Résumé: Bien qu'il soit devenu presque impossible de considérer la bande annonce de Citizen Kane hors du discours critique qui entoure le film et de son statut de chefd'oeuvre ultime du cinéma américain, il demeure important de l'examiner en détail pour comprendre ses stratégies rhétoriques manipulatrices. Une lecture attentive de la bande annonce démontre que Welles souhaitait rejoindre un large public, qu'il ne voulait pas risquer d'aliéner les foules et était ambivalent au sujet du caractère collectif de cette entreprise artistique.
In Citizen Welles. his biography of Orson Welles, Frank Brady begins his brief discussion of the trailer for Citizen Kane as follows:
A few weeks prior to the anticipated opening of Citizen Kane, RKO released a "Coming Attractions" trailer to promote it. Since the film promised to be unlike any other made in Hollywood, Orson wanted the trailer also to be unlike any other. He spent weeks on scripting, shooting and editing it and emerged with a punchy and intriguing look at the behind-the-scenes life of the film. It was a highly effective advertisement and stood out from all the other trailers coming from Hollywood, clarifying that Citizen Kane was going to be something special.
Shot as a documentary, the trailer was longer than average-it ran five minutes-and followed none of the rules that most trailers adhered to: a brief synopsis, sensational copy, a glimpse at the most dramatic and actionpacked scenes.1
Despite the suggestion here of Wellesian authorship in the creation of "something special," the trailer for Citizen Kane is not a work that has provoked sustained critical attention. It remains absent from the filmographies of all of Welles's biographers (including Brady) and is also not mentioned in Robert Carringer's otherwise indispensable The Making of "Citizen Kane" (1985; rev. ed. 1996). While the trailer is mentioned in Joseph McBride's Orson Welles (1972; rev. ed. 1996) and in the exhaustive chronology of his career in Welles's This Is Orson Vielles (1992), it does not arise as a subject of discussion in either work.
In many ways, critical neglect of the trailer is entirely understandable. Although Brady indicates that Welles shot the trailer as a documentary, a trailer is not originally intended as a work of intrinsic artistic interest. By definition, a trailer is a short prelude meant to anticipate and advertise a coming film and is initially intended to function in a subordinate role to a primary text, not as an attraction in its own right. Even today, when preview trailers for current films are not only an inevitable part of the cinema-going experience, but also widely available on the Web, they do not often generate critical commentary in and of themselves.2 Any scholarly attempt to historically recontextualize the trailer for Citizen Kane is fraught with intriguing challenges, many of which concern the apparent absence of any contemporary accounts of the trailer. How widely was the trailer distributed upon its initial release? What kinds of responses did it provoke among those who had yet to see Citizen Kane? Such questions are probably impossible to answer, and the trailer must now be looked at through an historical prism shaped not only by our knowledge of Citizen Kane, but also by the cumulative influence of almost seven decades of Welles scholarship. Indeed, it is the very fact of Citizen Kane's entrenched canonical status that tempts us to valorize a text such as this trailer as privileged rather than marginal, as something Wellesian and therefore "special."
Something of this attitude of retrospective valorization is implicit in Simon Callow's discussion of the trailer in Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu: "The trailer...has great playful charm. Welles never appears, but is omnipresent as the narrator: a joke-a rather knowing one-in itself. Shot by Toland at the same time as the film, it is a miniature documentary, almost an introduction to the cinema, in the manner of the opening section of the unfilmed Heart of Darkness."1 Callow obviously concurs with Brady's assessment of the trailer's originality, and like Brady he is perceptive to the trailer's documentary form. But what, to be precise, does the trailer document? Yes, we are given an introduction to the Mercury Players who occupy major roles in the actual film. The trailer thereby anticipates the coda to Citizen Kane in which the Mercury Players are introduced via clips from the film itself. We are also given an introduction to the basic narrative premise of Citizen Kane, but, as I will show, this introduction is more misleading than revealing of the kind of film Kane turns out to be. And in Callow's reference to the way in which the trailer constitutes "almost an introduction to the cinema," the word "almost" is telling. If this is an introduction to cinema, it is an introduction to classical Hollywood cinema, not the more subversive stylistics of Citizen Kane. The Welles on display in the making of the trailer is far more the showman who can amaze an audience with dazzling visual and acoustic tricks than the serious artist who might risk challenging an audience's fundamental assumptions about the possibilities of cinematic language.
