LOS ANGELES – A secretive California-based philanthropic foundation headed by a man known only as “Dax” has consigned Orson Welles’ 1941 Oscar for Citizen Kane to Sotheby’s Dec. 11 auction. It’s estimated that the Academy Award for Best Screenplay (which Welles shared with Herman J. Mankiewicz) will sell for between $800,000 and $1.2 million.
The Dax Foundation is identified on its Web site as an organization seeking “to develop programs that can help refocus people’s attention on the only thing that in the end really matters, reconnecting with the precious dreams that lay locked away in one’s heart, and learning how to set them free.”
Welles’ statuette was believed lost for many years, but in 1994 it was put up for auction at Sotheby’s by a cinematographer who claimed that Welles gave it to him. Welles’ daughter, Beatrice, sued and got ownership of the Oscar, which she tried to sell at Christie’s in 2003, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sued to block the sale. Since 1950, winners have been prohibited from selling their Oscars to anyone but the academy – for $1.
Welles’ daughter won the case. She sold the Oscar to the Dax Foundation in 2003.
The Dax site’s cryptic opening page – daxfoundation.org – shows a man (seen only from the back) in a wrinkled, iridescent-green suit, smoking a cigarette or small cigar, looking out at a sunset over a blue sea. The foundation’s areas of interest are listed as “disabled children, abused and neglected animals, organ donation, poverty and drought.”
“Dax is a successful industrialist who has spent the last 30 years of his life building profitable businesses around the globe,” according to the foundation’s site. “Dax was born and raised in the United States but has spent much of his career in Europe and Asia. Throughout his life, he has privately supported a number of non-profit, charitable organizations that seek to relieve suffering and empower humanity.
“Dax believes that every person needs to lead a purposeful life and to care deeply about something, anything, and to do something about it. Dax believes in the fundamental goodness of humanity, celebrates every human being’s desire to reach for the stars and challenges everyone to take a stand for what they believe in.
“It is perhaps best said in Dax’s own words:
“‘It has become far too easy to get caught up in modern civilization’s crazy kaleidoscope of distractions and diversions and the frenetic pace of daily life. If you blink, your whole life might just flash by without ever achieving the goals that you might not even know that you have.’
“Dax established the Dax Foundation to centralize and coordinate his global philanthropic activities and has dedicated the remainder of his life to helping people to learn to follow their hearts, discover their passions and pursue their dreams. He is committed to helping those individuals and groups whose vision includes making the world a better place for all people and animals.”
The Associated Press reports that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has no plans to block the sale this time. “We’re never happy to see Academy Awards go on sale,” said Bruce Davis, executive director of the academy.
Citizen Kane, the story of a power-hungry publishing magnate played by Welles – based on the life of William Randolph Hearst – was voted the no. 1 movie in film history by the American Film Institute in 2007 and by the British Film Institute in 2002.