Orson Welles Citizen Kane oscar sold, William Randolph Hearst portrayed, Yellow journalism, You can crush a man with journalism, Protect a man with
“The (American) press, which is mostly controlled by vested
interests, has an excessive influence on public opinion.”… Albert Einstein
“Not every item of news should be published: rather must
those who control news policies endeavor to make every item
of news serve a certain purpose.”… Joseph Goebbels
“Why has the American Press protected Barack Obama?”…Citizen Wells
Orson Welles’ oscar for Citizen Kane has just been sold.
From The LA Times December 22, 2011.
“The Academy Award statuette that Orson Welles won for the original screenplay of “Citizen Kane” was auctioned for more than $861,000 in Los Angeles.
The 1942 Oscar was thought to be lost for decades. It surfaced in 1994 when cinematographer Gary Graver tried to sell it. The sale was stopped by Beatrice Welles, Orson’s youngest daughter and sole heir.
Welles, who wrote the screenplay for “Citizen Kane” with Herman Mankiewicz, also directed and starred in the film, considered by most critics to be one of the best of all time.
Nate D. Sanders Auctions declined to release the name of the winning bidder.”
But that is not the big story.
Hearst was quoted as saying “you can crush a man with journalism.”
We now know that you can protect a man with journalism.
“It was a clash of the titans. William Randolph Hearst, the lord and ruler of San Simeon. And Orson Welles, the ambitious young man with a golden touch, who
set out to dethrone him. It was a fight from which neither man ever fully recovered.
Long before Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane was released in 1941, there was a buzz about the movie and the “boy genius” who made it. At a preview screening,
nearly everyone present realized that they had seen a work of brilliance–except Hedda Hopper, the leading gossip columnist of the day. She hated the movie,
calling it “a vicious and irresponsible attack on a great man.”
Citizen Kane was a brutal portrait of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. When Hearst learned through Hopper of Welles’ film, he set out to protect his reputation by shutting the film down. Hollywood executives, led by Louis B. Mayer, rallied around Hearst, attempting to buy Citizen Kane in order to burn the negative. At the same time, Hearst’s defenders moved to intimidate exhibitors into refusing to show the movie. Threats of blackmail, smears in the
newspapers, and FBI investigations were used in the effort.
Hearst’s campaign was largely successful. It would be nearly a quarter-century before Citizen Kane was revived–before Welles would gain popular recognition
for having created one of cinema’s great masterpieces.
“Hearst and Welles were proud, gifted, and destructive–geniuses each in his way,” says producer Thomas Lennon. “The fight that ruined them both was
thoroughly in character with how they’d lived their lives.”
Orson Welles was just twenty-four when he took aim at William Randolph Hearst. The brash upstart was well on his way to claiming Hollywood as his own. A few years earlier, his infamous radio broadcast, War of the Worlds, had terrified listeners and won him the sweetest contract Hollywood had ever seen. With a reputation as a gifted radio and theater director, Welles’ arrogance was founded on a track record of success and a lifetime of encouragement.
“Everybody told me from the moment I could hear that I was absolutely marvelous,” Welles once told an interviewer.
Hearst was a 76-year-old newspaper magnate whose daring and single-mindedness had made him a publishing legend. The son of a wealthy mine owner, he too had been raised to believe he could have everything. He built his empire selling newspapers filled with entertaining stories that were often scandalous and, occasionally, pure fiction.
“We had a crime story that was going to be featured in a 96-point headline on page one,” remembers Vern Whaley, an editor for Hearst’s Herald-Examiner. “When I found the address that was in the story, that address was a vacant lot. So I hollered over at the rewrite desk, I said, ‘You got the wrong address in this
story. This is a vacant lot.’ The copy chief that night was a guy named Vic Barnes. And he says, ‘Sit down, Vern.’ He says, ‘The whole story’s a fake.'”
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., remembers his father asking Hearst why he preferred concentrating on newspapers, with their limited, regional appeal, rather than
spending more energy on motion pictures and their worldwide audience. Fairbanks recalls Hearst’s reply: “I thought of it, but I decided against it. Because you can crush a man with journalism, and you can’t with motion pictures.”
Hearst began his empire with one small newspaper in San Francisco, then expanded to New York where, with flair and daring, he created the top selling of the city’s fourteen newspapers. But he always wanted more, and eventually he controlled the first nationwide chain–with papers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, and Atlanta. Soon, an estimated one in five Americans was reading a Hearst paper every week.
