It's ironic that "Mank" will be presented on Netflix after a brief theatrical run.
David J. Fisher's movie examines the eternal inside-Hollywood debate about whether Herman J. Mankiewicz Jr. wrote "Citizen Kane" alone or collaborated with director/star Orson Welles, who received co-credit for the Academy Award-winning script.
The movie about old Hollywood will receive its largest viewership on the streaming service disrupting the American film industry, especially with Covid-19 devastating theatrical audiences.
Too bad Welles didn't have Netflix: Hollywood after giving the young wunderkind complete freedom to make "Citizen Kane" crushed his directing career.
Lately, Welles has had a posthumous resurgence on Netflix with the showing of his last film, "The Other Side of the Wind." Welles fought Hollywood for years to get the movie made.
Whether anyone will be interested in "Mank" beyond engrained cinephiles is questionable. New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael began the controversy in the 1960s with an essay declaring that the alcoholic Mankiewicz wrote the script alone. After "Citizen Kane," Mankiewicz's career declined.
Often considered the greatest Hollywood movie, "Citizen Kane" was the young Welles' first Hollywood project after a dazzling career in New York theater and radio, where he gained notoriety for panicking citizens with a fake Halloween news report that Martians had invaded New Jersey.
Although the 1941 film received a number of Academy Award nominations, it was strangled in the cradle by William Randolph Hearst, the model for "Kane."
Hearst's newspapers and magazines launched a successful campaign to sabotage the movie. Fearing Hearst's power, distributor RKO Radio Pictures pulled the movie from theaters. Afterwards, Hollywood derailed Welles' directing career.
Written by Fisher's late father, Jack Fisher, "Monk" represents a new trend of movies about movies, according to a Wall Street Journal article Thursday.
Also in the works are movies on the making of "The Godfather" and "Chinatown," in both of which the late producer Robert Evans figures, the article said.
But scripts for other films about films have been shuttered, the article said. Apparently director Steven Spielberg torpedoed a green-lighted movie about the making of "Jaws."
Also in the deep freeze are projects about "Star Wars," "Gone With the Wind" and "The Streetcar Named Desire."
Hollywood's self-gazing is not new; "Sunset Boulevard" and other films have long examined the film industry.
Only last year, "Judy" showed the abuse the young Judy Garland suffered from MGM's Louis B. Mayer, who shows up in "Mank" along with other Hollywood titans.
Gary Oldman, who won an Academy Award for playing Winston Churchill, portrays Mankiewicz, who wrote the script while recuperating in Palm Springs from a severely broken leg suffered in a car accident.
Mankiewicz was assisted by Welles' close friend and colloborator John Houseman, played by Sam Troutman. Tom Burke is Welles.
Along with the macho battles of Hollywood alpha males, the movie offers the glamour of Amanda Seyfried playing Hearst's mistress, Marion Davies. Hearst was particularly upset by "Citizen Kane's" portrayal of their relationship.
As the pandemic's autumn wave builds, the movie's unlikely to receive much box office success, echoing "Citizen Kane." But even non-cinephiles will find "Mank" diverting during the brutal winter months.