Citizen Kane

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German title Citizen Kane
Original title Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane poster, 1941 (Style B, unrestored) .jpg
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1941
length 119 minutes
Age rating FSK 12
Director Orson Welles
script Herman J. Mankiewicz ,
Orson Welles
production Orson Welles
music Bernard Herrmann
camera Gregg Toland
cut Robert Wise

Citizen Kane (German: "Bürger Kane") is an American film drama by the American director Orson Welles from 1941 .

When it was first released, the film was a flop and was heavily criticized. Today it is considered a milestone in cinema history and one of the most innovative and important films that has ever been produced. On the British Film Institute's top ten list of the British Film Institute's Sight & Sound magazine , which is voted every ten years by well-known directors and critics, Citizen Kane consistently held first place from 1962 to 2002. The American Film Institute lists Citizen Kane as the best American film of all time. The French film magazine Cahiers du cinéma also listed Welles' film in 2008 as number 1 of the best films of all time.

The plot of the black and white film produced by RKO portrays the life of the fictional media magnate Charles Foster Kane in flashbacks . The American publisher William Randolph Hearst served as his model .


In 1941, the American newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane died lonely in his private castle Xanadu while looking at a glass snow globe . His last word before death is rosebud (English: rosebud).

This is followed by a summary of his biography in the style of a weekly broadcast (News on the March), individual stages in his life are highlighted. Coming from a poor background, Kane built an empire that consisted of 37 newspapers as well as numerous publishers, companies and real estate. A person is shown who has always stood in public and polarized the masses. The show turns out to be a test performance in front of employees of the newsreel. But the producer is of the opinion that the right hook is still missing - something that aptly characterizes the private person Kane. He hires reporter Thompson to find out what is actually behind Kane's last word.

Thompson visits various people and places for his research. First he tries to meet Kane's second wife, Susan Alexander, who was separated from him. The former opera singer and now nightclub dancer and alcoholic refuses to speak to him.

The reporter then goes to the private archives of the late banker Thatcher, who was Kane's foster father. From diaries we learn that Kane's mother Mary unexpectedly found her fortune in 1871 after a defaulting debtor had signed over a mine to her that later turned out to be a gold mine. She decided to invest all of the proceeds from that mine in the upbringing and education of her young son, and she handed Kane into the hands of his new guardian, Thatcher. Kane was reluctant to part with his parents, leaving his sled behind in the snow. At the age of 25, Kane was given power of disposal over his now extensive fortune. In contrast to Thatcher, however, he is not interested in investment objects such as gold mines or land. He'd rather be the editor-in-chief of his New York Inquirer newspaper . Kane transforms the serious paper into a tabloid, which now mainly prints gossip reports and scandal stories. He defamed companies in which he is involved - much to the displeasure of Thatcher, who criticizes Kane for his leftist sentiments and his reckless use of money.

After visiting Thatcher's archives, Thompson visits Kane's longtime managing director and financial advisor, Bernstein. He suspects that Rosebud was a girl or something that Kane lost. Bernstein recalls the takeover of the Inquirer by Kane in the late 1880s: Kane accompanied the restructuring and realignment of the newspaper with a declaration of principle. In it he assures that he wants to defend the civil and human rights of his readers and make a newspaper that reports truthfully and independently of business interests. This statement is being kept as a "historical document" by Jedediah Leland, Kane's best friend. The Inquirer is in the following years to the largest-circulation newspaper in New York. Kane begins collecting ancient statues and goes on a trip to Europe for several months. When he comes back he is engaged to Emily Norton, the niece of the US President. During this time there were first differences between Kane and Leland, among other things because of their opposing attitude to the Spanish-American War .

