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Headscratchers: Citizen Kane
  • Why didn't the worker at the end of the film see the word "Rosebud" on the sled?
    • He's paid to dispose of Kane's junk, not catalogue his antiques. Even if he did see it, the only people who put any importance on the word "Rosebud" were the press.
  • If the main character dies alone, how in the world does anyone know that his last word was "rosebud"?
    • Later, in the film, the butler says that he was in the room when Kane died.
      • According to legend, one of the actors (perhaps Joseph Cotton?) mentioned this point to Orson Welles. Welles allegedly stared at him wide-eyed for a minute, then pulled him in close and muttered "NEVER tell ANYONE what you just told me."
    • It's been a while, but does it say he dies "alone," or does it say he dies "without anyone else around"? The former is more ambiguous, and could easily mean that he died without friends or family, his wife left him, everyone hated him, he was all alone in the world and just happened to have a servant over on the other side of the room. Probably the butler mentioned above.
      • Which raises a more human-nature-related question that Just Bugs Me: why did anyone actually care so much what "Rosebud" meant, if everybody hated the guy's guts and nobody worried about about him when he was alive? Sure, his dying may invite a certain amount of press interest, but it's not like anyone will care what the last words of those idiots whose screw-ups kicked off the recent banking crisis might mean. So why all the fuss over some senile old corporate shark's last mumble?
      • Somebody in the media wanted a 'human' angle that nobody else had in their obits? The man who apparently never cared about anybody but himself, with his dying breath suggests that he did care about someone after all?
      • The power of celebrity. Kane wasn't just a successful buisinessman, he was an extravagant spender, grand self-promoter and major political candidate. Joe Public knew his name because he damn well wanted them to. You don't have to be well-liked to be legendary.
      • And hey, he was majorly rich. What if "Rosebud" was a clue to where he hid his secret cache of moolah? That could sure sell some papers.
      • I don't think he was hated by "everybody". The newsreel painted him as a Love It or Hate It figure, so apparently some of the public liked him.
      • "Everyone", in the original post (original poster, here), was hyperbole. Even if nobody liked him, he couldn't have been universally hated. Maybe everyone who knew him personally actively disliked or just barely tolerated him, but a lot of people would only know of him as an abstract figure, and most wouldn't know of him at all.
      • You have to think of it this way if a polarizing celebrity of today died (lets say Lindsay Lohan) the press would still want to run a story on her and possibly find an angle that no one else would have of the same story being print all over.
    • I always just assumed the nurse heard from just outside, since she stepped in right after he said it. Xanadu's got some pretty awesome acoustics and the sound could have traveled. (Or she could have been responding to the sound of a glass ball falling to the hard floor and shattering. Still.)
      • I agree with this troper. I believe that Kane's whisper made her pause at the door, and the glass ball prompted her to enter the room.
    • This issue was discussed in one of Spider Robinson's Callahan novels. One theory posited is that because Kane had been under federal investigation, his house was bugged at the time of his death. The transcript from the bug then got leaked to the press.
    • Another possibility involves some inference on the part of the butler and/or the staff; Charles Kane undergoes extreme destructive rage after Susan Alexander leaves him, halted only by the rediscovery of the snow globe - saying for the first time (at least by the shown chronological order of the movie) "Rosebud". Presumably if his grief and guilt made him go a bit batty, then perhaps he kept on repeating "Rosebud" continually until he died - which means that the butler could infer what his final words were and Kane could still die alone.
      • Which also neatly answers the question of "Why does anyone care" — "Rosebud" isn't Kane's last word, which could have been inspired by any thought: it was the obsession that overshadowed his twilight years.
      • I sometimes get the feeling Kane himself can't remember what Rosebud is, only that he associates it with pleasant rural winter scenes.
