Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1941: Joseph Cotten in Citizen Kane

Joseph Cotten did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jedediah Leland in Citizen Kane.

Citizen Kane indeed has many qualities that would seem to indicate its status as the greatest film of all time. It is impossible for me to share this view as do have one major reservation regarding the film which is the acting. Much of the cast are stage actors making their film debuts as it shows. Most of them still give performances for the stage even if they eventually become comfortable film actors like Everett Sloane and Agnes Moorehead. Even Orson Welles has a slight theatrical bent in a few scenes, yes the re-watch did not change my view on his performance. One of the most successful film actors to come out of Kane though was Joseph Cotten. It is not surprising to see why as Cotten seems the most comfortable with the medium with his performance here. Cotten plays Jedediah Leland Charles Foster Kane's best friend who joins him in taking over a newspaper as a drama critic. Cotten, unlike many of the other supporting players, actually makes use of the moments where not be the central focus, and even when he is he does not take as his chance to make a scene. Unlike someone like Sloane who pretty much yells most of his lines.

Cotten does something rather interesting with his work in that he makes Jedediah the only character in which we are allowed to connect. Welles leaves Kane as a distant figure even though he is the lead. I would say this is purposeful though order to make us keep looking for the truth of the man just like the reporter we follow trying to find out the meaning of Kane's last words "Rosebud". Cotten fulfills an important need of the film to have the man who is genuine. It won't be found in Kane, or Sloane's Bernstein who's essentially a boot lick, and certainly not the reporter since we only see him from behind or in shadow. Cotten in the earliest scenes in the chronological sense gives an effective depiction of the earnestness of wanting to make a statement in the world, while clearly not having the ego about in that Kane does. Cotten does well to essentially let us in on the world of creating the newspaper through his calmer and less presumptuous portrayal of Jedediah. It's very intriguing that even well hanging on the side of the frame Cotten is able to create the man who's far more easy to relate to than Kane is.

Cotten is very good as he reflects and really amplifies what Welles does with Kane in every step of Kane's downfall as a person. As the paper grows Kane seems to become engulfed into his own success whereas Cotten portrays Jedediah still as the same man as he was when they entered the office, but with perhaps a bit less enthusiasm as he watches Kane become a bit too proud of his accomplishments. Cotten says a great deal in his reactions and quiet comments about what is happening to Kane. He expresses well a genuine concern as he still expresses the optimism of the original thought behind the paper while Welles's Kane seems all the less authentic as a man. Cotten still brings the passion though as Jedediah campaigns for Kane's run for the governor of New York, and makes it all the more affecting when he shows the especially genuine disappointment in Jedediah as he sees Kane fall due to Kane's own vices. Cotten expresses well the lost of the faith of essentially the promise that Kane made to him repeatedly about the work they were going to do together. Cotten portrays this to be a final straw for optimism really as the later set scenes with him, Cotten portrays Jedediah as basically jaded individual who no longer seems to have the passion for much of anything, as even when he fires Cotten shows it to be more of a sigh of resignation than any sort of outrage. Cotten powerfully brings to life the loss of Kane's dream by having Jedediah figure out that it was never possible. Now I should briefly mention the framing the flashback scenes where the reporter interviews Jedediah as an old man. Cotten might to the old man mannerisms a tad too much, but really in terms of unneeded theatricality Cotten really seems pretty subdued compared to some of the other performances. In addition Cotten makes up for it with his very strong work in the flashback scenes as he creates the character arc we connect with that brilliantly echos the colder one presented by Welles.


Michael McCarthy said...

I was still not at all convinced by his performance as an old man, but in hindsight that might have had a lot to do with the makeup rather than just Cotten's performance (which, to clarify, I thought was quite good for the most part).

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Dammit there goes the predictions, oh well I guess I'm glad you liked him :)

John Smith said...

Did your rating for Kane go upp Louis?

RatedRStar said...

@Donald: I saw your previous post, omg Lau Ching Wan as Norman Smiley, I have built Lau Ching Wan up so much as this great actor, I hope Louis will feel the samw about him.

RatedRStar said...


GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@RatedRStar: Don't worry I'm sure he will, on a separate note have you ever noticed how similar Benicio Del Toro and Lau Ching Wan look haha

RatedRStar said...

@Donald: I should say all of ur choices are excellent, not a single actor there that I don't find to be great.

Louis can I ask what you make of that HK Tinker Tailor cast, I know you havent seen some of the actors but, any first impressions on them at all or how they might do?

RatedRStar said...

@Donald: He does kinda look like Del Toro, I mean its amazing how many HK actors actually speak perfect english lol.

RatedRStar said...

They could actually do that version of Tinker although Roy Cheung would probably not star due to his personal demons, and Lam Suet might not need any aging makeup as he does looks older now lol he hasnt aged quite as well as other HK actors.

Anonymous said...

Louis can I have your ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast?

Louis Morgan said...

John Smith:

I assume you mean Welles, then no.


I need to see more of them.


Sloane - 2(I could go lower but I do like the moment where he tells about remembering the girl. Everything else he does is so over the top to such an unneeded degree. He yells almost everything no matter what the situation is, and just everything about him is excessively theatrical)

Collins - 3(He's appropriate smug and slimy in his one scene, giving a strong enough idea of the political boss in his very brief screen time.)

Coulouris - 2.5(He does the cold overlord well enough but he also has some over the top moments in there particularly that grr he does after loudly repeating Kane's desire to run a newspaper)

Moorehead - 2(I really don't know what Moorehead was going for here. As most of the time in her one scene she speaks in such excessively dull tones you'd think she was suppose to be a cold mother. Then suddenly at the end of the scene she tries to imply the opposite that just feels random)

Stewart - 2.5(He brings enough of a dark sinister quality in his brief scene. Nothing too special but he does not ham it up which is good)

Warrick - 2.5(She does the patrician wife routine well enough and again like Stewart she importantly does not ham it up)

Alland - 2.5(He does not get to do much, but technically what he does is just fine)

Comingore - 2(Her whole performance is very one note and very hammy. It would have been interesting to see how she actually changed from her time with Kane but she kinda keeps to the ditzy girl the whole time. Even that feels more fitting for a comedy than a drama)