Next, Thompson seeks Leland, who, according to Bernstein, should have known Kane best. Leland believes that Kane always believed in himself and died in the end without believing in anything. He tells of Kane's family life: Kane's son was born in 1904, but in the following years his marriage to Emily increasingly fell apart, as Kane was only interested in his work. His regular attacks on Emily's uncle, the President of the United States, also cause controversy. In 1916, Kane met the young Susan Alexander, who worked in a sheet music store and was a hobby singer. They develop sympathy for one another and meet regularly. It remains to be seen whether they are having an affair or a platonic friendship . At the same time, Kane is running for the gubernatorial election, and victory seems certain to him. But Jim Gettys, his political opponent, knows about the meetings with Susan and gives Kane a choice: either he resigns or his affair is made public. Since Kane refuses, the newspapers report the scandal the next day. The choice is lost for him. Two weeks after Emily divorced him, Kane marries Susan. In order to enable the talentless singer a career as an opera star, he built an opera house for her in Chicago. Leland, now a theater critic at Kane's newspaper and having had a falling out with Kane for years, is found in the editorial office the evening after the premiere of Kane - drunk asleep over his half-finished review. Kane finishes "the slipping " as negatively as Leland started it and publishes the finished review. Then he fires Leland. Emily and Kane's son die of a car accident two years later.

Thompson visits Susan Alexander a second time. This time she tells him about her career as an opera singer. Although her voice is not suited for it, Kane wants to make a big star out of her. Your first appearance turns into a debacle. After Leland is fired for his slap, he sends his ex-boyfriend a letter. Inside is a torn check for $ 25,000 that Kane gave him as a severance payment, and the Inquirer's Policy Statement written years earlier by Kane. Susan, whose singing skills are widely rejected, refuses to continue performing, but Kane forces her to do so. Only after an unsuccessful suicide attempt is Susan allowed to end her singing career. In the following years, Kane begins building Xanadu, where both of them spend most of their time. Susan hates the solitude of the palace and wants to go back to New York. On an excursion there is a heated argument between the two; a short time later she leaves him.

In the end, Thompson drives to Xanadu, where Kane's enormous belongings are sorted. There he meets the butler Raymond. This tells of Susan's departure from Xanadu, and the viewer sees how Kane destroys Susan's room in his anger and finds a snow globe that reminds him of his childhood - the day he had to leave his parents. Thompson ends his search on the assumption that Rosebud is something that Kane - unlike anything else - could not get or that he had lost again. The final shot of the film shows Kane's worthless possessions being burned in a large furnace, including his old sleigh from his childhood days - with the label Rosebud on it .

Cast and dubbing

A German synchronized arrangement was not made until 1962. It also had Hanns Müller-Trenck , the longtime chief spokesman for the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra , as "newsreel Speaker" with. Manfred R. Köhler was responsible for the dialogue script and dubbing . Bernard Herrmann's film music has been completely replaced in the German version. In some cases, parts that were deliberately left without background music in the original version were provided with music.

Role (list after mentioning in the credits) actor Dubbing voice
Charles Foster Kane Orson Welles Hans Nielsen
Jedediah Leland, theater critic for the Inquirer and Kane's best friend for many years Joseph Cotten Peter Pasetti
Susan Alexander Kane, Kane's second wife and mediocre singer Dorothy Comingore Dinah Hinz
Mary Kane, Kane's mother and owner of a gold mine Agnes Moorehead
Emily Monroe Norton Kane, Kane's first wife and niece of the President Ruth Warrick Elisabeth Ried
James W. Gettys, Mayor of New York and Kane's opponent Ray Collins Ernst Constantine
Herbert Carter, former editor-in-chief of the Inquirer Erskine Sanford
Mr. Bernstein, Kane's friend and employee until his death Everett Sloane
Jerry Thompson, News Reporter Seeking the Meaning of "Rosebud" William Alland Erich Ebert
Raymond, Kane's butler during the latter years of his life Paul Stewart Thomas Reiner
Walter Parks Thatcher, Kane's guardian and eminent banker George Coulouris Klaus W. Krause
Signor Matiste, singing teacher for Susan Alexander Kane Fortunio Bonanova
John, head waiter at the Atlantic City Club Gus Schilling Norbert Gastell
Mr. Rawlston, producer of the newscast and Thompson's manager Philip Van Zandt Helmo Kindermann
Bertha Anderson, Secretary at Thatcher's Archives Georgia Backus
Jim Kane, Kane's father Harry Shannon Eric Jelde
Charles Foster Kane III, Kane's only child Sonny Bupp
Charles Foster Kane as a child Buddy Swan
Entertainer at Kane's Inquirer Party ("Oh, Mr. Kane" song) (uncredited) Charles Bennett

