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Based loosely on the life of William Hearst (who lived foa few more years after the film's release before dying himself). Taking place in the 1940's, a reporter is on a mission to find meaning to the last words of a recently deceased newspaper tycoon, Charles Foster Kane. He interviews many people whom had connections with Kane's life including a colleague and his second wife (his first died in a car accident with their son). It is revealed that Charles was seperated from his parents as a child under guardianship of Mr. Thatcher, whom raise him into a businessman at an early age. Viewers also implied that Kane Sr., was an abusive father and thus Mrs. Kane made the decision of sending her son away "where you [Kane Sr.] can't get at him"
As a young adult, he took charge of a New York Inquirer, getting engaged in yellow journalism and his marriage with his first wife, Emily Norton Kane. He goes into politics and runs a campaign to becoming governor, but lost his election to his opponent after being revealed of a scandal (he was seeing Susan Alexander during his first marriage), whom she marries soon afterwards.
He exiles himself and his wife in his private property named Xanadu. She longs to be amongst people but he does not allow her and eventually leaves him, causing him to trash her room but stopping when he spots a snow globe, uttering "Rosebud" (his last words on his deathbed).
The reporter tells his fellow reporters that he never found out the meaning to the word and thus they depart from Xanadu. At a later scene, trash was being tossed into an incinerator. The camera pans in on a sled that's thrown in, revealing the word "Rosebud" stencilled onto the sled, as the fire consumes it. The sled being the object of symbol to childhood, a time of innocence and when he was truly happy.
The film was based on the life of William Randolph Hearst and Hearst tried to ban the film from theaters with little success (he had connection to people in Hollywood and was able to ban it from only a few theaters). The film was very well received by people but some critics questioned it for not being filmed in the tradition Hollywood format and techniques. At the time, deep focus and low angle shots were not common amongst films and this technique was new to the population. Hearst was known for 'yellow journalism' (a technique in which a current event is exaggerated in order to make it more interesting for the presses). He also had a mistress and his own private property (nicknamed San Simeon, although usually called the Hearst ranch). At the time of the film's premiere, he was offended by the film because it seemed to be about him in a negative way. He refused to advertise the film on his newspapers as well.
Thompson: No, I don't think so; no. Mr. Kane was a man who got everything he wanted and then lost it. Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn't get, or something he lost. Anyway, it wouldn't have explained anything... I don't think any word can explain a man's life. No, I guess Rosebud is just a... piece in a jigsaw puzzle... a missing piece.
Bernstein: A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn't think he'd remember. You take me. One day, back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in, and on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn't see me at all, but I'll bet a month hasn't gone by since that I haven't thought of that girl.
Fun Fact: Orson Welles was known for a notorious stunt of a re-enactment of War of the Worlds in one of his radio broadcasts from the Mercury Theatre. This caused the nation to panic, causing some to look themselves in their own homes and arm themselves. A man was also reported shooting at a water tower, thinking it was a martian tripod.
Outstanding Motion Picture – RKO Radio Pictures (Orson Welles, Producer)
Best Director – Orson Welles
Best Actor – Orson Welles
Best Writing (Original Screenplay) – Orson Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz
Best Art Direction (Black-and-White) – Perry Ferguson, Van Nest Polglase, A. Roland Fields, Darrell Silvera
Best Film Editing – Robert Wise
Best Cinematography (Black-and-White) – Gregg Toland
Best Music (Score of a Dramatic Picture) – Bernard Herrmann
Best Sound Recording – John O. Aalberg
Citizen Kane Research Paper
This past week, we had watched a film called Citizen Kane for Film Analysis class. Citizen Kane is a film directed by Orson Welles starring himself, Joseph Cotton, and Dorothy Comingore released in 1941. It is an abridged film that has been failed by many critics to be one of the greatest film of all time. Although it was well received by audience, RKO Radio Pictures did not like having a happy ending in a film. They took his next film, The Magnificent Ambersons, and gave it a happy ending, disagreeing to the contract made with Welles, making him respond by discontinuing his work with Hollywood and finding a more sympathetic audience in Europe.
