A working draft for Citizen Kane. Estimate £15,000–20,000.

LONDON – Oscar’s weekend is upon us – the 86th award ceremony. This lot from the Seeger sale – Orson Welles working copy of the script for Citizen Kane – harks back to the 14th Awards in 1940, when the film was nominated for numerous awards including best picture. Arguably the greatest film ever made, it is astonishing to discover that Citizen Kane actually only won one Oscar for best original screenplay. It was, in fact, a shared award for which two statues were presented, as the screenplay was a joint endeavour between Welles and scriptwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (whose credits also include The Wizard of Oz).

Mankiewicz (centre), with Orson Welles (left) and John Houseman working on script for Citizen Kane in the California Desert.

Mankiewicz, a notorious drinker, has been sequestered in the California desert to work on the script with John Houseman, Welles’s long-term close collaborator, who it was hoped would keep Mankiewicz sober and act as script editor and co-author. Welles remained in Hollywood but provided constant input, with his detailed engagement coming after the completion of the first draft. Welles immediately set to work cutting and restructuring, before returning the script to Mankiewicz who produced a second draft. There were numerous further revisions and edits right up until a week before the start of shooting – by which time the script had reached its seventh iteration.

This particular script, then, is not only Welles’s own copy at a critical moment in the development of Citizen Kane, but is a fascinating insight into the collaborative development of this glittering story of megalomania, obsession and loss.

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