The largely unknown Alan Ladd played a reporter in a small role . In March 2016, Orson Welles' private secretary Kathryn Trosper Popper, who had a role as a photographer on Xanadu, died as the last known living member of the film cast. She was 100 years old.

History of origin


Orson Welles began his career as a theater director and broadcaster. After the great success of the radio play War of the Worlds , which he directed and made him known nationwide, he was signed to the production company RKO Pictures in 1939 at the age of 24 . The studio was in financial trouble in the late 1930s and had high hopes for Welles, known in the industry as a “child prodigy”. He was given a free hand in choosing his first film material. However, his planned adaptation of the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad failed due to funding and no suitable actress was found for a film adaptation of the book The Smiler with the Knife . In January 1940, the Hollywood Reporter scoffed that bets were already being made as to whether Welles would even produce a film for RKO before his contract expired.

Under increasing pressure from the producers, the director finally decided on a project that had preoccupied him since childhood.

During his school days, Welles wrote a play called “Marching Song,” which tells the story of a man from the perspective of his contemporaries. From this he developed the basic idea for Citizen Kane . Another impetus is Aldous Huxley's novel After Many Summers of 1939.


Herman J. Mankiewicz , whom Welles knew from his radio days, wrote the first draft of the script in the spring of 1940 on his ranch in Victorville . Co-authors were Orson Welles and John Houseman, who is not mentioned in the opening credits. Since Mankiewicz had broken a leg, he lay in bed most of the time and wrote over 200 pages there in twelve weeks.

Originally, the film plot should be closely based on the biography of the eccentric film producer and adventurer Howard Hughes . In the later versions of the script, the publisher William Randolph Hearst served as a template for the character of Charles Foster Kane. The first draft titles of the project were "John Citizen, USA" and "John Q." After a year and a total of seven different versions, work on the script was completed.

Some of the scenes that were not included in the final version include:

  • an extended weekly newsreel in which Kane's school career is highlighted
  • Kane's honeymoon
  • a meeting of Kane with the President
  • Kane's reunion with his birth father and his new wife
  • Susan's affair with another man, which Kane then has to kill
  • a fancy dress ball on Xanadu
  • several scenes with Kane's son, including his death

In the 1970s, the question of how large Orson Welles' part in the script was caused a lot of discussion. The film critic Pauline Kael published an article in the New Yorker in 1971 under the title Raising Kane , in which she claimed that Mankiewicz wrote the script largely by himself. Journalist Robert L. Carringer and John Houseman and director Peter Bogdanovich disagreed with this view. It is now considered certain that the script came about as a jointly developed product by Mankiewicz and Welles.

Staff and cast

Most of the cast in the film were members of the Mercury theater company Welles started when he was 21. Many of them, such as Joseph Cotten , were good personal friends of the director.

Actors who made their screen debut in Citizen Kane include Ruth Warrick , Paul Stewart , Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead and Everett Sloane . Most of the other contributors, including Orson Welles, had little experience in the film business either. Almost all of them came from the theater or from the radio. Jazz musician Nat King Cole , Gatsby actor Alan Ladd and screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz can be seen in smaller roles .

Susan Alexander's singing voice was dubbed by opera singer Jean Forward , who purposely sang badly and outside of her vocal range for this purpose. Fearing for her reputation, she insisted on not being featured in the opening credits.

Citizen Kane marked the breakthrough for the composer Bernard Herrmann , an old friend of Welles, who later became known primarily for his collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock . He wrote the film music in twelve weeks and was guided by a leitmotif that can be heard over and over again in different variations.

