thumbnail of Dwight Macdonald on film; 1940s: America and Citizen Kane
Hide -
This transcript was received from a third party and/or generated by a computer. Its accuracy has not been verified. If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+.
Run Pedro and I think at the thought of it think this was built on the thought of upon idea that crane is an all out. Anybody else think of this as I dis connect you the writer are you thought of a clue. But yeah but you didn't say he had and he said quote The fourth chapter of Genesis. As I watched the thing with young can explode with anger and he must leave his family home. So I was angry and his countenance fell and the law said Kang Why are you angry and why is your countenance. And angry because he was rejected by a god and if you do well when you not be accepted he makes a comparison you see of the young boy who has been rejected by his God our God is pirates. And he says it didn't have that and a bit too ingenious and I wrote that well yes it is maybe a little bit to continue but there are other should be uncovered. When. You are listening
to Dwight MacDonald on film but during the past decade Mr. McDonald has been perhaps the senior critic among American film critics during this past year he was distinguished visiting professor of film history and criticism at the University of Texas. These programs were drawn from that lecture series the topic for this program is the Americans in about 1940. Orson Wells Citizen Kane. Now once again here is Dwight McDonald. Now a few words not often well if that isn't right by the way how many you're thinking of the kind that own one. Wow. Right you know I have I've seen it seven times and each time I find it. New beauties and the familiar things outside in the mail and I even is governed new things all the time. X of course is true for any of any great writer brought this man across a clipping from the times in 1960 to.
The British from Institute conducted a 70 international critics including myself as a matter of fact. And they asked you now what do you consider the ten best films of all time and the number one film was that time was Citizen Kane and the number two film was Antonioni live and through it to dive out of a box of them I think it's a good poem. Now I limit my comments to history and generalities. I went on the history of pot. As I said it was made in 1940. It can't be done. Because it grew out of a script which must be one of the best quips and it's your movie. My hamin jam Mankowitz who was a very successful. Hollywood script writer and highly paid lots of movies big movies was crowded and who got the idea of doing a film about a heist when a man of heart and he wrote
this script and no one in Hollywood would touch it naturally. So finally Wells agreed to make it and didn't make it. And according to Frank Mankiewicz who was the son of Frank Tommy a few years ago that the movie fall of the script extremely faithfully. This a marvelous script you know we want you to sing it for the eighth time. I have found lines in it and situations in it which was real. I mean for instance his rich people and his successful businessman unless they thought the way that they that there were people who talk and and his reported talk the way that Willie Porter and that qual that model squabble between Cain and his wife after the fiasco. Operatic the view in which she's so irritated that she just keeps you know I was screaming at him and when he got the letter to the road under the hood and he and I had an accident just the way that power between Heideman the wives are powerless anyway.
Exactly that way but anyway I think this script held down well you see the trouble often well in general from a rav is that most of the films he's made have been these the sort of fantasies about crime and adventurers and an impossibly imposing Halley I was thinking is played by Orson Welles The Who's a big ham if you give them a slider's to insure no reason have a lackey really except here he's held down by the script he made one other really I think Major and that the Magnificent Ambersons which is a flawed masterpiece they took him off in the last quarter and so the ending is pretty bad but the rest of it is very good and there too he was how down by a realistic story book talk in the novel which had a definite historical period. But anyway he need this kind of discipline and I think that having Mac was a script it gave a jump is an example
of a really descriptive an extremely important. All across obviously rouse must have. Had a lot of ideas too. Anyway I was talking in that anhydrous of God did everything possible to kill it and after was finally made in the teeth of all of the opposition just then that his papers were instructed not to mention the film and he tried to even get there not to shout relative disgusting stuff especially if that actually is not a very close I mean I get this like I used in a psychological sense it has to but it's not right because in many other ways as you'll say Fred it Crossman that. Any White House with a son of a bitch and in fact he proved that he was even worse than Susan Congress by the right to hide. Now. To begin with some of the critical things about the film because when I thought of only two papers that were on a higher hostel I must also say that there were a number of papers that made some either good or not so good but anyway some critical points.
