The story is legendary. When Orson Welles shot Citizen Kane (1941), he was a first-time filmmaker who created what Roger Ebert has called “one of the miracles of cinema.” And, years later, Welles admitted that perhaps youthful ignorance, being a complete novice, was the genius of the film.
I didn’t know what you couldn’t do. I didn’t deliberately set out to invent anything. It just seemed to me, why not? And there is a great gift that ignorance has to bring to anything. That was the gift I brought to Kane, ignorance. [See him elaborate on that here.]
If you want to get technical about things, Kane wasn’t Orson Welles’ first film. Back in the summer of 1934, Welles, only 19 years old, joined up with William Vance, a high school friend, and shot The Hearts of Age. It ran eight short minutes and featured four cast members: Welles, Vance, Virginia Nicholson (Welles’ girlfriend and eventual first wife) and Paul Edgerton. Meanwhile, the plot was surreal, cryptic, hard to follow — all for a good reason. In an interview with Peter Bogdanovich, Welles claimed that The Hearts of Age was nothing but a parody of Jean Cocteau’s first film, The Blood of a Poet (1930). It was also a “joke,” a film “shot in two hours, for fun, one Sunday afternoon. It has no sort of meaning.” Senses of Cinema has more on Welles’ first foray (or non-foray) into filmmaking. You can find it permanently listed in our collection of Free Movies Online, along with other movies created by or starring the great Orson Welles.