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Movie Review – Citizen Kane Produced by Orson Welles (1941)

The film “Citizen Kane,” Orson Welles’ great production, was voted five different times as the greatest film ever made. The fiction piece about Charles Foster Kane is based partly on the life of newspaperman William Randolph Hearst. Orson Welles himself plays the part of Kane.

Charles Foster Kane came into his enormous inheritance when he was twenty-five years old. On finding that his holdings included the New York Inquirer, he set out to be a newspaper publisher.

His life story is told in flashbacks, after the viewer witnesses his demise when his last word is revealed as “rosebud.” A quest begins as to what that word refers to – a lover perhaps – yet no one is able to come up with an explanation. A reporter named Thompson is given the insurmountable task of finding out the meaning of “rosebud.”

It seems that Kane can obtain everything he wants. He sets his sights on a beauty named Emily Norton, the niece of a future president. He also campaigns to become the governor of New York State. When it is revealed that he has a mistress, a “singer,” his marriage and his ambitions to become governor are both dashed. He marries the singer, Susan Alexander, and encourages her in her career, even building her a three million dollar opera house.

Joseph Cotten plays Kane’s long-time college friend, Jedediah Leland, who disagrees with Kane about many issues, causing them to part ways later in life. Cotten made his film debut in “Citizen Kane,” which also launched the careers of Agnes Moorehead, Ruth Warrick, Paul Stewart, Everett Sloane, George Coulouris, and Ray Collins.

It appears that the main lesson to be learned from the story of Charles Foster Kane is that money does not buy happiness, nor friends. The final scenes show Kane living alone in his palatial palace in Florida, which he named Xanadu, after his wife Susan has left him.

It is here that his butler Raymond, played by Paul Stewart, hears Kane speak his last word, “rosebud.” We then witness the household help throwing out the trash that has developed when Kane broke everything in sight after Susan went out the door. Among the items that were thrown into a fire was Kane’s childhood sled with the name “rosebud” painted on it. We can only assume that Kane’s fondness for “rosebud” stemmed from his remembrance of his happy childhood days.