  • In the opening newsreel, the year 1868 is mentioned. The narrator then says "57 years later" to introduce the next scene which shows Thatcher complaining about Kane before a Congressional investigation. Now, 57 years from 1868 is 1925, which was two years before the first "talkie". However, the clip, which should be old news footage if it's included in the newsreel, has sound.
    • Deforest Phonofilm dates back to 1923. The newsreels could have been that.
  • How much does Kane have? Xanadu looks downright impossible to maintain and would probably cost billions alone.
    • The newsreel said that Xanadu was never finished and that it was already starting to crumble towards the end of Kane's life, so clearly he did not actually have enough money to build and maintain it. Of course, this raises the question of why he embarked on such an impossible project in the first place.
      • Isn't it obvious? Kane was completely full of himself. He built Xanadu as a monument to himself, and he didn't care if anybody told him it was impossible. Hell, just look at the fact he entirely ignored that his second wife was a horrible singer and made her perform, and subsequently embarrass herself, in front of thousands of people.
      • Also consider the real-life inspiration for Xanadu: Hearst Castle, which really is fantastically enormous.
      • Not to mention that building Hearst Castle pretty much bankrupted William Randolph Hearst himself.
  • Why wasn't the death of Kane's son brought more into detail? That's kind of a big deal for a man who only wanted to be loved.
    • Recall that they weren't necessarily trying to portray Kane as a man who wanted to be loved and were only interested in searching for the meaning of "Rosebud." The reporters believed a more recent feature of his death is perhaps more interesting then his relationship with his deceased son decades ago. If anything, Kane shows genuine affection for his son, but when Kane chooses to abandon Emily for Susan, it was probably clear that his egoist assertions were more important to him than his fatherhood. Note that when Emily and Susan bring up concern for the welfare of Kane's son, Kane cares more for the election and his image losing all human side of a story about his family relationships.

  • Why didnt Kane chose the third option when he got cornered by the extortion by declaring that he was looking for talent in form of a singer and why didnt he asked her to sing to prove that he actually has a point and all this problem its just a meaningless misunderstanding and make Gettys look like an idiot while winning the ladies trust back.
    • Because Mrs. Kane would have corroborated Gettys's claims.
      • You mean the fact that he DIDNT tell her about this "actress" he found when "looking" for talent?? he could have said that its part of his job and didnt need to tell her every detail
      • Anyone with half a brain could see through that (PS: use punctuation, because your posts border on incomprehensible).
      • Maybe its because i am thinking ahead of its time, but you think that a man who build his empire around being a honest man for the people would manipulate the media, to KEEP that image to remain strong enough to the point that even thinking about this man doing something this vile may be inconceivable, would have a better control of this situation. Then again, the relationship with her wife was kinda distant before having the kid (makes me wonder how they even agreed to have one kid with a dying relation but maybe they had it already at that point)
      • My apologies, but this has a bit of a Fan Wank feel to it. Why didn't he say he was "looking for talent" secretly behind his wife's back? He's not a talent scout, that's why, and would have no reason to begin moonlighting as one in the middle of political campaign. When a married man secretly spends time with a floozy, everybody knows the reason.