The trailer for Citizen Kane is no Rosebud providing solutions to the mystery of Welles's creative personality. But it does shed an interesting light on Welles's artistic bind at the time, as he courted a wide, popular audience on the very eve of springing on a largely unsuspecting public the most technically and formally advanced film in Hollywood. On the evidence of the trailer Welles perceives his audience in the following frankly patronizing terms: as quite passive and subject to manipulation; as craving novelty, but within definite limits; as keenly interested in the personality side of the film business; as curious about character psychology, but in very simplistic terms; and as having a predilection for rudimentary narrative puzzles. Moreover, Welles relies heavily in the trailer on audience fascination with his own established persona, one that radiates a combination of authoritative control and irresistible charm. And while there are elements in the trailer that we can appreciate as anticipating the bravura stylistics of Kane, such elements tend to find their justification as part of a dazzling show. Yet, with such a view of the audience, how could Welles have ever imagined that Citizen Kane would be both warmly and widely received? The filmmaker who many decades later would so movingly situate himself within "the old American tradition of the maverick" in his AFI Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech,4 had not yet grasped the potential for conflict between wanting to court a wide audience and the pursuit of a personal cinema that may not necessarily appeal to everyone.
The temptation to see portents of Citizen Kane's brilliance in the trailer is aroused as soon as one starts to watch it.5 As the trailer opens, the well-known RKO logo fills the screen, followed by a shot of a door marked "Sound Stage" with the camera moving slightly in toward the door (Figure 1). Interestingly, the camera is already undertaking its voyeuristic penetration of barriers that is to become a motif in the completed film. Cut to a black screen followed quickly by a shot of light streaming down through a skylight (Figure 2). This shot is very reminiscent of the one in Citizen Kane just after the "News on the March" documentary, when a shaft of light creates chiaroscuro effects in the journalists' screening room. The voice of an assistant then calls, "Gimme a mike," and a silhouetted hand is visible at the bottom of the screen, snapping its fingers. A microphone swings from deep in the frame until it fills the foreground in closeup (Figure 3), in a manner which is reminiscent of the coda to Citizen Kane where the Mercury Players are introduced.
Yet, the manipulative rhetoric of the trailer, and the manner in which such rhetoric functions to establish a close, almost conspiratorial connection between Welles and the audience are equally in evidence here. As Frank Brady notes in Citizen Welles, advertising for the film was originally conducted by way of a radio campaign.6 In both the radio ads and in the opening of the trailer, Welles is clearly interested in drawing on his established celebrity as a radio personality. At the time of his arrival in Hollywood late in 1939, Welles had already directed and/or starred in a number of celebrated theatrical productions. But those were mainly New York-based, and it would be through the radio work, culminating in the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast of 1938, that Welles would be most widely known. As Simon Callow has noted, Welles's radio work "took a number of important strides forward in 1936 and 1937. From being an anonymous and much disguised voice for hire, he was cast in a regular role that made that voice nationally famous."7 Already at this point in his career, Welles counts on being recognized by his voice alone, and counts, too, on the listener being charmed and controlled by that voice.
Interestingly, Welles's first words of direct address to the audience in the trailer are very similar to his introductory salutation on countless radio broadcasts: "How do you do, ladies and gentlemen. This is Orson Welles." The voice is friendly, polite and urbane. It is also supremely self-assured. Immediately Welles establishes a direct connection with the audience, one that is further underscored by what he says next: "I am speaking for the Mercury Theatre, and what follows is supposed to advertise our first motion picture." Notice that intriguing phrase, "supposed to advertise." Welles's strategy here is to suggest an almost conspiratorial relationship between himself and the audience. It is as if he is saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, you and I both know that the conventional function of a trailer of this kind is to advertise a coming attraction, but you and I are too wise to accept the merely conventional."
This winking intimacy with the audience, the sense conveyed of everyone being in on a shared joke, is further reinforced by Welles's play on the notion of the film as a coming attraction: "Citizen Kane is the title, and we hope it can be correctly called a coming attraction. It's certainly coming." Moreover, the verbal joke here establishes a light-hearted tone which extends throughout the trailer. Welles goes on to say, "Speaking of attractions, well, the chorus girls are certainly an attraction. But frankly, ladies and gentlemen, we're just showing you the chorus girls for purposes of ballyhoo. Pretty nice ballyhoo" (Figure 4). My dictionary defines ballyhoo as "extravagant statements and claims made for the purposes of publicity,"8 a definition that underscores Welles's strategy of simultaneously exploiting a conventional means of catching the eye, even while mocking the very necessity of advertising and encouraging the audience to share his apparently superior stance.