Hearst’s urge to acquire extended to art objects, mansions, and women. He owned eight homes, each stocked with priceless antiques and works of art, but spent most of his time in his California castle. Called San Simeon, the estate was on a piece of property nearly half the size of Rhode Island. George Bernard Shaw
commented, “San Simeon was the place God would have built–if he had the money.” Hearst’s companion was Marion Davies, a showgirl whom he loved and propelled into Hollywood movies. Together they entertained Hollywood’s biggest, best, and brightest; San Simeon became a social mecca for the stars.
Marion Davies was widely liked in Hollywood: straightforward, full of humor and charm. The battle over Citizen Kane was in large part a fight over her honor:
It was said that Welles’s treatment of Davies riled Hearst more than any other aspect of the film. Even Welles agreed that Susan Alexander, the Davies
character, was unfair:
“We had somebody very different in the place of Marion Davies. And it seemed to me to be something of a dirty trick, and does still strike me as being
something of a dirty trick, what we did to her. And I anticipated the trouble from Hearst for that reason.”
Never one to shy away from trouble, Welles built his career on a streak of controversial productions–the more upset and swirl he could create, the better.
His production of Macbeth was set in Haiti and employed an all-black cast…his Julius Caesar was reimagined as a contemporary drama about facism…and
finally, his radio staging of War of the Worlds, about Martians invading Earth, caused so much terror and uproar it might have ended his career. But his
talent and ferocious energy seemed to lift him above the fray, delivering him unscathed to his next challenge. When he graced the cover of Time magazine, he
was only twenty-three years old.
Welles was the talk of Hollywood when he arrived. His contract demanded two films, but Welles demanded they be revolutionary. He cast about for months for a project, presenting two ideas to the studio, neither of which went into production. With the pressure mounting, Welles was desperate. “He did a lot of
drinking,” says Bill Alland, Welles’ longtime associate. “He did a lot of chasing around. But he also did a lot of work.” When Herman Mankiewicz, a Hollywood
writer and friend of Welles who had been a guest at San Simeon, proposed the story of Hearst, Welles seized on the idea as his last best chance.
Producer John Houseman, who worked with Mankiewicz on the Citizen Kane script, recalls the creation and evolution of Charles Foster Kane, the character
modeled on Hearst, which Welles himself would play. “We were creating a vehicle suited to a man who, at twenty-four, was only slightly less fabulous than the hero he would be portraying. And the deeper we penetrated into the heart of Charles Foster Kane, the closer we seemed to come to the identity of Orson
But in the course of making Citizen Kane, Welles’ huge ego and his youth would blind him to the extent of Hearst’s power and reach; he tragically
underestimated Hearst’s ability to counterattack.
Indeed, Welles proved no match for the old man. Hearst threatened to expose long-buried Hollywood scandals his newspapers had suppressed at the request of the studios. His papers used Welles’ private life against him, making blunt references to communism and questioning Welles’ willingness to fight for his
country. Major theater chains refused to carry Citizen Kane. Hearst’s campaign to discredit Welles was ruthless, skillful, and much aided by Welles himself,
who had never bothered to hide his contempt for Hollywood. When Welles’ name and his film were mentioned at the 1942 Academy Awards, they were booed.
Nominated for nine awards, Citizen Kane lost in every category except one. (Welles shared the award for best screenplay with Herman Mankiewicz.) After the Academy’s repudiation of Citizen Kane, RKO quietly retired the film to its vault.
Citizen Kane was an American saga about a giant who brings ruin to all, including himself. As fate would have it, it is through this film that both men are
remembered today. In telling the tale of these two flawed and fascinating men, The Battle over Citizen Kane also sheds light on the masterpiece over which
they fought, the fiction that fuses them both: the enduring film character of Charles Foster Kane.”
From a Film Site review.
“The fresh, sophisticated, and classic masterpiece, Citizen Kane (1941), is probably the world’s most famous and highly-rated film, with its many remarkable scenes and performances, cinematic and narrative techniques and experimental innovations (in photography, editing, and sound). Its director, star, and producer were all the same genius individual – Orson Welles (in his film debut at age 25!), who collaborated with Herman J. Mankiewicz on the script (and also with an uncredited John Houseman), and with Gregg Toland as his talented cinematographer. [The amount of each person’s contributions to the screenplay has been the subject of great debate over many decades.] Toland’s camera work on Karl Freund’s expressionistic horror film Mad Love (1935) exerted a profound influence on this film.
