Kane in Continuity

About the Collection

The University of Michigan recently acquired a unique collection of continuity photographs from
Citizen Kane, Orson Welles’ cinematic masterpiece. These photographs show the sets as they were during production, without the actors that gave life to them. The result is an eerie, unsettling portrait of Citizen Kane unlike anything seen before.

Widely considered an American film masterwork, Citizen Kane combines virtuosic camera work and set design with powerful acting and contemporary political themes. Though the 1940 production involves scores of cast and crew members, film-newcomer Orson Welles (then in his mid-20s), cinematographer Gregg Toland, and art director Perry Ferguson formed the creative nucleus that set the film’s visual style, which emphasized realism. Noteworthy techniques employed in the film include deep-focus photography, expressionistic lighting, low-angle shots, alternatingly exquisite and austere sets, rooms with ceilings (a rarity on studio productions at the time), and rolls of black velvet to simulate depth. Welles shared credit with Hermann Mankiewicz for the script — notable for its nonlinear plot structured by recollections — that examined the life of Charles Foster Kane, a complicated public man modeled roughly after newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst.

Intrigued? Check out this trailer or Orson Welles' classic Citizen Kane. 


Our team is tasked with preserving these materials and making them available for film and Welles scholars and enthusiasts alike. This exhibit will re-contextualize these images, transcending their original value and create a new avenue to explore this American classic. We hope this exhibit will provide valuable material for scholars on film, Welles, and Citizen Kane, but also provide an equally appealing experience for hobbyists and visitors of all types. Additionally, this work may be of interest to those with a passion for digitization or those who are looking to explore digitization workflows and archival processes.


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