The cameraman Gregg Toland , who has a small guest appearance as a radio announcer, had a decisive influence on the visual presentation of the film . Welles really wanted Toland to be there because he admired the way he worked.


Orson Welles, 1937

The filming of Citizen Kane began on June 29, 1940. The budget for the joint production by RKO and Orson Welles' Mercury Productions was approximately $ 700,000, $ 200,000 more than initially estimated. Welles' fee was $ 100,000.

The working title of the film was American or RKO 281 . George Schaefer, the president of the production company, suggested it be renamed Citizen Kane .

Welles wanted to evade surveillance by representatives of the studio while filming. In his contract with RKO he was assured full artistic control over the project, an unusual circumstance for a directorial debutante. In order to avoid annoying visits by the producers and those in charge on the set, he informed the production company that the film was still "in the rehearsal phase", although filming had long since started. At the time, among other things, the reporter conference was filmed in which Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten participated.

Welles spent about six hours a day in the mask for the scenes in which Welles portrays the aging Kane. On the other hand, when he embodied the young Kane, various tricks were used (including various make-up, hairstyles and camera filters ) to make him appear even more youthful. This should further increase the contrast between the different time periods in which the film is set.

The film begins with a lengthy weekly newsreel about Charles Foster Kane's death, in which numerous archive footage from his life can be seen. In order to give the corresponding film material an authentic and old look, it was treated with sand, among other things, and dragged over a concrete floor. After the release of Citizen Kane , the production company RKO received a letter in which a cinema owner complained about the poor quality of the film.

When Orson Welles ran down the stairs while filming the scene in which Kane is being given an ultimatum by his rival Jim Gettys, he broke his ankle and was in a wheelchair for two weeks. With the help of metal bandages, he was able to stand upright, but he could not walk.

According to the script, the scene with the dancers serenading Kane was supposed to take place in a brothel, but the Hays Office, as expected, prohibited it. Welles later admitted that he only chose this provocative setting to distract the censors from other critical parts of the script that were less serious.

Towards the end of production, Welles was asked by a staff member how Charles Foster Kane's last word "Rosebud" had come to be known if no one was in the room at the time of his death. Welles hesitated with his answer and then said: "Don't you ever tell anyone of this." ("Don't tell anyone about it.")

Filming was completed on October 23, 1940. Six months followed, during which Citizen Kane was edited by Robert Wise and Mark Robson. Welles had the final say in this area too. During the post-production, those in charge of the studio asked to see a rough cut of the film in order to be able to defuse it if necessary. After several minor changes, the plant was finally released.

Citizen Kane was originally supposed to be in theaters in February 1941. However, due to the controversy that had arisen over the film (see Welles and Hearst ) , the premiere was postponed to May 1st.

Stylistic devices and innovations

Citizen Kane gained notoriety primarily through its numerous technical film innovations and is one of the best films of all time for this reason. Welles' maxim was: "The cinema is still very young, and it would be just ridiculous if you couldn't win a few new pages from it."

Many of the techniques used have already been seen in the work of other directors, but it was Orson Welles who brought them all together in one work. He exhausted all the existing stylistic devices of filmmaking and developed some new ones. He was mainly influenced by the films of German Expressionism and Russian cinema. American productions such as John Ford's Ringo , which Welles watched about forty times during the filming, or William K. Howard's The Power and the Glory, served as inspiration and model for camera settings and narrative structure.

Camera and editing

In Citizen Kane, Welles used so-called deep focus cinematography , in which the greatest possible depth of field is achieved through the use of special camera lenses combined with appropriate lighting. Objects at different distances can be drawn equally sharply. This technique, which has been known since the silent film era , was perfected by Gregg Toland , the film's cameraman, who had experimented a lot with optics and exposure prior to filming.

Various scenes were also filmed from an extreme low angle (from bottom to top) or from top view (from top to bottom). In this way, the respective camera perspective illustrates the status or emotional state of the person. Strong characters like Charles Foster Kane were filmed from below, i.e. in a heroic pose, while the camera looks down on weaker characters like Susan Alexander. After his wife attempted suicide, Kane is also shown from this perspective. By using a wide-angle lens , the impression of the subjective camera was reinforced (see also point-of-view shot ) .

