Skip Citizen Kane: Negative review from 1941 ‘resurfaces’

Useless 80-year-old review says “Citizen Kane” is “a flop” and “gives one the creeps.”

27 April 2021 | Zack Sharf | IndieWire (original review)

Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” is widely regarded as the greatest movie ever made, but it no longer has its 100% score on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. 

The film’s perfect score was broken last month after Rotten Tomatoes added a negative review published by the Chicago Tribune almost 80 years ago on May 7, 1941. The 80-year-old review was the 116th review added to the “Citizen Kane” Rotten Tomatoes page and was the one negative review that ruined Welles’ perfect score.

The Chicago Tribune’s negative “Citizen Kane” review was published under the pseudonym “Mae Tinee” and accompanied with the headline “Citizen Kane Fails to Impress Critic as Greatest Ever Filmed.” The review was published a few days after “Citizen Kane” first started rolling out into theaters in 1941. The critic branded the movie “a flop” and wrote that the film’s noir-inspired visuals and use of shadows “gives one the creeps.”

“It’s interesting. It’s different. In fact, it’s bizarre enough to become a museum piece,” the review reads. “But its sacrifice of simplicity to eccentricity robs it of distinction and general entertainment value.”

Why did Rotten Tomatoes suddenly add an 80-year-old film review to the “Citizen Kane” page? A source close to the website tells IndieWire the upload was made in tandem with Rotten Tomatoes’ previously-announced launch of the RT Archives, an archival hub introduced in November 2020 which houses and preserves editorial content related to classic and historic film.

The website announced at the time that classic films such as “A Night at the Opera,” “Double Indemnity,” “Home of the Brave,” “Victim,” “Mädchen in Uniform,” “The Dirty Dozen,” and “Gilda” all got issued new Tomatometer scores as part of the archival initiative.

As part of the archival project, led by review-curation manager Tim Ryan, Rotten Tomatoes also collected reviews for 100 lost films. It is estimated that between 75 and 90 percent of films made before 1929 are either lost or only exist in incomplete form.

“Citizen Kane” remained a topic of discussion throughout the most recent Oscar season thanks to David Fincher’s 10-time nominee and two-time winner “Mank,” which focuses on “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz.

The movie’s script marked the sole Oscar win for “Citizen Kane,” as it famously lost best picture to John Ford’s family drama “How Green Was My Valley.” Since “Mank” won Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Production Design, it walked home with more Oscars than “Citizen Kane” itself.


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