Chesley's stunning involvement with a legendary film classic!
They both are terrific!
The film, Citizen Kane, released in 1941, has long been considered by movie critics and filmmakers to be the greatest motion picture ever made. It was ranked #1 in the American Film Institute’s “AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies” in 1998. There probably isn’t a film school in the world that doesn’t include a screening of this classic in their curriculum.
Orson Welles as publisher Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane
The film will turn 80 this year and it’s still a rich source of fascination and controversy. Citizen Kane was thinly based on the life of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. One of the longest-running questions surrounding the film is who actually wrote it? There are two names on the screenplay: Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles. Welles also produced, directed and starred in the film. It was his first Hollywood motion picture directorial effort, accomplished when he was just 25. But did he also help write the script or just put his name on it, as some allege?
You may be wondering how all this connects with artist and architect, Chesley Bonestell. It harkens back to the time in Chesley’s career when he became one of Hollywood’s highest-paid special effects matte artists. After helping architect Willis Polk rebuild San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake and later working with engineer Joseph Strauss on the Golden Gate Bridge, Chesley and his wife, Ruby Helder, moved down the coast to Los Angeles.
Life Magazine
Chesley Bonestell working as a matte painter in Hollywood
Chesley worked at a number of studios. While in the Art Department of RKO, he was assigned to a film production in 1940 called “RKO 281,” which turned out to be Citizen Kane. Chesley’s contributions to the film as a matte painter were many. One of them was his iconic design of Xanadu, the mythical estate of Charles Foster Kane, a fictional newspaper magnate. Once finished, the RKO Optical Effects Department then had the responsibility of integrating Chesley’s matte paintings into the finished film.
Chesley's matte painting of Charlese Foster Kane's Xanadu
Xanadu as it appeared in the finished film
William Randolph Hearst
It’s no secret that William Randolph Hearst made deliberate efforts to stop the production of Citizen Kane numerous times, even offering to buy the film after it was completed. RKO refused. Upon release, the film received favorable reception from the critics but performed poorly at the box office. Nonetheless, Citizen Kane received nine Oscar nominations for the 14th Academy Awards held in 1942. Welles and Mankiewicz were given golden statues for Best Writing - Origina Screenplay. In the following years, admiration and respect for the film grew as people began to appreciate the masterpiece that it is, and it’s one of the reasons people consider Welles a cinematic genius. His inventive uses of camera angles, dramatic lighting and sound layering changed the way studio pictures were made from then on.
For a visual demonstration of matte painting and more wonderful insights into Chesley’s own contributions to this legendary film, please click on the image below to learn about them from Oscar-winning Visual Effects Supervisor Craig Barron (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). Craig is also the co-author of The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting.
Visual Effects Supervisor Craig Barron
The film excerpt you will see is taken from our award-winning documentary, Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future. In the full version of this documentary, Craig also provides insights into a second Orson Welles film that Chesley worked on —The Magnificent Ambersons — and other famous Hollywood films that Chesley lent his talents to.
A film made in 2020 that revisits the making of Citizen Kane and has garnered the most Oscar nominations of any film this year —ten — is Mank, as in screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz. It tells the story of how the screenplay for Citizen Kane came about from Mankiewicz’s side of the typewriter.  
Screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz
Was Welles a collaborator or did Mankiewicz write it all?? You’ll have to see the movie if you haven’t already!
Netflix International Pictures
Actor Gary Oldman as writer Herman Mankiewicz on the set of Mank
Click on the picture to see the trailer.
Citizen Kane won an Oscar in just one category. Will Mank have better luck? Let’s all tune in this Sunday, April 25th to the ABC Television Network and watch The 93rd Annual Academy Awards. We’ll find out if the magic and legacy of a great film made eight decades ago continues through Mank.

Chesley had many remarkable careers and his time in Hollywood was only one of them. To find out more about this fascinating man, you can watch or purchase our award-winning film, Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future. Just click on the image below or visit our website at
Did you ever ponder the possibility of taking a vacation in space or consider visiting another planet, like Mars, for a holiday? Chesley saw it coming and the reality of that happening now is not too far off!
Bonestell LLC
A Colony on Mars Under Plastic Domes by Chesley Bonestell (1963)
Experience just how close we are to this exciting new frontier of space travel at the upcoming Virtual Space Tourism Society’s Conference on Wednesday, April 28th and Thursday, April 29th, 2021.
A special offer for two exciting events:
Since you are a subscriber to Bonestell Brushstrokes, event organizers Alison Dollar and John Spencer are providing special discount codes for reduced admission ticket prices. Also included is admission to next year’s 2022 Space Tourism Conference, which will be held as a live, in-person event in Los Angeles. Click on the image below for more information about the programs and use the discount code appropriate for you:
   April 28-29, 2021
Professionals use this Partner Discount Code: STPpartner2
Students use this Student Discount Code: STCedu33
Copyright © 2021 Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future, All rights reserved.

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