The emphasis on a close rapport with the audience continues as the Mercury Players are introduced. There is a strong emphasis placed on the actual process of making introductions, of Welles doing something especially for the audience's benefit: "I'd like you to meet them." When each of the characters is introduced, Welles almost always sustains the tactic of coming back to a reference to the audience as a way of emphasizing that these special introductions of new players are being undertaken expressly for the viewer: "Joseph Gotten, ladies and gentlemen" (Figure 5). "Here's Ruth Warrick, whom I know you'll love" (Figure 6). When Ray Collins is introduced we are given a further reminder that Welles is presuming both his audience's familiarity with the Mercury radio shows and his ability to speak on the audience's behalf: "Here's someone you've all heard on the radio, so I don't have to tell you he's wonderful...Ray Collins" (Figure 7).
On the surface, Welles's decision to remain offscreen could be seen as a gesture of generosity, in accordance with the trailer's initial focus on introducing the Mercury Players to the public. But his visual absence only serves to heighten his allure, and his role as orchestrator of the proceedings is underscored by his Godlike, disembodied voice. In Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life, Peter Conrad's own brief reference to the trailer highlights this aspect of Welles's commanding tone: "In the trailer for Citizen Kane, he calls for a light, like God when creating the world. He then has a microphone lowered into its beam so that he can talk about the film while remaining (again like the deity) unseen."9
Within the trailer, this contradiction is exemplified by the way in which Welles simultaneously stresses a deep, intimate bond with the audience, while also patronizing the audience, presuming to educate and instruct the viewers on the importance of the Mercury Players as a coming attraction in their own right. And Welles's own relationship to the Mercury Players as evidenced in the trailer can also be seen as emblematic of this contradiction. It is worth recalling that after his opening salutations at the beginning of the trailer, Welles says, "I am speaking for the Mercury Theatre." On one level, the suggestion here is that Welles is speaking on behalf of the Mercury Theatre, especially in his role as someone who wants to sing the praises of these new actors. Yet, the statement also carries with it a suggestion of Welles not only as spokesperson, but also as controlling presence, and the notion of Welles as such a controlling presence is everywhere in evidence in the trailer. At the beginning of the trailer Welles is clearly the person who has summoned an assistant to have a microphone brought forward so that he can speak into it. When Joseph Cotten is introduced Welles commands the anonymous, offscreen lighting person to "give Joe a little light." Welles then proceeds to "direct" this Mercury player: "Now smile for the folks, Joe...Smile." Ruth Warrick, too, is given instructions by Welles: "Look at the camera, Ruth."
Notwithstanding the emphasis in the opening minutes of the trailer on rhetorical strategies that reflect Welles's strong desire to forge a deep bond with the audience, his attitude toward that audience is also quite patronizing. For example, if we go back to the passage I quoted from Welles's introduction of Ray Collins, it is easy to see that the same statement that works to suggest a conspiratorial relationship with the audience ("Here's someone you've all heard on the radio, so I don't have to tell you he's wonderful") also contains a note of Wellesian arrogance, as he presumes the homogeneity of the audience ("you've all" heard Ray Collins) and recognition of his role as an arbiter of taste. Indeed, throughout the introductions, concurrent with the conspiratorial tone, is a strong sense of Welles letting the viewer in on insider knowledge, with Welles, predictably, as the ultimate insider. Of Joseph Gotten he says, "I think you're going to see a lot of him." His self-assured stance as a trend-setter is particularly apparent in his introduction of Dorothy Comingore: "Dorothy Comingore is a name I'm going to repeat. Dorothy Comingore. I won't have to repeat it much longer. You'll be repeating it" (Figure 8). This is perhaps the most obvious example of Welles's supreme confidence not only in his own role as trend-setter and arbiter of taste, but also in his conviction that the viewer will accept him in these roles.
Even the manner in which Everett Sloane is introduced can be read as functioning to suggest the sharing of a joke by Welles and the audience, seemingly at Sloane's expense. As Welles says, "Watch it! Here comes Everett Sloane. Look out Everett," we see Sloane, deep in the frame, apparently running toward the camera, only to bump into a mirror which has managed to trick both us and, presumably, Sloane as well (Figure 9). But Welles's additional remark ("Everett Sloane, ladies and gentlemen-he's not necessarily a comedian.") again reinforces the rapport between the director and audience, and suggests that the trick is more on Sloane than on us.