Now here is one for instance one of the things that a number of papers pointed out rise the the right of the horror film was framed between the palace shots you know at the beginning you have the no trespassing sign and then going up to the castle and at the end you have a brace going away from the castle and some. Sort of harsh Imus frame a danger to them that this is true it's quite a good effect. I might add that if any of you have seen a movie called The blood of a poet by Cattaro. Isn't even a man extraordinary example as I remember it anyway I have framing in its time raw and here you have the interesting question of cinematic time in fact there's been no greater violation of cinematic time than this particular instance. The movie begins as a very abstract and so realistic movie brought apart about an hour long it begins with shot by one of those huge factory chimneys which has been dynamite at the base and you're not to be destroyed. And it begins to crumble you know how those chimneys going out like that sort of begins with that
then the movie goes on for now and then the last shot of the movie is of the gem they finally collapse in on the ground. And otherwise the horror movie has taken place in that wink of an eyelash. Between the beginning of the Jimmy is crumbling and the end of it this is the greatest example of the violation of real time by the cinema. About you know this skipping around in time and this is one of the first times not the face time but one of the first times in which the chronological order was violated in the sense that it went back all the time and back and forth. This paper's has an eight and a half I was never quite sure what came before right you want to present it in the pen and time out and when the memory of a dream was brought into consciousness by some chance occurrence. Modern film does not usually have the audience the diagnosis of the main character as well as Hadley London when explaining to the Thompson. So I mean this is a criticism and I would add that the transitions were made too obvious in kind as against the half now I don't think that this
is a really quick as a thought I think this is and different I think both ways out. I mean I happen to have no sort of big little signal flags run up every time you're having a transition when I was in the other way because it is a very much more. What would you call it a much more of a contrived film a much more consciously official film than a half wide. Also a lot of people commented on his device of carrying over the voice from one scene to the next. Or will or will you are a montage. But anyway it is one of the things about the movie that I think is very interesting when if it is a Merry Christmas and then and a Happy New Year and then you have the silly script about 10 years us out and the famous thing in the campaign speech when cotton begins a campaign talk on the back of a riot in the street and then his words taken up by Cain at this big mass meeting
with a huge picture of him. This right is I think pretty original with rouse and theres a movie by Rand then who made a bad before that Hiroshima Mon Amour called Muriel the movie after I was out and it was a very successful movie prize and I but I knew why he does this all the time in me and it seems to be very advanced but actually well it had the idea before. Now this raises a very interesting point. Fine it was made by one Dr. Strangelove by qubit uses by the same devices camera angle lot in the FX musical variations. And I imagine the mob affinity and the atomic mushroom with the cars I will never meet again the implied against that author uses newsreel of the attack on the airbase whether crew book was influenced by sort of the kind of time of the movie or whether the ideas were as Dr. Strangelove in the example of a recent movie that evidences a technical approach similar to that of Welles I would
suspect I never will but as a matter of fact just wouldn't any of that but I've seen all of his films and I do know something about him. I would suspect that Kobach was not directly influenced by Citizen Kane in Strangelove. But you see what happens when somebody makes a breakthrough the way that Wells did with theirs and all that that Joyce did with Ulysses or otherwise that Elliott did with his early palms in the wasteland when somebody makes a brag. Fight you have the direct influence that's so right afterwards. Sometimes sometimes not. But the most important thing is that it changes the climate of the on. And people who have never seen or read these books films very well the effects are another way. When I asked this question about what has been the effect of Citizen Kane on the movies it wouldn't have to be a direct effect at all it could be by people who've never even heard of him and since it isn't. So. I think that's probably what happened in this case
that certain things became part of the vocabulary of the movies after theirs and certain ways of looking at life in the same way that after the right and that a certain kind of attitude of a certain kind of process. And so on. Became very normal in English and American poetry. But anyway it seems to me that the point about Crane is that he was a man who I would think I believe Rabin wanted to be. He couldn't give love and a reason for that rise of the business of his mother shipping him off to be brought up by this. The action of a riot. Thatcher and that this lad was right because he pushed that down now. And that he had lost really his childhood and that love and do you see that I would imagine that that little scene that in a mother and a father in
which if I was the father it appears to be very warm and much nicer than the mother and in fact in a way he was and he was really more sympathetic and more imaginative in treating the child. And yet after the kid has pushed the thatch of the law down on this now with his lad the father has our whip you are something then the father is the one that wants to welcome you now to beat him and then the mother says. But that's why I'm sending him a ride to get him away from you so you have a completely vice to account to then I think the good thing about that scene is the fact that the father and mother in different ways as shown by what you now have as an interest at heart on the other hand all of the above hostile tome and I think that's a good thing. I mean both of them up presented literalistic Lee that presented the breakthroughs in the facts because the mother's side and they made a terrible mistake obviously you can't really change a child that way if I don't know quite That's not a good part of the script. Then the guys on this NG to be no justification for giving up the boy entirely. Did anybody else have
that criticism I'm not of the script. I mean Ryan couldn't I after all have seen them sometimes writer they have to kind of speak to the law. This script is a very tight and realistic script and it really does depend on bringing true to life sort of thing and I think this is the flaw because it is necessary you see in order to explain the fact that he felt so every night and get love and self and so on but I think this is really going to prod it. I don't see why that he couldn't really think vacations of the old homestead. But anyway so I suppose that that must be the childhood that he never got arbor that made him absolutely live and of the same time incapable of giving out any love. Now here is somebody who said the main weakness of citizen kind the grandiose setting that the barrenness and the aloneness are so prevalent you sometimes wonder if this is the only point the film has to make. So he takes enough time to make it the thing that Cain
