Kane Caught in Love Nest with “Octopus”

The IMDb credits for makeup wiz Maurice Seiderman are full of intrigue, even if they seem like they’re probably only a representative smattering of his career as a whole. Anybody who goes from CITIZEN KANE to BRIDE OF THE MONSTER definitely incites my curiosity.

I discussed this matter with regular Shadowplayer/renaissance man Randy Cook, and while we agreed that probably Seiderman’s contribution to Ed Wood’s spastic classic was the design of Tor Johnson’s “Lobo” makeup (“Too bad Pauline Kael didn’t see that, she could’ve claimed it inspired the old age makeup for KANE”), Randy did throw out the amusing suggestion that maybe the common denominator is the octopus.

You remember the octopus, right?

(1) As featured in Burton’s ED WOOD (“Just thrash around, make it look like it’s killin’ ya,”), the plastic cephalopod mollusc plays a climactic part in BRIDE.

(2) And in KANE, there’s a prosthetic beastie puppeteered towards the camera during the News on the March newsreel sequence.

Me: “Was that a fake octopus?”

Randy (laughing): “Oh yeah.”

He’s right. The shot flashes by so quickly I’d never honestly registered it as bogus, although it did seem like the octo was moving rather oddly. Which is because it’s on wires, duh.

Fiona: “Why does Kane have an octopus anyway? Where does he keep it?”

Me: “Special apartment. The Wet Room. A love nest!”

After all, you can’t have a Pleasure Dome without octopi, can you?

I would be ashamed of my lousy faking of the newspaper shot at the top os this post, were it not for this image in CITIZEN KANE itself, which deploys 1940s PhotoShop technology (ie scissors and glue) to populate the grounds of Xanadu. Apparently this is a pastiche of yellow press “composographs”, the faked pictures which Boss Geddes complains about to Kane. Does anyone recognise Charlie and Susie’s fellow lollers?

The News on the March sequence, which we’re told was cut by RKO’s own newsreel department, because, as Welles said, “They have their own crazy way of doing things,” uses lots of stock footage and stock music, mingled with select shots of specially-contrived fakery, using undercranking and scratches on the film to blend them in. The IMDb has a helpful guide to music sources here. I was surprised to spot the News on the March main theme in NURSE EDITH CAVELL, as I wrote here. But it’d be nice to get a listing for the stock shots — I’m curious to know the provenance of that octopus: obviously a pre-1941 RKO movie. SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON? ISLE OF DESTINY?

Anyhow —

[a] Seiderman almost certainly applied the joke-shop scars to the Swedish wrestler (Tor didn’t really NEED makeup to play a monster) and

[b] Probably did NOT invent the soft contact lens, as he apparently claimed, but did have something to do with developing part of the process, maybe. He seems to have been something of a mythomaniac (no wonder Welles liked him), and this claim found its way into his obituaries and eventually into Shadowplay. The lies men tell live on after them. Seiderman’s unreliable narrator status is going to make it even harder to arrive at a definitive list of his credits… any info will be gratefully received. Any entertaining lies… likewise.


Support Shadowplay! Buy stuff —

UK:  Citizen Kane [DVD] [1942]

The Making of “Citizen Kane”

Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane: A Casebook (Casebooks in Criticism)

US: The Making of Citizen Kane, Revised edition

Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane: A Casebook (Casebooks in Criticism)

26 Responses to “Kane Caught in Love Nest with “Octopus””

  1. hi..on adifferent tack here..but looking to trace any photos from the film “The Monster of Highgate Ponds” (1961)
    If anyone can help please email me..thanks so much!

  2. So there is a direct connection between Wood and Welles after all.

    The irony of that ridiculous headline of Kane caught in the octopus is that Kane used the same kind of sensationalism when starting his newspaper career and his political career ends in the same way he would have gone after another candidate who stood office in his youth.

    The newsreel scene of CITIZEN KANE being done by the RKO newsreel staff sounds like the same dialectical spirit he tackled in F FOR FAKE, a fake newsreel done by a real newsreel team only to reveal, unintentionally, the bombast fictive nature of newsreel editing in the first place. And Welles allows his opponents enough rope to hang themselves with.

    Damn it, I think it will be fun to watch Citizen Kane, again. And Again. Today.

  3. Ruth: you’ve come to the right joint. https://dcairns.wordpress.com/2010/07/07/pondlife/

    Arthur: yes, Kane always repays watching! And CFK is indeed hoist by his own petard, a victim of muckraking and scandalmongering. It’s also been pointed out that there’s an irony in a newsreel reporting his death, since it was the newsreel companies that supplanted Hearst as the most powerful press voice in America.

  4. david wingrove Says:

    Has anybody heard about Orson Welles’s long-lost last film THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, which has finally emerged from copyright limbo and is about to get a release? Maybe that’s just an urban myth…but there was quite a long piece on The Guardian at the weekend.

  5. I saw that piece in The Guardian. The end of the seemingly endless saga of The Other Side of the Wind may be at hand.

    And maybe not.

