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Rko 281

RKO 281
Australian poster
Directed by Benjamin Ross
Produced by Su Armstrong
Ridley Scott
Tony Scott
Written by John Logan
Based on The Battle Over Citizen Kane 
by Richard Ben Cramer
Thomas Lennon
Starring Liev Schreiber
James Cromwell
Melanie Griffith
John Malkovich
Brenda Blethyn
Roy Scheider
Liam Cunningham
Kerry Shale
Distributed by HBO Pictures
Release dates
  • November 20, 1999 (1999-11-20) (U.S.)
Running time
86 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12 million (est.)

RKO 281 is a 1999 American historical drama film directed by Benjamin Ross. It stars Liev Schreiber, James Cromwell, Melanie Griffith, John Malkovich, Roy Scheider and Liam Cunningham. The film depicts the troubled production behind the 1941 film Citizen Kane. The film's title is a reference to the original production number of Citizen Kane.


  • Plot 1
  • Filming locations 2
  • Reception 3
  • Cast 4
  • Sources 5
  • External links 6


In 1940, screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Malkovich) struggle in making what will be considered as the greatest American film of all time, Citizen Kane.

After learning that Welles' film is actually a thinly-veiled and exceptionally unflattering biography of him, publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst (Cromwell) uses his immense power and influence to try to bury the picture. Hearst's mistress, actress Marion Davies (Griffith), endures the embarrassment of having their private lives exposed and mocked, while also offering Hearst consolation and even money when his finances begin to diminish.

In the end, after considerable delays and harassment, plus the disintegration of the professional relationship between Welles and Mankiewicz and a costly blow to Schaefer's career, the film is finally released. Its publicity is muted by Hearst's ban on its mention in all his publications, and its commercial success is limited. Welles, however, ultimately has the satisfaction of having created one of the most critically admired films of all time.

Filming locations

Producer Ridley Scott wanted to film in the Hearst Castle, but was denied.[1] The movie was filmed in the United Kingdom, mostly around London. The Gothic stairwell in Hearst Castle was filmed in the St Pancras Chambers, attached to St. Pancras Station. Hearst's private quarters and office, including a marble fireplace, were filmed in the high-ceilinged Gamble Room in the Victoria & Albert Museum.[1] The fireplace seen in the room was saved from Dorchester House prior to that building's demolition in 1929. The Hearst castle dining hall and ballroom was filmed in the Great Hall of the London Guildhall.[2]


On aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a "fresh" rating of 92%, based on 13 reviews.[3] Score composer John Altman won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special.



  1. ^ a b Gritten, David (1999-09-05). "The Los Angeles Times Television Section September 05, 1999". Retrieved 2010-10-23. 
  2. ^ "The City of London - Guildhall". Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  3. ^ "RKO 281 Review". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 

External links

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