      • "When a married man secretly spends time with a floozy, everybody knows the reason" Everybody in the audience cant get their mind out of the gutter, cant they?? but you forgot that the film doesn't not imply sexual relations with the lady and its left to the imagination until the extortion scene. If we consider the things that the movie shows us, then what i can interpret about the scene that Kane spent with the lady is that he found out that she is similar to him, he sees her like a version of him that couldn't achieve his dreams because she didn't have the resources to do so. She then talked about her mother in such a way that Kane associates her respect for her mother with HIS mother. Sure, he as a child may not have realized how wise was the decision of her mother at first, but now as an adult he can comprehend that she did the best she could in this situation, so when he heard from the lady that HER mother wanted her to sing, he tough that she was doing the same thing for her daughter like his mother to him and the fact that she didn't went trough it was because she didn't fell confident in herself like her mother was. So because Kane still was kind of noble up to that moment but still in the brink of becoming an asshole, he helped her with the intention of knowing if getting decadent and ignoring your dreams is inevitable for anyone with power. So he could regain strength in his quest when she manages to not become a bitch. At least, that was what i tough the filmmakers meant. But then it came the extortion scene and he doesn't do anything to prove his opponent wrong or at least have a touching moment with his wife to tell her the truth, that he found someone that resembles him and just like his mother gave him the chance for a better life he will do the same for this lady. In the end the wife wont believe him and this sent him into further depression. But what do we got in the actual movie?? he does nothing of that and gets manipulated into making a choice that will lose something no matter what just because some "evidence" that i assume is either bullshit or Kane was just for the sexual thing (making that encounter with the lady fell less special) And that is the problem, it felt TOO CHEAP. The opponent could have told the public that he was a rapist, pedo or baby eater and the public would believe him. If Kane had the power over the media that the movie wants us to believe, then he would have already bought almost all the newspapers to work for his orders and would have prevented the "evidence" from being used, after all, having the newspapers around the country isnt a bad idea when you need to spread the news for the voters to know that he exist as a candidate. Then again if people really trash your chances of getting elected from one day to another, just because the opponent just came up with something that makes Kane look bad, then it makes you wonder what is the point of having control over the media if he didn't make any impact at all.
      • It seems to me like you're talking about two different things here (it also seems to me that you're writing a different movie). One: did Kane have sympathetic motivations for becoming attached to Susan Alexander? Perhaps so; he is trapped in a loveless marriage and in a nostalgic mood, and perhaps he was not even sleeping with her (though my sense is certainly that he was, for the record, though of course no film of the period could say so as plainly as that. At very least, Kane thinks he's initially going to her apartment for sex. Hence his statement "What you need is to get your mind off [your toothache]" followed by him closing her apartment door — a sequence that never fails to get a titter from an audience). But the truth of it does not matter. Two: Does he have control over how it will look to other people when the facts (his repeated, secretive visits to the apartment of "low woman" — you may want to consider that this takes place in the 1910s when visiting a member of the opposite sex alone carried different connotations)? No. He does not have control over all the media (as Gettys notes "every paper except his" will carry the story of Kane's love nest with Alexander), and if his papers were to start churning out denials, that would only strengthen his opponent's hand — especially when you consider that he will be facing a very public divorce from Emily at the same time (remember that "Are you coming, Charles?" "No. I'm staying here" bit? He is clearly selecting Susan as his new love over Emily). You may also want to consider that Kane makes his decision, standing by Alexander and continuing his campaign rather than giving in to blackmail and silently withdrawing his candidacy, in the heat of passion, fiery with anger about having his weaknesses found out and used against him by "a cheap, crooked grafter." Perhaps it is a bad decision; Gettys certainly thinks so. But it is entirely consistent with everything we know about Kane's character.
      • You may also wish to consider that the film does not really show us the late stages of Kane's gubernatorial campaign. Kane does indeed promise to "fight this thing" but were are not shown just how he tries to do it, just that it ends up failing. Could be his publicity engine tried any old thing to rescue his reputation, but nothing did.

  • Is it only this troper who was wondering why everyone considered Susan's singing so terrible?
    • You are not alone! See the main page's entry for Hollywood Tone-Deaf — even while watching the film I couldn't get why all the people around were acting like she was so awful, when her voice was perfectly nice. I figured that it was a matter of scope — if Kane had decided to set her up as a singer of lesser note, or a musical theater star, she would have been perfectly suited to it. But he wanted to put her in opera, because nothing is more impressive or grand, and in opera, either she couldn't meet the standards set by the professionally trained singers, or her stamina gave out.
      • True. Some really excellent singers just do not have operatic voices. And even if she did, there are different types of voices, and she gives the impression of a lightweight "lyric", not the type called "dramatic" who can tackle hugely epic stuff like we presumeSalammb˘ was to be. She wasn't singing bad, just way overmatched.