    Return with us now to the early 70’s. The Shah was still in power in Iran, and friends of his with lots of money backed Welles’ project. Then came this teeny, tiny revolution and they were gone and the film (according to reports) locked up there. TOSOTW was largely shot in one go. Welles wanted to make a film in reaction to the then “new” Hollywood (there’s a character clearly modelled on Robert Evans) in a style radically different from anything he’d done before. From the clips that were shown on the Oscar telecast where he got his gold watch “Career Achievement” award — and BEGGED for completion money — it looks very Corman. Gary Graver — Welles’ virtual pen — shot it. Oja starred with John Huston as a director rather close to John Ford whose “All Man” manner conceals the fact that he’s a closet case (IOW, John Ford) with a penchant for voyeurism (ie. Welles) There’s a big sex scene with Oja and two guys in a car. Also in the cast Joe McBride, Lily Tomlin, Todd McCarthy, Peter Bogdanovitch, Rich Little, and Susan Stasberg doing a parody of Pauline Kael. IOW if it finally gets seen it will be very much a period piece.

    The chielf stumbling block in recent years has been Beatrice Welles. She has made all manner of claims of inheritance rights that certain courts have recognized and others have not. Needless to say she had not on tiny thing to do with the film which properly belongs to Oja. I’ll have to ask the Welles faithful about all this, and Oja’s dispoistion of late. She’s quite an unusual creature. She wrote and directed one film on her own entitled Jaded. It played one night at the New Beverly Cinema here in L.A. and as far as I know hasn’t been seen since.

  6. Searched but couldn’t find a clip of the Bassano di Sutri sequence from La Dolce Vita the climax of whcih finds Audrey MacDonald trapising around the adandoned wing of the castle, candelabra in hand, reciting a bit of doggerel that ends with “For octupi are oversexed.”

  7. david wingrove Says:

    David E – thanks for all the info. I’m not even a Welles fan particularly, but OTHER SIDE does sound intriguing. Now if someone could only track down his film of THE DREAMERS, Isak Dinesen’s most magical short story!

    BTW, I totally loved your piece on Nico. A fascinating woman, a dazzling beauty and a unique talent…and your piece does justice to all those aspects of her being. Thank you!

  8. Merci!

    Welles only managed to shoot one scene of The Dreamers — in his backyard here it L.A. It was shownb at the DGA memormial tribute. It’s a master shot of Oja. Welles is in it with his back to the camera. It’s a conversation, and he never got around to shooting the reverse shots of himself — which probably would have been Arkadin-like close-ups.

  9. I have a copy of the footage from The Dreamers. Pretty lovely, and a haunting signpost towards what might have been. I yearn to see The Other Side of the Wind, a project Oliver Stone declined involvement in a few years back as it was “too radical”.

  10. My favorite part of the movie

  11. Welles did great title sequences. Ambersons is even better, and redeems the truncated and reshot ending, leaving us on a high.

    Alas, that Guardian story doesn’t sound much more certain than any of the other announcements that have been issued over the years. But eventually, it WILL happen, and this could be it.

  12. Great minds think alike!

    I’m kind of tempted to check the RKO back catalogue for signs of that octopus.

  13. JUst off the phone with Bill Krohn. The Guardian story is a Trojan Horse. Not only is it full of misinformation but its coming from representatives of the Shah’s brother-in-law, who had invested in the film, and apparently wants to take it over now. The claim in the article that Oja wants to sell her interest in the film is a COMPLETE LIE.

    The film is safe in a vault (I’d rather not say where.) Moreover there was a complete rough cut made of it which Bill tells me Welles screened for our friend Joe Dante.

    In the immortal words of Herman Melville “Something further may follow of this Masquerade”

  14. Arthur S. Says:

    Welles should have adapted ”The Confidence-Man”, and maybe he did in ”Arkadin”, ”The Trial”, ”F For Fake” and ”Other Side of the Wind”

  15. John Seal Says:

    So Charles Foster Kane was caught up in the The Wake of the Red Witch, eh?

  16. I’m working on something at the moment that tangentially concerns the brief Irish TV career of Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who has been trying to prove that he’s Welles’s illegitimate son for years now. Very curious to meet him and get the full story. Very disappointed but not surprised to hear that The Other Side of the Wind will remain in limbo a while longer, the clips in Oja Kodar’s documentary about Welles are mouthwatering.

  17. Wow, just catching up here. Good to know The Guardian’s film coverage is as slipshod as ever. Why WOULD Oja want to sell her interest?

    I recall when Frank Mazola was involved in plans to finish the film, he said it would be much easier to do that the recreation of Wild Side, as they had a clear set of notes: maybe he also knew that the film already existed in rough but complete form.

    Welles has another possible illegitimate son, as I recall, a musical prodigy who looks very much like him. Given the enthusiasm with which he sowed his wild seeds, it seems very possible.

  18. I’m absolutely convinced that the ill-fated enfant terrible Tim McIntire (seen at his best in James B Harris’s magnificent Fastwalking) was another of Welles’ progeny. His mother was Welles’ Lady Macbeth, and his putative father was the voice of The March of Time. Bringing us almost full circle.

  19. Wow! Well, there’s certainly a sickly resemblance… He was born four years before Macbeth, which isn’t too neat, but as mom was working in radio, a meeting with Welles is not inconceivable.

  20. The voice is uncannily close. But then his dad was also a Voice. McIntire is terrific in American Hot Wax and A Boy & His Dog too, and the strange, sweet little Western he scored, Kid Blue, is one of the best things Dennis Hopper ever did.

  21. Wonderful – my favourite McIntire monologue is on YouTube, with a side serving of Timothy Carey!

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