Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Temple Tuesday: Citizen Kane, Orson, and Shirley

I have been making it a habit to pop in an old classic film while eating dinner. Recently, I got out my “Citizen Kane” blu ray disc. Gregg Toland’s cinematography is even better when you watch this classic black and white film in high definition. Or is it? For the first time, I noticed a detail that had eluded me on other home video incarnations: after the March of Time newsreel is played, Joseph Cotten has a very tiny cameo as a reporter. A few scenes later, he is playing Kane's best friend, Jed Leland, sitting in a wheelchair in a nursing home.
Were original prints of the film developed darker so that audiences wouldn’t notice this? Or did Orson Welles need an extra in the scene so badly that he had Cotten doing double duty? Or was it some kind of inside joke? I have no idea. However…I also noticed something else. In the newsreel footage that shows Xanadu, the fictional estate of Charles Foster Kane, a swimming pool is shown:
My memory bank went off and I remembered seeing a similar pool in the 1934 Shirley Temple movie “Now and Forever.” I happened to be talking to my friend Melissa (aka “The Colonel”) and told her my theory. A few minutes later she said it WAS the same pool! I pulled out my “Now and Forever” dvd and sure enough! The two frames of film are identical!
In fact, you can even see Carole Lombard and Gary Cooper in the shadows of both movies! Here are two publicity stills from the film, with Shirley in the first one:
Now the REAL mystery; where was/is this pool located? Here’s an establishing shot from the other side in “Now and Forever”:
If anyone out there knows the answer, please comment!

Orson apparently was neighbors with Shirley for awhile. In my collection I have a shot of Orson at her home in 1939, with Shirley playing on her little backyard rollercoaster. This visit was staged for the press.
Shirley recalled it in her autobiography Child Star:

"Did you hear my program about Martians [War of the Worlds]?" "Yes," I stroked my ball and scowled. It had stopped wide of the final wicket. "Nelson Eddy was why I listened." Welles turned and leaned on his mallet, waiting. My evening routine included listening to Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. I explained that when guest Eddy came on to sing, I switched stations and stumbled on his. "Did you believe my program?" he asked, striking a pleasing pose for our photographers. "No, I knew it wasn't true." Taking careful aim, I knocked his ball slightly away from the mouth of the final wicket, leaving mine in good position. His return shot caromed my ball away into a difficult lie. "How did you know?" he asked. Engrossed with my final chance, I said nothing and concentrated. I missed. "Well," I replied resignedly, "if men from Mars had come here, why would just your program be broadcasting the news? That didn't make sense, so I didn't believe it."

Afterward, one reporter wrote: "The gentlemen of the press passed a pleasant afternoon and left with the conviction that Mr. Welles, who is only 13 years older than Shirley Temple, is as agreeable as he is talented." That was probably one of the last positive things the press wrote about Orson, who was smeared hard by William Randolph Hearst after the release of the not-so-fictional “Citizen Kane” was released.

Here’s another shot of Orson and Shirley, from The Pump Room at the Ambassador Hotel in Chicago with Ruth Gordon, September 15, 1944. Shirley was making appearances selling war bonds at the time.
To think that Shirley came THIS CLOSE to being in “Citizen Kane”! It boggles the mind!

See more photos at my main website.

1 comment:

"Lou and Sue" said...

Dave, I love the old stars and old movies! I have "Citizen Kane" and "Now and Forever," so I'll have to watch them, again, for that similar pool scene. Very interesting and fun post!