80-year-old review wrecks Citizen Kane’s 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – The Guardian

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Citizen Kane

The critics’ aggregator site has recently added a demurring 1941 write-up that wishes the Orson Welles film ‘let a little sunshine in’

An 80-year-old pseudonymous review appears to have wrecked Citizen Kane’s 100% rating on reviews aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.

A Twitter user pointed out the change in Citizen Kane’s rating, due to the addition of a negative review from 1941. It is not clear exactly when the change happened, but website Boing Boing suggested it must have been between 25 February and 15 April, after comparing archived screenshots.

The review was originally published in the Chicago Tribune on 7 May 1941, under the headline “‘Citizen Kane’ fails to impress critic as greatest film ever made”, a week after its first release in New York and a day after its Chicago premiere. The writer, credited as Mae Tinee (a play on “matinee”) comments: “It’s interesting. It’s different. In fact, it’s bizarre enough to become a museum piece. But its sacrifice of simplicity to eccentricity robs it of distinction and general entertainment value,” adding: “I only know it gives one the creeps and that I kept wishing they’d let a little sunshine in.”

The review implies that Citizen Kane’s status as the greatest movie of all time was already in play before it was released. This was possibly as response to a hostile campaign by its presumed subject, newspaper magnate WR Hearst, to suppress the film and attack Welles after he found out about it in January 1941 via feared gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. It was named best film of all time in Sight and Sound magazine’s decennial critics poll in 1962, retaining the position until 2012 when it was overtaken by Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

Interest in the creative process behind Citizen Kane has been reawakened by the release of Mank, a biopic of its writer Herman J Mankiewicz, directed by David Fincher and starring Gary Oldman. Mank won two Oscars, for cinematography and production design.

Reports that Citizen Kane had been “replaced” as the No 1 film by Paddington 2 on Rotten Tomatoes appear to be wide of the mark however. Rotten Tomatoes weighted list places the 1934 comedy It Happened One Night in first place, with Black Panther and Lady Bird in second and third. Paddington 2 is at no 31, but it is the highest placed film with a 100% critics rating.

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