can take but not give love is pretty simple but talking about should I move on with occasions that it does have it's presented in the same way same tone over and over again it tends to smother the variety of its own implications. I think of what he says is true that there is this thing over and over again but I felt that this you see this gets into the question of what the why God wants a work of psychology philosophy and thought and sound one I think from the point of view of a serious psychological investigation that this is a rather simplistic thing but I think the test has to be whether it works in the term of office and I thought I was not bothered by that in the film that is a side that the variety of the ways in which he expresses admittedly about a simple thing seem to me to be a good movie and I would say that what about it does not have to be interesting or original or varied or anything from an intellectual
or philosophical point of view in other words the test of a putting that in eating and inviting and it turns but it doesn't have to be interesting or original intellectually philosophically. You see what I mean and what it says about the world I mean it's a work of art and not a right of philosophy. It's not a record history it's not a work of thought. What kind of training friends and thank a painting Renaissance painting of the Assumption of the version are any of these religious themes Well I have no interest in on what that plan to tell me I'm not at all really just I mean these very much interest nothing but interest me not because of what that content that the idea is presented in such a way that the colors the forms and even the there's a reference to my own common humanity with the painter and so on that's part of my divide as a writer
and then also the piper makes the point that the subject matter left some of the historical partners that might've had 25 years ago but I think that's absolutely wrong. I mean after all there's a civil war. Across not in fact a proper nation is a very interactive subject it seems to me and that was a long time before the Civil War. This is expected to me. But it says that the experience of sentimentality this is an injection. And she makes the main point about that last scene between the big quality and his destroyer and how she thinks that's an example of the accusations you have that I would say that one of the great things about the script there's a sentimental thought I think that she's quite shrewd about and understand just writing is and that is you know that you know she was weakening in that scene
and I don't know if that's that. I mean if that's the right of that she must have a tough life I would say. Now a few other. Points. Oh yes one paper I must say your original down to run paperback to heart feisty Pagels and I think it's a sort of a mazing thinks this was built on the thought of upon idea that crane is in or out. Anybody else think of this because I just connect you with a rider and you thought of it so yeah but you didn't say he had. He says because the fourth chapter of Genesis. As I watched that scene with young and old he must leave his family home so I was angry in his countenance foul and a lot said to Tang why you angry and why you can't and
fallen. And was angry because he was rejected by a god and if you do why will you not be accepted. He makes a comparison you see of the young boy who has been rejected by his god or gods as pirates. And he says it didn't have that and a bit too ingenious and I wrote. Yes it is maybe a little bit too convenient but there are other to be uncovered as such I did I guess there might be something in it that he caught his trouble is that he can't find any place in the movie in which he can kill his brother. But see there is the expansion from even things out in the end. Citizen crane in the beginning a man who is expelled from it. So are the loving family life and so on and this is obviously one of the main points of the movie started out except perhaps in fact it's not impossible that we don't know enough about it I'm the owner of an AC rather Mankowitz invented came for that reason.
I was sort of doubt it but anyway. Ingenious idea. Now here's a paper that criticized to not wholly satisfy and perhaps due to the somewhat objective present ation of the plot. Cain wasn't only to be locked up only to be hated but a mixture of the three. And they speak of an irritating lack of conviction. This is a very gentle thing about Cain as a matter of fact. I think it's one of the best things about it like a convention lab pitied or hated you see I mean that is a very different attitude now I think that you perhaps love is too strong but anyway you feel an empathy with and then you pity him sometimes and you write him sometimes but this person said that this is a defect I think this is a very to actually the point is that it's not a crayon otherwise it's not clear what you're supposed to think but I think this is one of the one of the serious and profound Reichenbach ads against your kind of slick magazine business where you always know
who's the good guy who's the bad guy and. Now here's the whole question of why it was bad. I mean we know right what it I mean I was a part of that you're not blind eyes above you realize that that last shot that that's where I was but that slab but what the meaning of. That I mean I think that was right where everything went wrong you see. Now let me just read these. Things and then I would really like to see what you will think about it now. Here's one. I felt rather cheated to it spent two hours collecting clue to the identity of Brothers but I wanted to have it spelled out for me literally in the last say now this is a rather typical reaction critical reaction to what I was but I was never bothered me but I'm offended by a lot of you. And here for instance I felt the film should have ended with the admission that there was but the quote would have explained nothing because nothing that explain a man's life you remember just
before the shot of the bloody report is that somebody that you could find out what was but Matt and he said well it probably wouldn't explain it because you can't explain a man's life in one word. Until they want to hear this. And once the thing to do and then on the ground it's more subtle and so on and here's a last remark about Rosebud. This structural thread which maintains the coherence is an unfortunate artificial device rose but all I would say is that design purposely affected antithetical to the more sophisticated approach of the movie had ended when any part of confesses unsuccessful attempt on a model a mystery about the keyway and state that a man alive and so on. Cannot be decided by one out of the movie it would have been mad realistic and less at it than the fighting goes on another devise would have been necessary then to suggest the same I did namely effects of cans being dropped from a child and someone question the other devices. Why be so picky I mean what's wrong with this device.