For the numerous shots from below (the camera was often placed directly on the floor), the studio backdrop had to be covered with a cotton cloth to create the illusion of a ceiling. The film largely dispenses with close-up shots of faces and thus maintains a certain distance from the people involved. In the argument between Leland and Kane, the camera was in a hole in the floor; for a moment the edge of the floor can be seen at the bottom of the picture.

What is also remarkable about the camera and assembly technology are the many long shots for which Welles used his experience as a theater director, the sparingly used cuts and the image composition. In the first scene of the film, for example, Xanadu's lighted window is always in the same position, even though the building is shown from different angles and distances.

Welles used the same procedure for the cross-fades as in the theater: In one scene the light was reduced piece by piece to a section of the stage (image area) and in the next it was gradually increased from one section to the entire stage (scene). Usually, cross-fades when editing a film were created by subsequent darkening or by global fading out during the recording. The combination of fading in and out of the theater with the possibilities of film editing gives the film a contradicting effect between theatricality and (film) realism at these moments.

The visual characteristics of Citizen Kane include the many reflections that can be seen in the film (the nurse is reflected in the broken snow globe; Mr. Bernstein in his desk surface; the dancers are reflected in a window; Susan Alexander is reflected in her mirror ; Kane's multiplied reflection at the end of the film).

When viewing the film today, one should consider whether it is a restored version. This can be seen from the fact that at the beginning of the cinema scene, Joseph Cotten is sitting in the back left of the picture. In the Welles version, this area was dark, in the restoration the image was brightened overall and adapted to modern viewing habits, which significantly changed the light-dark effects and contrasts.

Special effects

What was unusual for the time was that several characters were played by only one actor over a period of 40 years. This was made possible by the realistic make-up (complemented by elaborate wigs, latex masks and cloudy contact lenses), which Citizen Kane earned the reputation of a milestone in mask technology.

The weekly news report was filmed in the style of a news broadcast and supplemented with archive material. Gregg Toland recorded shots that were supposed to look like secretly shot paparazzi films with a handheld camera. Historical personalities such as Adolf Hitler or Theodore Roosevelt were built into the plot to suggest an integration of Kane's story into contemporary events.

Welles often made use of miniature structures and models, such as a scaled-down version of the opera house or Xanadus. The audience Kane gives his campaign speech to is actually a photograph brought to life through the use of light. The landscape in the background of the picnic scene is an excerpt from the RKO production King Kong and the White Woman , which was projected onto a screen.

Some props were built so that they could be unfolded or contained recesses for the camera. These include the neon sign above El Rancho and the table in Kane's parents' house.

Narrative technique

With regard to the narrative structure, the non-chronological arrangement of individual sequences and the break with the linear narrative technique are particularly striking. The film begins with Kane's death, so actually with the end of the story. Afterwards, the viewer sees a short summary of his entire life, of which individual stations are explained again in detail from different perspectives in the course of the film. The large number of flashbacks was particularly unusual for the time.

Time leaps within a scene can also be found in Citizen Kane . The best example of this is the sequence at the breakfast table showing Kane's marriage to Emily falling apart. The plot, which extends over a period of several years, only takes up a few minutes in the film. The setting remains the same, only the costumes and masks change. The dining table is also getting longer, which symbolizes the increasing distance between Kane and Emily.

In another scene, Mr. Thatcher wishes the young Charles Foster Kane "Merry Christmas" and ends the sentence in a new scene set fifteen years later with the words "... and a happy new year!" Campaign assistant: "Charles Foster Kane (...), who is only involved in this election campaign ...", whereupon Kane himself continues in a different shot: "... because I consider it necessary."

Such jumps in time or place in the middle of a sentence were already shown in the film M ; for example, a sentence was started there in one conference but ended in another.