The film, budgeted at $800,000, received unanimous critical praise even at the time of its release, although it was not a commercial success (partly due to
its limited distribution and delayed release by RKO due to pressure exerted by famous publisher W.R. Hearst) – until it was re-released after World War II,
found well-deserved (but delayed) recognition in Europe, and then played on television.
The film engendered controversy (and efforts at suppression in early 1941 and efforts at suppression in early 1941 through intimidation, blackmail, newspaper
smears, discrediting and FBI investigations) before it premiered in New York City on May 1, 1941, because it appeared to fictionalize and caricaturize
certain events and individuals in the life of William Randolph Hearst – a powerful newspaper magnate and publisher. The film was accused of drawing
remarkable, unflattering, and uncomplimentary parallels (especially in regards to the Susan Alexander Kane character) to real-life. The notorious battle was
detailed in Thomas Lennon’s and Michael Epstein’s Oscar-nominated documentary The Battle Over Citizen Kane (1996), and it was retold in HBO’s cable-TV film RKO 281 (1999) (the film’s title refers to the project numbering for the film by the studio, before the film was formally titled):”
“In a memorable scene, Kane responds in a manner counter to Thatcher’s wishes, interested in taking charge of only one small part of his holdings:
Sorry but I’m not interested in gold mines, oil wells, shipping or real estate…One item on your list intrigues me, the New York Inquirer, a little newspaper I understand we acquired in a foreclosure proceeding. Please don’t sell it. I’m coming back to America to take charge. I think it would be fun to run a newspaper. I think it would be fun to run a newspaper. Grrr.
Soon, Kane uses the paper to attack trusts, Thatcher and others among America’s financial elite. Headlines of the Inquirer blare out the expose in a montage of early Inquirer newspaper headlines: “TRACTION TRUST EXPOSED,” “TRACTION TRUST BLEEDS PUBLIC WHITE,” and “TRACTION TRUST SMASHED BY INQUIRER.” Other social causes are heralded by the paper: “LANDLORDS REFUSE TO CLEAR SLUMS!!,” and “INQUIRER WINS SLUM FIGHT.” The paper also attacks capitalistic Wall Street itself: “WALL STREET BACKS COPPER SWINDLE!!” and “COPPER ROBBERS INDICTED!”
Thatcher is enraged and indignantly confronts the young publisher in the Inquirer office about his newspaper’s criticism of banks, privilege and corruption.
Kane is seated at his desk facing the camera and sipping coffee as Thatcher stands over him with his back to the camera asking: “Is that really your idea of
how to run a newspaper?” Arrogantly but with a soft-spoken voice, Kane replies:
I don’t know how to run a newspaper, Mr. Thatcher. I just try everything I can think of.
Thatcher explodes at him, accusing him of following a radical policy at the paper of concocting stories: “You know perfectly well there’s not the slightest
proof that this Armada is off the Jersey coast.” Kane is informed by his assistant Bernstein (Everett Sloane) that a correspondent named Wheeler in Cuba has
sent a communique: “Girls delightful in Cuba stop. Could send you prose poems about scenery but don’t feel right spending your money stop. There is no war in
Cuba. Signed, Wheeler.” Kane calmly tells his assistant to answer the war correspondent [a dictation that echoes one of William Randolph Heart’s most famous quotes in the yellow press to artist Frederic Remington regarding the 1896 Spanish-American War]: “…you provide the prose poems, I’ll provide the war.”
Soon, Thatcher sits down and Kane explains how he is really “two people” – he is both a major stockholder in the Public Transit (he owns “eighty-two thousand, three hundred and sixty-four shares of Public Transit Preferred”), a trust he is attacking, and also the dutiful publisher of a newspaper representing the interests of the public against the trust. Kane stands up by the end of the scene, towering over Thatcher, explaining:
The trouble is, you don’t realize you’re talking to two people. As Charles Foster Kane, who has 82,634 shares of Public Transit Preferred. You see, I do have
a general idea of my holdings. I sympathize with you. Charles Foster Kane is a scoundrel. His paper should be run out of town. A committee should be formed
to boycott him. You may, if you can form such a committee, put me down for a contribution of $1,000 dollars. On the other hand, I am the publisher of the
Inquirer! As such, it’s my duty – and I’ll let you in on a little secret, it’s also my pleasure – to see to it that decent, hard-working people in this community aren’t robbed blind by a pack of money-mad pirates just because – they haven’t anybody to look after their interests.”