But I like that people think about a lot of you did think that it was a little bit too obvious. My opinion in the magpie number the pipe and that it gives a pat answer and otherwise that the answer to it is that he was rejected by his parents put into the guardianship of the reactionary and this invented him and made him incapable of loving someone. No I think that's a bad reading of the actual movie. In fact what I think is one of the great things about the movie is precisely that there isn't any one answer when in fact what the product before I did see was bought at the end he said I don't think it would explain it. I mean really you are in fact this involves a very interesting point. You're right from my. Again from a psychological on meaning point of view it's perfectly true that it was that that really if the whole thing is we do simply trying to finally discovering that the reason for a kind of psychology and if it really
boils down to the fact that he was rejected by his mother and father this doesn't seem perhaps way to all that effort and I agree but I think maybe that script consciously square in every way that it takes up every relationship that relationships and people are to be valued and conflicting and are all kind of different things going on and I think that is but it is not supposed to be the explanation in a meaningful content. Psychological Centanni I don't have I defended on the grounds that it is a perfectly magnificent family point of view of file and structure. It's a magnificent work and the film. Because you have had this little problem brows but not about I don't think you should take Redbud so seriously as an explanation of pain and I don't think that's intended. I think you should take it seriously as a formal element that and the film the right begins and there are something very satisfying to me anyway about something that neatly comes
around to the you know like a equation that you finally solve a mathematical thing that you finally got to answer that. Balance the book so to speak and I think the balance of the books of the thing you see is the difference between the structure of the film. If I have it I'm good with that guy thing and now I am. Then I think this would be like going up a you know you've got some time and you're not familiar with it and you think there's another stand you fall on your face because even another look at it as a detective to some extent it is a detective story really trying to find out what Rosebud means now the alternative is to end it with the process and I don't think and this would be a much more in a sophisticated modern why this is the way that Antonioni would fare in the end the film about that yeah. That's true but there's a different kind of film you say this is a very special kind of a film and he really is dealing does you know in balance and he's
really developing a form and his form would have been hopelessly ruined I think if he hadn't come up to scratch at the very end with writers but I must say every time I think that I got a great thrill you know I mean I think exciting and also good because of the fact that nobody in the film ever discovers what it was but it is but we do in fact that's another in of I think the audience is let in on a good but the people are not. I don't cry think about tomorrow but show up at the end with a blanket looking around it and so on. And also it's become a kind of I you know camp Creek Road you're now reading about I mean there's that you've added something to the culture to the language ever thought I think this is the fooling around I mean but I think it's justified in this case. You have been listening to Dwight MacDonald on film but in this program Mr. McDonald discussed the American cinema 1940 Orson Wells
Citizen Kane. These programs were drawn from Mr. MacDonald's lecture series during his recent tenure as distinguished visiting professor of film history and criticism at the University of Texas. This series was produced by communication center at the University of Texas for a national educational radio producer for the series Bill Jordan. Phil Miller speaking. This is NPR the National Education old radio network.
Dwight Macdonald on film
1940s: America and Citizen Kane
Producing Organization
University of Texas
KUT (Radio station : Austin, Tex.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-sn014249).
Episode Description
The 1940s: America, Citizen Kane
Series Description
Series of lectures by Dwight Macdonald on film: its makers, its history, its future.
Film and Television
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Announcer: Miller, Phil
Producer: Jordan, Bill
Producing Organization: University of Texas
Producing Organization: KUT (Radio station : Austin, Tex.)
Speaker: Macdonald, Dwight
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-16-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:27:50
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Dwight Macdonald on film; 1940s: America and Citizen Kane,” 1967-04-21, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 13, 2024,
MLA: “Dwight Macdonald on film; 1940s: America and Citizen Kane.” 1967-04-21. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 13, 2024. <>.
APA: Dwight Macdonald on film; 1940s: America and Citizen Kane. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from