The use here of a kind of magic-mirror trick might tempt us to see this moment in the trailer as prophetic of one of Citizen Kane's most powerful images. After Susan has left Kane, and a distraught Kane has trashed her bedroom, Kane's slow, almost catatonic walk between two mirrors is captured in a seemingly infinite series of reflections. Yet the mirror gag in the trailer actually serves to point up just how unreliable the trailer is as any kind of accurate foretaste of the film itself. The comic tone of the introduction to Sloane reflects the upbeat, even jaunty tone of the trailer as a whole. Nowhere in the trailer are we given any kind of premonition of just how sombre and death-haunted the film will be. As well, in the trailer, Welles is content to use the camera trickery with the mirror as part of a simple pratfall gag that might make the viewer laugh, but certainly isn't intended to occasion any profound thought. How different from the film itself, where the reflected images of Kane in the hall of mirrors function on several levels: as a visual symbol for a tormented, shattered soul, and as a correlate for the ambiguity of the viewer's own quest to understand Kane's character.
After the introduction of the Mercury Players, the shot of the mike is repeated. Welles then sets up the transition to the trailer's second section, which will focus on the character of Charles Foster Kane: "Citizen Kane is a modern American story about a man called Kane. Charles Foster Kane. I don't know how to tell you about him, there's so many things to say. I'll turn you over instead to the characters in the picture. As you'll see, they feel very strongly on the subject." The frequent reiteration of "you" in this passage further underscores the rhetorical importance of complicity with the audience. At the end of the montage Welles encourages the viewer to make up his or her own mind, but such encouragement to audience participation seems ingenuous in the light of how little room for interpretation of the characters is really on offer.
In his description of this section of the trailer, Frank Brady makes a curious remark that is at first quite baffling:
Then there follows a series of close-ups of characters that eventually appear in the film-and some that don't-giving their appraisals of Kane as a man of mystery, from Ruth Warrick looking directly at the camera and saying that she is going to marry Kane at the White House next week; to another woman saying that she gave him $60,000,000; to Thatcher repeating his line from the movie: "Charles Foster Kane is nothing more or less than a Communist."10
Actually, all of the actors who appear in this section of the trailer also appear in the film itself. For example, the woman who says she gave Charlie $60,000,000 is unmistakably Agnes Moorehead. Brady's slight confusion is quite understandable, however, since what is suggested about the motivations and personalities of some of the characters in the trailer (even as performed by the same actors who would go on to inhabit the roles in the film) radically contradicts our perception of the characters in the film itself. Indeed, those of us watching the trailer through the retrospective knowledge of Citizen Kane could be excused for barely recognizing some of the characters in the trailer.
Given the potential for confusion, and given that I would like to refer to a number of details in the montage, here is a basic transcript of it, indicating the sequence of shots and what is said by each successive performer:
Shot 1 (Erskine Sanford): Charles Foster Kane is...umph...umph...[angry, unintelligible bluster] [Figure 10]
Shot 2 (Everett Sloane): Sure he started the war. But do you think if it hadn't been for Mr. Kane the United States would have the Panama Canal? [Figure 11]
Shot 3 (George Coulouris): Charles Foster Kane is nothing more or less than a Communist!
Shot 4 (Ray Collins): Kane, Governor? Listen, when the voters of this state and Mrs. Kane learn what I've found out about Mr. Kane and a certain blondie named Susan Alexander, he couldn't get elected dog catcher. I'm gonna skin Mr. Charles Foster Kane alive.
Shot 5 (Ruth Warrick): I'm going to marry him next week-at the White House. [Figure 12]
Shot 6 (Joseph Gotten): Emily, I hear you've been stepping out with Charlie Kane. [Figure 13]
Shot 7 (Erskine Sanford): [more unintelligible bluster]
Shot 8 (Agnes Moorehead) : Of course I love him-I gave him sixty million dollars. [Figure 14]
Shot 9 (Dorothy Comingore): Of course I love him-he's the richest man in America. [Figure 15]
Shot 10 (Erskine Sanford): [more unintelligible bluster]
Shot 11 (Joseph Gotten): That's what all the girls say about him, at first.
Shot 12 (Ray Collins): But you know, I can't help but admire him.
Shot 13 (Paul Stewart): He's crazy.
Shot 14 (Ruth Warrick): He's wonderful.
Shot 15 (Erskine Sanford): [more unintelligible bluster].
Such a bare-bones transcript certainly fails to do justice to the cleverness of this sequence. Erskine Sanford's apoplectic bluster not only bookends the montage but also recurs throughout as a comic motif. Despite its brevity in terms of running time, the montage coheres through the use of a series of straight cuts, with each character in close-up by a telephone (Figures 10-15). Welles also juxtaposes opposing views of Kane to give cohesion and narrative briskness to this section of the trailer, and it is again tempting to see the quick cut from "He's crazy" to "He's wonderful" as an embryonic foretaste of the lightning juxtapositions of opposing interpretations of Kane within the film itself (e.g. he's a Communist/ he's a Fascist). To say that Welles rejects the typical way of doing trailers hardly does justice to the trailer's technical joie d'esprit. He makes an intricately structured work out of something that could easily have been undertaken as a hastily thrown-together project.
