per ticket.
Much of the reason this is notable is because of the film’s subject matter which, in addition to basing Kane and his rise to wealth and power on Hearst, also was seen by Hearst himself as a massive insult and wanton extrapolation of his life. In fact, Hearst spent a great deal of time trying to use his power and influence to suppress the release of the film, with many of the country’s newspapers under his ownership being banned from advertising or making any mention of the film. This odyssey was chronicled in the HBO movie The Battle for Citizen Kane starring Liev Schreiber as Orson Welles, John Malkovich as Herman Mankiewicz, and James Cromwell as Hearst. Even after his death, the film’s ban from Hearst’s former palatial home in San Simeon, California was maintained until 2012, when the film was screened in the park system’s visitor center.
Still, this past Friday marks the first-ever instance of the film being screened on the actual property of the castle itself. The festival director, Wendy Eidson, even expressed her own shock about getting the opportunity to screen the influential and iconic piece of American cinema within the castle’s robust walls. Other items for sale at the event included party packages within one of the Castle’s extravagant pools, as well as a movie night for up to 10 guests, both items going for around $10,000. It was an interesting reversal of over seven decades of history, with a piece of art that continues to transcend the time in which it was made.
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