RKO 281 (1999) - Rotten Tomatoes

RKO 2811999

RKO 281 (1999)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

RKO 281 Photos

Movie Info

When RKO Pictures began work on production number 281, no one could have imagined that they were making perhaps the greatest American film of all time. But the moment Orson Welles (played by Liev Schreiber) announced that he intended to make a film based on the life of tyranical multi-millionaire publisher William Randolph Hearst (James Cromwell), they knew that they had trouble on their hands. Welles, the enfant terrible of American theater and a household name thanks to his infamous radio adaptation of H.G. Wells's "+The War Of The Worlds," was signed to direct films for RKO, and he was given an unusually free hand to make whatever sort of film he wanted. But what Welles didn't count on was the power of Hearst to keep his film from being seen. RKO 281 is based on the true story of the making of Citizen Kane and the war of words between Welles and Hearst. It also stars Melanie Griffith as Hearst's mistress Marion Davies, John Malkovich as screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, Brenda Blethyn as Hearst's movie columnist Louella Parsons, and Roy Scheider as George Schaefer.


Liev Schreiber
as Orson Welles
James Cromwell
as William Randolph Hearst
John Malkovich
as Herman Mankiewicz
Roy Scheider
as George Schaefer
Melanie Griffith
as Marion Davies
David Suchet
as Louis B. Mayer
Brenda Blethyn
as Louella Parsons
Michael Cronin
as Joe Willicombe
Liam Cunningham
as Gregg Toland
Fiona Shaw
as Hedda Hopper
Anastasia Hille
as Carole Lombard
Roger Allam
as Walt Disney
Lucy Cohu
as Dolores Del Rio
Simeon Andrews
as John Houseman
Kerry Shale
as Bernard Herrmann
Tim Woodward
as Jack Warner
Ron Berglas
as David O. Selznick
Jay Benedict
as Darryl F. Zanuck
View All

Critic Reviews for RKO 281

All Critics (14) | Top Critics (1)

I'm not saying that RKO 281 is any sort of Citizen Kane, but it's got the same appealing insouciance, plus a much more satisfying and dirty-minded explanation of the true meaning of Rosebud.

February 5, 2018 | Full Review…

This hardly seen film is a great watch for ANY Welles fan.

April 8, 2005 | Rating: 4/5

entertaining; Schreiber is excellent

March 11, 2005 | Rating: 4/5

Wonderful TV movie about the pressures and ego clashes and politics surrounding the making of Citizen Kane.

October 19, 2004 | Rating: 3/5

High-pulp look at Citizen Kane's genesis is stylish but shallow.

November 7, 2002 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Excellent. Liev Schreiber IS Orson Welles.

August 9, 2002 | Rating: 5/5

Audience Reviews for RKO 281

Schrieber brings Orson Welles to life with a fantastic performance telling the story of making "Citizen Cane". There's much more drama and humor to it than I expected. Like the recent "Trumbo" film, this is a work best enjoyed by Hollywood history fans and cinema geeks.

Christian C
Christian C

Super Reviewer


Having watched this directly after first experiencing Citizen Kane, I found RKO to be insightful, informative, and rewarding. Liev Schreiber was great as Orson Wells, as was John Malkovich. The film had its limitations, it was only focused on the creation of, and aftermath of, Citizen Kane; I wish it had been more expansive in its look at Welles. The depiction of Hearst also felt inadequate, but it was passable considering the short running time. That said, what time the film did spend on both characters was effective. Overall a good film, and definitely a good companion piece to Citizen Kane. 3.5/5 Stars

Jeffrey Meyers
Jeffrey Meyers

Super Reviewer

Another great HBO independent film.

Sean Gillespie
Sean Gillespie

Super Reviewer

RKO 281 Quotes

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