Winner 1996

The American Experience: The Battle Over Citizen Kane

The American Experience, Lennon Documentary Group/WGBH-TV, Boston, Massachusetts

This brilliant and beautiful documentary recounts the clash of two titans of the first half of this century: newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst and “enfant terrible” Orson Welles. World-famous at age 24, theatrical and radio prodigy Wells, for his first foray into filmmaking, took aim at Hearst, then one of the most powerful men in America. The result was Citizen Kane, now revered as a cinematic masterpiece. However, at the time of its release, an incensed Hearst launched a ruthless campaign to destroy both the film and the filmmaker, and the ensuing imbroglio nearly ruined both men’s lives. According to The Battle over Citizen Kane, so all-consuming was Hearst’s hatred of Citizen Kane that no Hearst-owned newspaper ever published a review of the motion picture. Presented as part of the influential The American Experience series led by executive producer Judy Crichton and senior producer Margaret Drain, this vibrant study sheds new light on the masterpiece over which Welles and Hearst fought and weaves an intriguing tale of these two flawed, yet fascinating, men. This marvelous nonfiction study was produced and directed by Thomas Lennon and Richard Ben Cramer, edited by Ken Eluto, and narrated by Mr. Cramer. For providing an insightful, richly researched, and revealing examination of a landmark of cinematic and American history, a Peabody Award goes to The American Experience: The Battle over Citizen Kane.