Citizen Kane: An Accurate Portrayal of William Randolph Hearst?


Many have called Citizen Kane the greatest cinematic achievement of all
time. It is indeed a true masterpiece of acting, screen writing, and
directing. Orson Welles, its young genius director, lead actor, and a
co-writer, used the best talents and techniques of the day (Bordwell 103)
to tell the story of a newspaper giant, Charles Kane, through the eyes of
the people who loved and hated him. However, when it came out, it was
scorned by Hollywood and viewed only in the private theaters of RKO, the
producer. Nominated for nine Academy Awards, it was practically booed off
the stage, and only won one award, that for Best Screenplay, which Welles
and Herman Mankiewicz shared (Mulvey 10). This was all due to the pressure
applied by the greatest newspaper man of the time, one of the most powerful
men in the nation, the man Citizen Kane portrayed as a corrupt power
monger, namely William Randolph Hearst.

One cannot ignore the striking similarities between Hearst and Kane. In
order to make clear at the outset exactly what he intended to do, Orson
Welles included a few details about the young Kane that, given even a
rudimentary knowledge of Hearst\'s life, would have set one thinking about
the life of that newspaper giant. Shortly after the film opens, a reporter
is seen trying to discover the meaning of Kane\'s last word, "Rosebud." He
begins his search by going through the records of Kane\'s boyhood guardian,
Thatcher. The scene comes to life in midwinter at the Kane boarding house.

Kane\'s mother has come into one of the richest gold mines in the world
through a defaulting boarder, and at age twenty-five, Kane will inherit his
sixty million dollars (Citizen Kane). His mother is doubtful of the
quality of the education her son will receive in Colorado, and therefore
wishes to send her son to study with Thatcher. Hearst\'s parents came by
their money through gold mines (Swanberg 5), so both Hearst and Kane were
raised with "golden" spoons in their respective mouths. Kane is unusually
devoted to his mother, as shown when he turns away from his father to
listen to his mother, and when he only pays heed to his mother\'s answers to
his questions (Citizen Kane). Hearst likewise was completely devoted to
his mother. He was sheltered from the real world by his mother and her
money for most of his young life, rarely even seeing his traveling father
(Swanberg 25). Also, Kane\'s dying word and the name of his childhood sled,
"Rosebud," (Citizen Kane) was the name of a town twenty miles east of where
Hearst\'s parents were born and grew up (Robinson 13). Everything from the
newsreel at the start of the film on Kane\'s life matches Hearst\'s almost
perfectly. Kane ran over thirty newspapers, radios, and syndicates, had a
well publicized romantic affair, tried in vain to be elected to public
office, was totally and completely careless with his money, (always
expecting there would be much more coming), and built himself a pleasure
palace called Xanadu, which included a gigantic collection of statues and
animals (Citizen Kane). Hearst also did all these things over the course
of his life, which further served to convince movie viewers of Welles\'
libelous intentions in the making of the movie. (Swanberg).

After the opening newsreel on Hearst\'s life, the movie goes through the
boyhood scene where Thatcher takes Kane away from his parents. It then
quickly shifts to a point twenty years later, when Kane is about to inherit
the sixth largest private fortune in the world. Thatcher is concerned that
Kane won\'t know his place in the world, and his fears are affirmed when
Kane sends a telegram saying that he has no interest in gold mines or
banks, but, rather, he would like to take over a small newspaper of which
Thatcher has taken possession, the Morning Inquirer, because, "I think it
would be fun to write a newspaper." (Citizen Kane) The circumstances under
which Hearst entered the newspaper world were very similar. Hearst\'s
father, a nearly illiterate mining tycoon, owned a newspaper in San
Francisco, The Examiner, which he used as nothing more than a political
organ to further his candidacy for a seat in Congress (Swanberg 26).
Against his father\'s wishes for him to enter the world of mining, young
Hearst took control of the paper to try to reverse his father\'s enormous
losses on it (Swanberg 47).

Both Hearst and Kane immediately began to revolutionize everything
about their respective papers. Kane literally moved in to the office so
that he