Coming across the Autumn, 1962 issue of Sight & Sound at a flea market recently, I was struck by a John Houseman interview, who of all people, defends Orson Welles from that absurd question that seems to have plagued him ever since the fiasco of It's All True: "What went wrong?"
In 1962, Houseman had yet to write his own detailed account about guiding Herman J. Mankiewicz through writing the script for Citizen Kane, nor had he spoken to Pauline Kael. Which brings up an interesting point about the whole Citizen Kane writing controversy. From Houseman's point of view, his story is what indeed did happen, because he had no knowledge of what Welles was doing on his own in Hollywood, while he and Mankiewicz were holed up in Victorville. In fact, since the whole controversy mirrors the structure of Citizen Kane itself, is seems like it would be quite a fascinating idea to take the making of Citizen Kane, and tell it from four distinct point of views: Those of Welles, Houseman/Mankiewicz, George Schaefer and Joesph Cotten. It would certainly be far more more interesting than the lamentable mess of a movie that RKO 281 turned out to be!
INTERVIEW WITH JOHN HOUSEMAN
by Penelope Huston - Sight & Sound, Autumn, 1962
JOHN HOUSEMAN: (The writing of Citizen Kane) is a delicate subject: I think Welles has always sincerely felt that he, single-handed, wrote Citizen Kane and everything else that he has directed—except, possibly, the plays of Shakespeare. But the script of Kane was essentially Mankiewicz's. The conception and the structure were his, all the dramatic Hearstian mythology and the journalistic and political wisdom which he had been carrying around with him for years and which he now poured into the only serious job he ever did in a lifetime of film writing. But Orson turned Kane into a film: the dynamics and the tensions are his and the brilliant cinematic effects—all those visual and aural inventions that add up to make Citizen Kane one of the world's great movies—those were pure Orson Welles.