  • Most of you already know that the movie isnt famous for its story but on HOW that story is told, and i have seen repeatedly that it was thanks to the innovation on the language of cinema that gave this movie the status of "Best Of All Times". However, if no one ever tried that before, then why did Orson Welles did them anyway? how did he know that doing a low angle will work the way it was? Lets take for example the scene of him being a kid and the movie uses the "deep focus" to have him visible playing in the background while the parents talk, why it had to be done that way? what nudged him to do it that way only? would the scene be any different if it was done in other way? What i am trying to say is that is that i find no reason to do such things if they were there to look cool, that will be like "The Dutch Angle" that the movie Battlefield Earth did for the whole thing.....for some reason that was never explored or added anything to the movie, so why is it there? I am not insulting the intelligence of The Man itself but if i were a movie director of that era and had a chance something cool, i will probably skip it if i find that there is no real reason to do it, if there is one, then most likely there is information or books around film-making or a set of rules that Welles subverted or learned from to make this innovative movie. It is just that i find hard to believe that NO ONE tried anything new or at least ONE of the things that he did in a single movie unless the corruption of Hollywood was so firm that it only allowed one kind of movie structure or something.
    • Most of this rambling and error-riddled post is only vaguely comprehensible to me, but it might be good to remember that Welles screened John Ford's Stagecoach forty times while prepping for Citizen Kane. Its techniques did not come out of nowhere, and nobody can claim otherwise.
      • Then why is this "The Best Movie of All Time" again? We already established that story-wise, the movie doesn't offer anything new and if the cinematography was something that was already done before then what is left? That fictional award that every critic gives to this movie is now useless if you say that the techniques DID came from somewhere. This movie is being lauded as being innovative for its time after all, so what stopped everyone ELSE in the business to do something like Welles did? Was there a code that didn't allow for more "artistic" scenes and had to be done in the most cheap way possible? was Welles the first director to ever receive some kind of special treatment of "full control" and that is why he could borrow without anyone calling him out on it?
      • I don't understand: is there a reason why "Best Movie of All Time" needs to be "The Movie Made With No Artistic Predecessors Whatsoever!"?
      • Apparently yes because that IS the reason for why the movie is the Best Ever. And its something that really makes my head hurts, because if that is the case, then the first movie of Star Wars should, under that definition, count as The Best Ever for using cinematography that no one ever tried before and being innovative (The tunnel of The Death Star, anyone?) yet somehow it doesnt, even if they are ALSO the same on having a very simple plot (maybe is the stigma of Sci-Fi Ghetto?). In the other hand, since you actually confirmed that he ACTUALLY took inspiration on other movies, then this little bit of information on the page of "Achievements in Ignorance" is in doubt and possibly wrong: "Many of the innovative visuals and special effects seen in Citizen Kane are the result of first-time film director Orson Welles simply refusing to believe that certain things couldn't be done on screen. " I believe that there isnt many reasons for this movie to be THAT good as they said since, as you said, there isn't much original material to merit that title, and the only reason the movie is popular is that maybe the public and the critics felt guilty for the movie to bomb at the box office back then (quite understandable since it wasn't the movie's fault but it was Randolph Hearst). They worshiped it in overcompensation and the hype went out of hand.