Critical to this sense of structure in the trailer as a whole is the motif of the microphone. The shot of the mike not only begins but also ends the trailer proper, and is also used to punctuate important section breaks within the work. The opening and closing sections mirror one another in a number of ways. While the first half of the trailer focuses on actors caught "candidly" on a studio lot, the second half returns to those now familiar faces within the context of fictional narrative. This sense of the binary structure in the subject matter of the trailer is reinforced stylistically by the way the more fluid series of shots connected by swish pans in the first half of the trailer gives way to the rapid-fire montage sequence of the second half. Even the way the trailer ends, with the microphone sweeping back deep into the frame, is a clever reversal of the initial movement of the microphone to the front of the frame at the beginning of the trailer.
When Welles does, finally, turn to a purported description of Citizen Kane, he foregrounds elements with which the audience would be most comfortable, such as basic character motivations and narrative mystery, even at the risk of making Kane seem like it is going to be a fairly typical Hollywood product. In several instances, what the characters say is jarringly different not only from their remarks in the completed film, but also from what those characters as portrayed in the film could ever be imagined to say. Consider, for example, the shot in which Agnes Moorehead says, "Of course I love him-I gave him sixty million dollars." We know that Moorehead gives a memorable performance as Kane's mother in the film and that the one scene with Moorehead in that role is justly celebrated for its haunting ambiguity with respect to the mother's motivations for sending Kane away. Only our retrospective knowledge of who Moorehead plays in the film could enable us to identify her as Kane's mother in the trailer. In striking contrast to the scene with Kane's mother in the film itself, this shot in the trailer conveys the impression of someone whose human motivations operate in simplistic cause-and-effect terms.
Of similar interest is the shot of Dorothy Comingore saying to an offscreen interlocutor, "Of course I love him-he's the richest man in America." Again, it is our retrospective knowledge of the film that enables us to identify the speaker as Susan Alexander. But the suggestion here of Susan as a gold digger is totally at odds with the film's emphasis on her being initially attracted to Kane without knowing who he is, and on her willingness to leave him when her emotional (not monetary) needs go unfulfilled. What remains striking is the manner in which the trailer opts for such a reductive vision of human motivation and character interaction, totally at odds with the film's complexities.
The trailer's tendency to "dumb down" characterization is also evident in the two shots from the montage featuring Ray Collins. In the first, he does make remarks that are compatible with the conception of Gettys in the film: "Kane, Governor? Listen, when the voters of this state and Mrs. Kane learn what I've found out about Mr. Kane and a certain little blondie named Susan Alexander, he couldn't be elected dog catcher. I'm gonna skin Charles Foster Kane alive." The vehemence of the sentiments expressed here makes it seem all the more ridiculous when, in a subsequent shot, we hear a smiling Gettys say, "But you know, I can't help but admire him." While there is a dim anticipation in this section of the film's binary approach to Kane's character, and of the way a given individual (like Gettys) can have contradictory opinions of Kane, there is no clue to the full complexity of characterization in the film, nor is there any intimation of how the notion of conflicting viewpoints on Kane will lead Welles to modernist visual strategies of breaking narrative linearity, abrupt chronological shifts, etc. The trailer eschews any indication that the characters in Kane's orbit might themselves be complex and contradictory. It emphasizes the money, romance and power elements of the film's plot and, most interestingly, totally ignores the technical and formal innovations, which surely are what particularly set the film apart.
One way of determining the originality of the Citizen Kane trailer is by situating it within the context of the history of the trailer form. Yet in pursuing such a goal, problems present themselves that concern what has already been remarked upon with respect to the ephemeral nature of trailers as cultural artifacts. Are there film trailers from the thirties, for instance, that might have influenced the trailer for Citizen Kane, and, if so, where do we look for them? We cannot necessarily go back to feature films that we would categorize as innovative and influential, on the supposition that the trailers for such works will be equally daring. Film history is filled with instances of a breakthrough film having been anticipated by a mediocre trailer, and we have all experienced situations where a feature film failed to fulfill the promise of its exciting, stylish trailer. And even though the DVD revolution has made trailers more accessible, either as "extras" on a deluxe edition disc of a film or in trailer compilations, it remains impossible to determine whether Welles is apt to have seen a given trailer, regardless of how influential on Welles it may seem.
