Citizen Kane, perhaps best known as the movie that inspired Mank, is regarded by many as the best movie ever made, and for a while there, its Rotten Tomatoes score reflected that. The Orson Welles classic based loosely on the life of William Randolph Hearst was sitting at 100% on the review aggregation website, and it seemed like that would never change. But just recently, a negative review from critic Mae Tinee was uploaded, knocking the film down to 99%. And here’s the kicker: Tinee’s review was written 80 years ago. Oh, also: Tinee isn’t a real person, but a collective pseudonym once used for the Chicago Tribune.
Released in 1941, Citizen Kane is the story of Charles Foster Kane, an obscenely wealthy newspaper publisher who dies uttering the mystery word “Rosebud.” After Kane’s death, a reporter tries to solve the mystery of Rosebud and pieces together Kane’s life story in the process. The film is often heralded as a masterpiece, and that’s because it is. Sure, some snobby nerd will come along now and then and say the film is “boring,” but trust me, they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.
Up until recently, Citizen Kane‘s acclaim was reflected via a perfect Rotten Tomatoes score. But in March of 2021, that changed when a negative review – written in 1941 – was uploaded to the review aggregation site. Now, this should go without saying, but a movie’s Rotten Tomatoes score doesn’t change anything. And moving from 100% to 99% on Rotten Tomatoes is certainly no big deal. But from a purely comedic standpoint, you have to admit it’s pretty damn funny that an 80-year-old review suddenly bumped down Citizen Kane‘s perfect score. It’s doubly amusing that we don’t even know who wrote the review since the credited author – Mae Tinee – is a pseudonym that the Chicago Tribune used back in the day.
“It’s interesting,” the excerpt from the review starts off, which isn’t so bad. But then, it continues: “It’s different. In fact, it’s bizarre enough to become a museum piece. But its sacrifice of simplicity to eccentricity robs it of distinction and general entertainment.” You can read the review here. My favorite part of the whole thing is that the author keeps referring to the main character as Citizen Kane, over and over again (“Citizen Kane wants to be a publisher…”; “Citizen Kane inherited houses and lands and mines and what have you,” etc.).
While we’re on this subject it’s worth noting that Citizen Kane wasn’t exactly beloved when it opened in 1941, and it would not be until the 1950s before reappraisals and re-evaluations came around to recognizing its brilliance. So this negative review from the fictional Mae Tinee wasn’t an outlier – it’s just that Rotten Tomatoes wasn’t around at the time to upload any more negative reviews. Still, there’s a darkly comedic undertone to all of this: even in death, Orson Welles remains underestimated and misunderstood.
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