"Citizen Kane" Oscar, Others Fetch $3 Million at Auction

"Kane" was mostly shut out of the 1941 Oscars thanks to a campaign against it by William Randolph Hearst

By Sam Schulz
|  Wednesday, Feb 29, 2012  |  Updated 6:39 AM CDT
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"I run a couple of newspapers. What do you do?" Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst may have had good reason to think Citizen Kane was a swipe at him.

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Some storied and contentious pieces of movie memorabilia have netted more than $3 million at auction in Los Angeles.

Chief among the fifteen just-sold Academy Awards statuettes: Herman Mankiewicz's 1941 Best Original Screenplay Oscar, which he shared with director Orson Welles, for Citizen Kane. It sold for $588,455.

The other best known of the prizes sold at auction house Nate D. Sanders was the 1941 Best Picture award that John Ford's How Green Was My Valley won. It fetched $274,520.

Both awards are key components of the story of Citizen Kane, widely regarded as one of the best movies Hollywood has ever made.

Although Kane was nominated for all the top awards in 1941, an all-out campaign against it by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, likely the real-life Charles Foster Kane of the film, cost it all but the screenplay prize at the Oscars. That meant How Green Was My Valley won instead.

Likewise, movie buffs have wrangled for decades over who wrote the bulk of Kane's screenplay: "Mank," as Mankiewicz was known, or Welles, who at 24 had been given far more artistic control over his film than anyone had before (and than he ever would again). The pair shared credit at the Oscars.

Welles' own statuette for the same award, the only Oscar he would ever win in his long career in Hollywood, was auctioned last month for $861,542.

Even that statuette's history was the subject of much dispute. The Oscar had been presumed lost after Welles died in 1985, and after it resurfaced, it became the subject of legal disputes between his daughter, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a cinematographer who claimed Welles gave it to him as payment.

The Academy stopped selling Oscar statuettes in 1950, but some earlier awards — including all those sold recently — predate the deal.

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