A case in point involves the trailer for John Ford's Stagecoach.11 Welles is certainly on record as having been generally influenced by Ford, and the following remark made originally by Welles in a Cahiers interview has frequently been cited: "I've only been influenced by somebody once: prior to making Citizen Kane I saw Stagecoach forty times."12 Even if this statement is an example of Wellesian hyperbole, there is no doubt that Stagecoach exerted an influence on Citizen Kane. Admittedly, it does not necessarily follow that Welles knew the trailer for that film. Yet, seeing the trailers for Stagecoach and Citizen Kane side by side there is intriguing internal evidence to suggest that Welles not only knew the Stagecoach trailer, but took inspiration from it to make an even more adventurous trailer for his own coming attraction. On the most basic level, both trailers are noticeably longer in running time than most. Whereas trailers often clocked in at under two minutes, the trailer for Stagecoach is 3 minutes and 25 seconds and the trailer for Citizen Kane is, at 3 minutes and 45 seconds, even longer. More particularly, the opening section of the trailer for Stagecoach is made to suggest a newsreel, complete with an authoritative voice-over narration, and a series of shots illustrating various forms of current, advanced transportation such as planes, ships and streamlined trains. This miniature newsreel then makes a subtle transition to the stagecoach, as an earlier form of adventurous travel. Then, in yet another subtle transition, the general discussion of the stagecoach gives way to clips from Stagecoach as a way of illustrating the creative use Ford has made of this crucial mode of transportation from the past.
Clearly, the internal evidence of a dialogue between the two trailers is strong. In the trailer for Stagecoach Welles may well have found an influence not only for the basic two-part structure of his own trailer, but, most importantly, for the possibilities of the trailer as a miniature documentary. Yet, equally striking is the degree to which Welles has creatively expanded upon suggestions in Ford's trailer. Where the voice-over commentary of the Stagecoach trailer is booming, authoritative and earnest, Welles's commentary for the Citizen Kane trailer is suave, charming and pre-eminently self-aware. In the newsreel section of the Stagecoach trailer the sequencing of shots tends to function to illustrate the remarks of the voice-over commentary, as in Grierson documentaries of the era. In the Citizen Kane trailer, Welles's commentary is far more complex, with its interest in establishing a direct bond with the viewer, and with its suggestions of interplay between the off-screen Welles and the various actors who are being simultaneously introduced and directed by our master of ceremonies. And where the second section of the Stagecoach trailer resorts to the use of clips from Stagecoach itself, the Citizen Kane trailer, as already discussed, intricately crosscuts footage of various characters shot specifically for the trailer and linked by the motif of the telephone.
We can get a provisional, thumbnail sketch of the Citizen Kane trailer's uniqueness as compared to other trailers in film history thanks to a recent compilation of trailers called Pulp Cinema.13 The disc contains trailers for forty-five film noir classics, from the '30s such as I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) and Fury (1936), the '40s such as The Maltese Falcon (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), and The Big Sleep (1946), and the '50s such as TheBigHeat (1953), The Night of the Hunter (1955) and The Killing (1956). Within this context, the Citizen Kane trailer distinguishes itself in a number of ways. First, Welles has chosen not to rely at all on two of the staples of trailers throughout the period: clips from the feature film being promoted (still a staple of the trailer form) and written titles, which usually appear over visuals from the films themselves. And when Welles does resort to strategies found in other trailers, his approach is often highly distinctive. For example, many trailers throughout this era utilize a voice-over commentary, but, as in the Stagecoach trailer, the voice of the commentator is often strident, loud and forceful. How different is the voice of Welles in the trailer for Kane, with its modulations, from jocular to manipulatively caressing to conspiratorial. Where the cast members of most trailers are usually presented in a succession of quick shots, linked by wipes, Welles's introduction of the Mercury Players seems relatively leisurely and more focused on the actors as actors, rather than as stars. Where the approach to promoting the actual films in most trailers usually involves a litany of superlatives about the film that are not intended to be ironic, conveyed either in voice-over or through the titles, Welles's approach to promotion is, as we have already seen, more crafty and tongue-in-cheek. Even the use of music in the Citizen Kane trailer is far subtler than in many other trailers of the period. Where the music in most trailers is loud and melodramatically orchestral, with a tendency to swell to a crescendo at the end of the trailer, the use of music in the trailer for Citizen Kane is far more restrained and nuanced. In his analysis of the trailer, Simon Callow sums up its breezy allure as follows:
It is a sort of teasing, charming, completely original, conjuring trick: without his face appearing once on the screen, Welles entirely dominates its five minutes' duration. The approach is entirely characteristic; Welles seeks to fascinate the audience with the process. Now they're actors, now they're characters: magic! Sloane seems to be running towards us: he's actually running into a mirror, as you see when I move the camera. The film appears to be taking place in real life: actually it's shot in a studio. The voices are transmitted by microphones, the faces lit by lamps. To describe what Welles is up to here as Brechtian is too stuffy. Nor is it Pirandellian; there is no metaphysical dimension to it. It is, to be precise, a trick.15
Callow's language reflects the critical challenge for any viewer who wishes to determine just how seriously to take the trailer as a work of intrinsic interest. But there is absolutely no doubt about the importance of the work within the context of Welles studies, especially with respect to its uncanny anticipation of so many of the key debates that have shaped critical discourse on Welles. The spirit of generosity inherent in Welles's emphasis on introducing the Mercury Players operates within the parameters set by Welles's role as the maestro conducting the proceedings, or, to follow Callow, as the master magician who conjures up all the trailer's tricks. Already, before the debates around the authorship of Kane, the trailer constitutes a deeply ambiguous work in terms of Welles's attitude toward collaborative filmmaking. And while there is a suggestion of disdain for the "ballyhoo" of commercial filmmaking, the trailer absolutely revels in show biz and its deconstruction. Indeed, the fundamental conceit of the first part of the trailer centres on giving viewers the illusion of a behind the scenes look at film magic, with its sets, lights, microphones, trick mirrors and actors caught seemingly unawares in their backstage dressing rooms. In America in the Dark, David Thomson argues of Citizen Kane and its creator that the "film and the man are intensely American. Kane reeks of Hollywood, and Welles is addicted to show biz."16 Thomson could just as easily have been talking about the trailer itself.
It might be tempting to argue that we should take Welles's own advice from his Playboy interview with Kenneth Tynan. In that interview Welles acknowledges that he is a mass of contradictions and argues that they can't be reconciled, only recognized.17 But some of the contradictions and puzzles suggested by a juxtaposition of Citizen Kane and its trailer leave behind critical perplexities of the kind that won't easily go away. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20, but one nagging question has to do with why Welles didn't give more of an inkling in the trailer of the astonishing experimental features of Citizen Kane. Yes, the trailer is clever, but in it the film to come is promoted in such as way as to resonate familiarly with an audience whose assumptions about what to expect have already been shaped by the prevalent classical mode of Hollywood production: story, character conflict and the arousal of curiosity about a mystery.
Of course there is a need to hold out the promise of novelty in order for this mode to endure, and Welles particularly addresses this appetite in the viewer by rejecting the typical emphasis in the construction of trailers on a montage of clips from the film itself, and by daring to undertake a more self-reflexive approach to the making of a trailer. But it would be equally important not to overstate the level of experimentation in the trailer itself. As mentioned, the trailer contains many of the features of conventional Hollywood filmmaking that viewers would be entirely comfortable with. Welles may have surmised that from the perspective of audience and studio bosses alike, any novelty in his approach to the trailer would have to operate within the limits that did not fundamentally disrupt the classical conventions that the marketing of a Hollywood film at that time would be expected to reinforce. Yet, if that were Welles's thinking with respect to the trailer, one cannot help but wonder if he could seriously have imagined that Citizen Kane (a work that does disrupt classical linearity) would be both warmly and widely received.
It might also be tempting to suggest that the trailer's emphasis on the Mercury Players and its predominantly playful tone were meant as decoys to deflect the heat from Hearst's press, which would have been reaching fever pitch at the time of the release of the trailer. But Welles could as easily have diverted attention from the allegedly libelous nature of the film's subject matter by presenting a trailer that gave viewers more hints as to the film's innovations in terms of narrative structure and visual style. Was Welles's thinking that if the truly revolutionary aspects of Kane were kept under wraps, then their bursting on the scene during the film's actual premier would be all the more dramatic? If so, the conjuror himself may have been tricked by his own confidence in his ability to lead the audience wherever he wanted to take them.
