Christina Fox Magazine Journalism Dr.
Dillon 4/4/11 Orson Welles was one of the most well-known film creators of his time. Welles maintained his creatively throughout his filmmaking and was able to develop some of the best films in American history. His dedication and devoutness assisted him in making his powerful film so popular. Welles’ skills and techniques help to better the film’s mise en scene “with its many remarkable scenes and performances, cinematic and narrative techniques and experimental innovations (in photography, editing, and sound)” (Dirks par. 1). At the ripe old age of 25, Welles created a film that managed to sweep the nation to love him or to hate him. Citizen Kane, graced the American culture in 1941, and gave individuals a whole lot to talk about, while also causing controversies. William Randolph Hearst, is known as one of the most influential men in the newspaper industry. Hearst believed Welles’ film, Citizen Kane, was modeled after his life due to the similarities to Hearst and the main character of the film. Kane’s economic status and social background play largely thorough out the film, leaving his image of reality semi far from the truth. While Kane inherited mountains of money, there was only one treasure in the pile that he most desired. “I think it would be fun to run a newspaper,” Kane wrote in a letter to his guardian Walter Thatcher. Once Kane successfully takes over the newspaper business, he believes his newspaper, The New York Inquirer, is able to control its readers. “Are we going to declare war on Spain, or are we not?” Kane asks his colleague Leland. “The Inquirer already has,” Leland says in response. It is the idea that the newspapermen control their readers like marionette puppets. The Inquirer is structured to the specification and likings of Kane. He ultimately has the last say as to what is published in the paper, and what is left out. “The film
tells the thought-provoking, tragic epic story of a ‘rags-to-riches’ child who inherited a fortune, was taken away from is humble surroundings and his father and mother, was raised by a banker, and became a fabulously wealthy, arrogant, and energetic newspaperman” (Dirks par. 8). The scene in the film where a plethora of his newspapers flash over the screen all with different headlines, about his second wife, Susan Alexander Kane deceive the readers into believing Susan’s opera skills are a knockout, when in reality, Susan is a whirlwind disaster on stage. It does not take long for the public to lose trust in Kane as his reputation begins dwindling down to nothing but lies and fabrications of the truth. In an attempt to dismiss this accusation, Kane finishes one of Leland’s critiques of Susan to prove his honesty. “The discovery and revelation of the mystery of the life of the multi-millionaire publishing tycoon is determined through a reporter’s search for the meaning of his single, cryptic dying word: “Rosebud” – in part, the film’s plot enabling device- or McGuffin” (Dirks par. 9). The quotation signifies the irony that builds throughout the film in the search of Kane’s beloved “Rosebud.” From the very beginning, Kane creates a falsity of this larger than life persona to the individuals who read his paper, when all along he is a long lost rich man searching for the innocence left behind with his childhood. The object of money means nothing to Kane since he spent endless amounts acquiring useless statues and building an opera house. He was so disappointed in the world, therefore he felt it was best if he built his own. In this case, those who said ‘money cannot buy happiness,’ were right. Kane paid people through inconspicuous ways to “love him,” in an attempt to define who he really is, when Kane himself said, “I don’t think there’s one word that can describe a mans life.” Despite his persuasive newspaper, expensive material goods, two failed marriages, and his crumbling reputation, “Rosebud” was realistically the only token of happiness Kane possessed in his life.
Throughout the entire film, Kane’s characteristics resemble and differ from media archetypes of pervious characters. Kane uses his money to buy his ‘friends,’ which ultimately leaves him with nothing short of being an outsider himself. He creates his own rules and standards that he believes everyone should live by while attempting to reform the public into a society that he sees fit. Kane resembles Ed Wood on almost all of these accounts, as Wood was the outsider of his time, always idolizing influential people, such as Kane himself. When directing his films, Wood would literally fly by the seat of his pants. He barely knew which way was up, but believed his way of obtaining his goals was the best way possible. On the other hand, Kane is different from almost all of the other characters because of his corruption and persuasion over innocent people. Kane ran his newspaper in attempts to have control over every situation possible. Although, he built his empire from the ground up, it would have never been possible without his financial background. Being raised by capitalism opened new doors for Kane, but unfortunately, he held the wrong attitude and destroyed anything that was ever remotely important to him. “The tycoon has overextended himself and is losing control of his empire” (Ebert par. 11). This quotation states how Kane’s emotionally complex attitude eventually destroyed his ability to ever have anything close to actual reality. Orson Welles used many interesting directing techniques throughout his creation of Citizen Kane. However, Welles created and developed the film through flashbacks from the characters. “The movie opens with newsreel obituary footage that briefs us on the life and times of Charles Foster Kane; this footage, with its portentous narration, is Welles’ bemused nod in the direction of the ‘March of Time’ newsreels then being produced by another media mogul” (Ebert par. 6). Welles’ use of the flashback scenario may be intriguing to viewers. Right from the beginning, Kane’s entire life story is laid out for the audience to follow along. Welles used
the remaining points of the film to linger on specific details of Kane’s life. While telling Kane’s story through the reporter, there are instances where episodes are accounted for more than once by different people. His assistant Bernstein and his second wife Susan retold parts of the same episode to the reporter. The importance of this effect is to allow the audience to view Kane vicariously though his colleagues and loved one’s lives. This effect also relays an analogy for the news media in general because media outlets often times recap a certain story to make sure every potential individual is aware of the situation. The film wrapped up where it actually began, outside the gates of Xanadu. The “No Trespassing” sign leaves the audience even more puzzled than the first time he or she saw the sign. No one can have a true insight into someone else’s life even after we trace both parallel and perpendicular storylines of Kane’s associates.
Works Cited Dirks, Tim. "Citizen Kane (1941)." Greatest Films - The Best Movies in Cinematic History. Filmsite. Web. 03 Apr. 2011. <http://www.filmsite.org/citi.html>. Ebert, Roger. "Citizen Kane." Rogerebert.com :: Movie Reviews, Essays and the Movie Answer Man from Film Critic Roger Ebert. Chicago Sun-Times, 24 May 1998. Web. 03 Apr. 2011. <http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19980524/reviews08/40101 0334/1023>.