Producer Mark Ramsey on the moment he ‘met Orson Welles’

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Mark Ramsey. Photo courtesy of Mark Ramsey

When “FADE IN: Quentin Tarantino & Pulp Fiction” producer Mark Ramsey was a child, his mom took him to see Orson Welles’ 1941 groundbreaking “Citizen Kane” at the Dryden Theater in Rochester, New York, where he grew up. 

Ramsey recalls that Ruth Warrick – one of film’s stars – was attending the special screening of the film and watched along with the audience. “Citizen Kane” was her feature debut, in which she played the publishing tycoon Charles Foster Kane’s first wife, Emily. Director and star Orson Welles was only 25 when he directed the film, considered by many one of the best of all time. 

Ramsey remembers that day in Rochester was the moment when he first “met” Welles on screen.

This segment has been edited for length and clarity. 

We were [at the Dryden Theater] that night to see a movie, but not just any movie. We were there to see “Citizen Kane,” and we weren't alone. There was a special guest, Ruth Warrick. 

Now, at the time, Ruth was most famous for daytime drama, but to any movie fan, she would always be known as the first wife of Charles Foster Kane. She was the last surviving major actor from the film, and there she was, right at the front of the theater. She watched the movie with us.

Orson Welles – the force behind “Citizen Kane” – created novelty out of the familiar. He carried that skill into the new entertainment medium of radio. 

[Welles] catapulted to national fame thanks to his radio version of “War of the Worlds,” which was in a breaking news style and actually convinced, unfortunately, more than a few people that aliens had in fact landed in Grover's, New Jersey.

“We know now that in the early years of the twentieth century this world was being watched closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own. We know now that as human beings busied themselves about their various concerns, they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacence, people went to and fro over the earth about their little affairs, serene in the assurance of their dominion over this small spinning fragment of solar driftwood which, by chance or design, man has inherited out of the dark mystery of Time and Space.”- Orson Welles, “War of the Words.”

His deal with RKO was just total artistic freedom. He was the envy of Hollywood. He wasn't even 25. He was a boy genius, and he could make anything he wanted. And what he made was “Citizen Kane,” still today regarded as one of the best movies ever made. 

There's a scene at a breakfast table, and it's only two minutes long, has almost no dialogue, but it vividly shows the dissolution of Kane's marriage to the character played by Ruth Warrick. It's just brilliant.

At the front of the Dryden Theatre in Rochester, New York on that day, all those years ago, that was the moment that I met Orson Welles. 



Rebecca Mooney