A Revolt Against Fear Mongerers

         “They will believe what I tell me to believe,” said Charles Foster Kane in Orson Welles 1941 Citizen Kane exemplifying not only the essence of what made the man a horror to the trade of Journalism, but the underlying thorn of William Randolph Hearst which instigated the production of one, if not the, greatest films ever made. With this sentiment, Welles constructed a character so elaborate, yet truthfully representative of one of the most powerful journalists, businessmen and political players in America, change in the limits of how far a film maker could go to tell the story they willed within their heart to produce.

         Hearst, who some say instigated the Spanish American War, was a powerful voice in the ear of American newspaper readers, yet Welles, influenced by arrogance of such a man, took it upon himself to not only attack what Hearst represented, but also to embarrass the essence which had been corrupted by greed, and power, paving the way for future film makers who thought outside the box, pushed the limits of story telling and wished to produce films which shed the light on the corrupted, indulgent, rude and heartless. Without this film, and the backbone, which it represented, there would be no Nixon or no Fahrenheit 911. If Hearst had won the battle to acquire and burn Citizen Kane generations would have passed by, while intermediated film makers cowered in the corners, crying over what should but could not be done.

         The fight was long and hard, nearly costing the film its life by the hands of fire, which is the place to which Hearst wanted the celluloid to go, yet it survived to tell the tale of a man who lost his heart and forgot his way. This sentiment is expressed beautifully when Kane’s old friend Leland (Joseph Cotten) brings Kane back a copy of the “Declaration of Principals” he wrote and published in the first edition of the paper telling everyone what to expect from the Inquirer. Kane backhanded his original intentions and at that point had turned his papers into his own Soapbox, ignoring the essence of Journalism. Leland had the same drive that Welles was expressing by making the film.

         It is this loss of heart, epitomized by Kane’s last words “Rose Bud,” the name of the sled of his childhood, the name that represents the loss that drove Kane over the edge of reason, sanity and respectability. One has to wonder what Hearst could have lost to turn a bright and intelligent man into a monster that thought he could control not only opinions, but the world, Kane continues despite the rebuke of his long time friend, further riding the downward spiral of despair into a life of seclusion, false love, and loneliness. Welles’ Citizen Kane not only attacks the arrogance of “A” man: it also constructs a vivid image of what could happen to any man. This is a story that every man, or at least those that still retain the ability to feel, can relate to. The viewer witnesses the life of Kane, not through Kane’s eye, but from that of those who once surrounded him in all phases of his life. This might seem to offer the insight into the man, yet it is actions, not thoughts that express the emotion, and inner thought of a person. Regardless of what one might want to be or become it is how one acts that dictates who one is.

         Citizen Kane was not just a great film technologically or one that just contained a progressive narrative style; it was the truest tale of what the American Dream can allow, and how far you can fall from that dream. It represented not only Hearst but also any man or woman that can fight their way into power and responsibility only to have the life crumble into the sand because of vanity.

Taylor Sutton

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