      • Who are this "they" you are talking about? This is the ultimate straw-man argument — you haven't identified the people whom you're arguing against, and invent arguments to put in their mouths rather than citing anything specific. Are you talking about the critics and scholars who initially canonized the film, or internet half-wits repeating vague claims today? Suffice it to say, nobody who knows what they're talking about has ever claimed that Welles was working without any precedent in a medium that was at the time almost fifty years old. Welles was not an experimental filmmaker like Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger or Stan Brakhage; he was a Hollywood director working within the classical Hollywood style, and the film's innovations in non-linear narrative or visual style fall firmly within Hollywood conventions (albeit with some European influences in terms of its use of space in deep focus). Why don't you investigate, historically speaking, just how Citizen Kane took on the status that has in movie history? It certainly didn't take it instantly (notice that it didn't crack the 1952 Sight and Sound Poll). Orson Welles did not invent cinema, and even though he was making his first first film, some of his collaborators were very experienced — his cinematographer Gregg Toland had been working since the silent era, for example. Citizen Kane's canonical status is comparable to that of Hamlet; Shakespeare did not invent drama and was most certainly working in an established tradition on the Elizabethan stage. But both works are supposed to represent the full maturity of the form, and granted upon it a certain respectability. That means a certain kind of innovation, yes, but innovation within an established tradition. Note that I am not contended that the film is indeed the greatest film of all time, a subjective judgment that has more to do with hierarchies of legitimacy than the film's intrinsic worth. If anything, Kane is done a kind of disservice by the baggage of greatness! attached to it; in the same way that a high school student encountering Shakespeare for the first time has to get past "you must love this!" mentality, so too do students in first year film classes automatically start out hostile to Citizen Kane as a reflex posture, and it usually takes several viewings to enjoy.
      • This is a sidebar, but anyone claiming that Star Wars, of all films, is without precedent is really and truly talking out of some bodily orifice other than their mouth. For whatever new it might bring to the table in terms of special effects, it is a pastiche of older science fiction, western, samurai and war movies, and contains specific visual citations of films like The Searchers, 12 O'Clock High and so on (see Will Brooker's book on the film for a useful rundown). Not only is it not wholly original, it foregrounds its influences in a way typical of films of the New Hollywood (or the "Film Brat" generation).
    • Great. lets start with the one just up here. Of course that the Star Wars example doesn't work because on the cinematography aspect, just like Citizen Kane, it borrows the techniques from pre-existing movies, yet no one calls CK out for that. That is why i used it to drive my point. Now on the other gentleman over there. See this?: "Serious film critics will concede that the plot of Kane is actually pretty simple, and that its genius lies not in what it is about but how it was done....." That is from the Trope of "What do You Mean, It's Not Didactic?" in the Film section, is very large and i am not going to copy ALL of it, just enough for you to know where to look. So as you can see, it isn't a straw argument, it from this very website (and keep in mind that i am ASKING about how this straw argument EXIST). It continues saying that it was on HOW the movie was told what made it unique, but again, if that was already done before then why is this movie so lauded for that? just because you do ONE original thing doesn't award you for the Best X Ever, isn't it?
      • This website should not be treated as the sine qua non of film scholarship, and for more nuanced takes on Welles's reputation and that of Citizen Kane I would recommend books by James Naremore, Paul Heyer, Laura Mulvey, Jonathan Rosenbaum and others. Suffice it to say, its reputation as "the best film ever" does not rest on any one thing but on a complex combination of aesthetic, industrial and cultural factors as related to cinema's need to promote itself as a legitimate artform as anything else.
      • I second the recommendation of Naremore and wish he'd do a commentary track for Citizen Kane.
      • Was really Hollywood THAT desperate to be taken seriously that they have to pick up this one? Kinda curious since videogames are in the same slot of "not being taken seriously as an art form". So there is a chance that we may actually live to see a game being chosen arbitrarily as "The Citizen Kane". Then again, it seems that i cant get any more information here, so i mas as well search for those books.
      • To be clear — the anointment of Citizen Kane was not done by Hollywood. It was done by the critics, first in France, and Hollywood only fell in line retroactively (Welles would complain that Hollywood studios loved to get him to speak at screenings of Kane, but not fund any of his new projects). It could be that the Citizen Kane of video games is already out there, but nobody will call it that for years to come.
      • Au contraire. There are about four "Citizen Kanes of gaming" a year. It doesn't take a whole lot for that claim to get thrown out there.

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