Of more interest is the possibility that on an artistic level Welles himself was deeply ambivalent about how far to risk alienating a wide, popular audience. In his preface to a recent interview with Raúl Ruiz, Jonathan Rosenbaum has characterized "Welles's reluctance to regard himself as anything other than a mainstream director in terms of his audience...even though his later features-most notably, Chimes at Midnight , The Trial , and F for Fake  -showed exclusively in arthouses."17 Rosenbaum's observation is particularly apt in its perception of the relationship between Welles's artistic self-image and his perception of his audience. The trailer is clearly designed to appeal to the kind of audience that would have already been familiar with Welles as a theatre and radio celebrity. Did Welles really fail to suspect that such an audience would not necessarily be willing to embrace Citizen Kane's radical assault on conventional filmmaking? Would a different approach to the trailer, one that placed more emphasis on preparing the audience to be challenged, have made any difference to the film's initial lukewarm reception? Would the RKO studio bosses have even sanctioned advanced publicity for Kane that foregrounded the film's revolutionary nature? Finally, does the hypothesis that Hollywood has failed to produce a film that rivals Citizen Kane for artistic brilliance have, as a corollary, the hypothesis that Hollywood is not a context conducive to the production of great film art, making Citizen Kane the exception that proves the rule? Like the feature film for which it functions as curious preface, the trailer for Citizen Kane turns out to be capable of generating puzzles and questions about the labyrinth of their maker's creative imagination.
1. Frank Brady, Citizen Welles: A Biography of Orson Welles (New York: Anchor Books, 1990), 308. Both Brady and Simon Callow (see note 3) refer to the trailer as running for five mintues. The trailer available on the Warners' two-disc edition DVD of Citizen Kane used in my analysis is 3 minutes and 45 seconds long and is identical to the trailer contained on the Turner Classic Movies video of Citizen Kane. While it is intriguing to speculate on whether Brady and Callow saw a different version of the trailer, this discrepancy could be explained by the possibility that since the trailer for Kane is so much longer than a typical trailer, someone making a rough assessment of its length could well guess five minutes.
2. There are signs that serious critical interest in trailers is beginning to emerge, no doubt spurred by the way in which DVDs are making trailers and other historically interesting archival materials more widely available. see, for example, Brad Stevens, "In Praise of Trailers," Senses of Cinema 9 (September-October 2000) at www.sensesofcinema.com/ contents/00/9/trailers.htm. More recently. Senses of Cinema has published a lengthy two-part discussion of Alfred Hitchcock's trailers by Alain Kerzoncuf and Nándor Bokor. Part one of the article is at www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/05/35/hitchcocks_ trailers.html; part two is at www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/05/36/ hitchcocks. trailers_part.html. While the discussion by Kerzoncuf and Bokor primarily contains detailed descriptions of the content of Hitchcock's trailers, it will no doubt become an important jumping off point for anyone interested in doing further scholarly analysis of Hitchcock's trailers.
3. Simon Callow, Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu (London: Penguin, 1995), 558.
4. Orson Welles, "AFI Acceptance Speech." The American Institute's Lifetime Award ceremony honoring Welles was first broadcast on February 9, 1975 on the CBS Television Network. A transcript of Welles's speech (and the source for my quotation) can be found in Films In Review 26.5 (975): 291-292.
5. For my close reading of the theatrical trailer for Citizen Kane, including direct quotations, I have utilized the version of it available on the two-disc Special Edition DVD of Citizen Kane distributed by Warner Home Video. The trailer is also available on the Turner Classic Movies video of Citizen Kane. But in that version, the beginning of the trailer is somewhat marred by the presence of a border design around the outside of the frame containing the TCM logo.
6. Brady, 307.
7. Callow, 304.
8. The New Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc, 1989), 70.
9. Peter Conrad, Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life (London: Faber & Faber, 2003), 8.
10. Brady, 308.
11. For my discussion of the trailer for Stagecoach I used the Warner Studios DVD of Stagecoach, which includes the film's theatrical trailer along with the trailers for six other films directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne: They Were Expendable (1945); Fort Apache (1948); 3 Godfathers (1948); The Searchers (1956); The Wings of Eagles (1957).
12. André Bazin, Charles Bitsch, and Jean Domarchi, "Interview with Orson Welles (II)," reprinted in Orson Welles: Interviews, Mark W. Estrin, ed. (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2002), 76.
13. Pulp Cinema is distributed by All Day Entertainment [www.alldayentertainment.com].
14. Callow, 559.
15. David Thomson, America in the Dark: Hollywood and the Gift of Unreality (New York: William Morrow, 1977), 126.
16. Kenneth Tynan, "Playboy Interview: Orson Welles," reprinted in Orson Welles: Interviews. 141.
17. Jonathan Rosenbaum, Trying to Catch Up with Raul Ruiz," Cinemascope 11 (Summer 2002): 21.
PAUL SALMON teaches film and English at the University of Guelph and Media Studies at the University of Guelph-Humber. He co-authored ten entries in A Guide to Canadian Cinemas (2001) and has published articles on Woody Alien and Hanif Kureishi. He is currently writing on the art of the con in The Third Man.…