Inevitably, another Citizen Kane thread

I’ve picked up the Special Edition DVD and watched it again. New questions and topics for debate.

Superficially, we’re led to believe that Kane started his journalistic career full of idealism but gradually succumbed to the seductions of power. His friend, Jed Leland, was supposedly disillusioned by this decline of Kane’s morals.

But consider what we saw actually happen. On his first day on the job, Kane is seen knowingly making up a story about a missing woman by falsely accusing her husband of murdering her. Jed doesn’t argue against Kane’s actions; in fact, he gleefully helps him. Then a few hours later, they piously print Kane’s Declaration of Principles about how they want to give honest news to the working man. Obviously, any journalistic and personal ethics that Kane (and Leland) may have started with had disappeared long before the Chronicle reporters joined the staff.

In my opinion, the real issue that divided Kane and Leland was Emily. In the film, it’s hinted that Jed knew Emily before Kane did and was close to her. In the original movie trailer (which the DVD includes) this is explicitly stated; Jed introduced Emily to Kane. Given his apparent happiness when their engagement is announced, it doesn’t appear Jed had any personal longing for Emily or jealousy about Kane’s marriage to her. But when Kane betrays Emily for Susan, Jed is shocked. When he confronts Kane shortly thereafter, Jed’s main argument is that Kane doesn’t understand love; a strange point to make in what is, on the surface, an argument about Kane’s political failure. And unlike Mr Bernstein, Jed remains bitter towards Susan for the rest of his life.

It’s been a long while, but I didn’t think it was the decline in “morals” per se. They always used, ah, dubious means to reach their ends. The question was over the ends they were aiming for, which began with support for “the working people” … but Kane sacrificed that end in favor of big (corrupt) business, establishment (graft) politics and self-indulgence.

Hmmmm, maybe I should have started a thread on the inner meaning of Dude, Where’s My Car? instead. (And, no, that’s not an invitation to hijack - start your own damn thread.)

Anyway, the Jed-Emily-Charles triangle didn’t seem to spark a lot of discussion. Personally I thought it was well in keeping with the overall theme of the movie; people may claim they following grand political movements, but in reality, it’s the little personal things that are really motivating them. But I’ll let that go.

How about this; what was Mankiewicz’ role in the Hearst-Welles feud? Prior to 1941, Welles was a complete outsider to Hollywood; his background was in New York in theatre and radio. Welles knew Hearst only as a public figure. From what I’ve heard, Welles knew Hearst would obviously be unhappy with the film but was surprised by both the virulence and the effectiveness of Hearst’s campaign against the film.

Herman Mankiewicz, on the other hand, was a Hollywood insider. He was also familiar with both Hearst and Marion Davies. Mankiewicz knew the extent of Hearst’s power over the film industry and he knew exactly what buttons to push to enrage Hearst into action. Mankiewicz even made sure Hearst saw a copy of the script while the film was still in production. Mankiewicz clearly set the whole thing up.

The question then is why he did it. Did Mankiewicz have some grudge against Hearst and used Welles’ film as a weapon against him? Or was Welles his target and was he using Hearst’s power as his weapon? Or maybe Mankiewicz (who had a strong self-destructive streak) intended to bring Hearst’s wrath down on himself but the attack misfired against Welles instead.