The plot revolvers around a reporter named Thompson who is sent to find meaning to the last words of a recently-deceased newspaper tycoon, Charles Foster Kane, which was one word; “Rosebud”. He interviews with Susan Alexander Kane, Charles’ second wife (his first wife died in a car accident along with her son), Jebediah Leland, a college friend whom he hired into his news press, Mr. Thatcher, Charles’ former guardian, and Mr. Bernstein, general manager of The Inquirer (his news press). They each tell Thompson of the events in their loves that involved Mr. Kane, with none finding out meaning to the word. Thompson concludes that “Rosebud” must have been “something he couldn’t get or something he lost…No, I guess Rosebud is just a…piece in a jigsaw puzzle…a missing piece.” And the reporters and him depart from Xanadu, Kane’s private estate. Afterwards, Kane’s former servants were tossing trash into the incinerator, including a sled which then the camera pans in on, revealing the stenciled in “Rosebud”, implying that Charles uttered the word when he realized he was never happy with wealth and fame, but happier and truly happy in the innocence and carefree time of his childhood. The film ends with smoke from the incinerator, rising from the chimney
Orson Welles has said that the film was actually based on the big figures at the time like William Randolph Hearst. Hearst was known for the method of ‘yellow journalism’, a method in which a story is exaggerated to make it sound more interesting for the news press. He owned a large amount of newspaper and magazines. Some have accused him of triggering the Spanish Civil War with the said method. Hearst also was the only one who decided to publish about the mass murdering of Jews in Europe during the Holocaust, compared to the news press at the time whom tried to not do so. He was very social able unlike his film’s fictional counterpart and did not die lonely. He ran for governor twice, the latter being short-lived due to his opponent using dirty tricks against his campaign. Xanadu was based on the Hearts Castle, a private property owned by Hearst that he never completed. His reaction to the film was enragement, trying his best to get the film banned from theaters, even refusing to advertise it in his newspapers; he had little success. He died on August 14, 1951 in Beverly Hills at age 88. Most of the settings took place indoors and in the flashback, inside the Inquirer. Interior shots for Xanadu were filmed in Oheka Castle (in Huntington, New York); none were shot at San Simeon.
The film depicting rich men as a growing but corrupt empire gives us an insight of the flaws of how we all tend to use a get-rich-quick scheme in order to become famous and influential amongst people. Welles’ decision to leave the film black and white helped keep the film’s dramatizations at a film noir level, which makes emotional scenes have an impact on us. The film also uses low-angle shots, which gives us a view of part of the ceiling and deep focus camera shots, which the camera focuses on particular thing (e.g. a medicine bottle on top of a table) while things happen in the background. The storytelling technique is unreliable narrating, which Orson Welles uses in order to leave the viewers guessing what kind of person Charles Kane really is, turning the character into a complicated man whom everyone has a varying opinion about. This film may not be as innovative in technique as today, but it still proves to be effective by the way it touches our emotions when telling its story.
Orson Welles was the most notable for playing out the the Charles Kane character well by making us feel every word impact the people he talks to (and the audience), almost welcoming us into his (Charles’) life story. The cast had worked on the Mercury Theater; Welles’ radio broadcast station of radio drama, and predictably had experience in order to make every line in their movie work out well. The only stereotypical look of a character is that of a tycoon giant, making the rich look almost snobby and craving for more wealth and power. This film is not only a great well-written film that seeks critical thinking from us about our conscience and inner happiness, but robs us of our attentions. The pace of the film suits the film’s storytelling techniques, not trying to rush us through an event being told and trying to make us follow it one by one. The conclusion ends us with the unsolved meaning to the last words of one man, which will never be found by the characters except for the audience, because no word really describes a man’s life for what it is. It is a highly recommended film everyone should watch at least once in a lifetime; this film will not disappoint you because you will be absorbed by the plots and emotion it projects.