A similar optical effect is achieved in two scenes in which a photo is faded into a film scene (group photo of the Chronicle employees) or from a film scene onto a photograph (Alexander Kane's apartment door). Often the story is driven forward with the help of fictional newspaper headlines.

A brief shot showing the beginning of an opera performance appears twice in Citizen Kane - the first time in the memory of Jedediah Leland and again later in the memory of Susan Alexander.

Citizen Kane is one of the first “serious” films in which the so-called fourth wall is broken through, for example in scenes in which Thatcher looks directly into the camera. Otherwise, the technique was often used in slapstick comedies (such as Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel ).

It is noticeable that the face of the reporter Jerry Thompson, who goes on a search for the meaning of the word Rosebud , can hardly be seen from the front. Welles wanted to achieve that the audience puts themselves in this role.


The film also played a pioneering role in the field of sound effects and sound editing. Welles benefited from his time on the radio. He let the actors talk at one another and interrupt each other - a novelty in the cinema of the 1940s. When Kane argues with Susan at a picnic, happy laughter can be heard in the background, as a dramaturgical antithesis, so to speak. For the library scene, the actors' voices were highlighted with reverb.

Other influences

Since Orson Welles not only directed Citizen Kane , but also acted as producer, co-wrote the script and took on the lead role, the film is considered one of the first representatives of American auteur cinema .

Welles' portrayal of Charles Foster Kane is seen as an early example of the technique of method acting , in which the actor puts himself completely in his role and, if necessary, goes to his limits for an authentic embodiment. Welles is said to have stared at his bloody hands after filming the scene in which he was furious and destroyed a room, and muttered: “I really felt it. I really felt it. ”For the scene where drunk Leland messes with Kane, Joseph Cotten really got himself drunk and stayed up all night. His slip of the tongue "crimitism ... critism ... I am drunk." (In German: "Theaterxanthippen ... criticism ... I'm blue.") And Welles' reaction were not cut out, but used in the film.

In addition, Citizen Kane had a decisive influence on the development of film noir through its effective play with light and shadow (for example in the library scene) and the use of flashbacks .

Themes and motifs

Citizen Kane is primarily concerned with the myth of the American dream . The film tells the story of the rise and fall of a man who betrays his ideals and is lonely and bitter at the end of his life. Money alone did not make him happy and so he mourns his lost childhood on his deathbed, which is symbolized by the Rosebud sleigh and the snow globe.

Without following the chronology, excerpts and fragments from the life of Charles Foster Kane are shown, which the viewer himself has to put together like a puzzle to a whole. This metaphor is used several times in the film (Susan lays a puzzle, Thompson describes Rosebud as a missing piece of the puzzle). The question of the extent to which people's memories are influenced by their subjective perception also plays a role .

role models

While working on Citizen Kane , screenwriters Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles took inspiration from a variety of real people.

Charles Foster Kane

William Randolph Hearst is considered the model for the character of Charles Foster Kane

The character of Charles Foster Kane is based largely on the US publisher and newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst .

Just like Kane, Kane owed his wealth to a profitable gold mine owned by his parents. In 1887, Hearst became editor-in-chief of the San Francisco Examiner , which under his direction took a new direction. Hearst urged its editors and journalists to write populist and lurid sensational articles to shock and excite readers. A similar policy is followed by Kane. A quote from the film, “You provide the prose poems, I'll provide the war,” is a direct reference to Hearst, who said something similar about the Spanish-American War (“You furnish the pictures, and I'll furnish the war ").

The mixture of political satire, scandal stories and gossip reports (Hearst is considered the father of tabloid journalism ) made the San Francisco Examiner one of the most widely read and highest-circulation newspapers of its time. By the mid-1920s, Hearst had built a nationwide media empire made up of around 30 press publications and radio stations.

After the Great Depression of 1929, however, he suffered heavy financial losses that forced him to sell more newspapers. This is also shown in the film.

Similar to Charles Foster Kane, Hearst tried several times to gain a foothold in politics. In 1906 he ran for governor of New York State , but had to admit defeat. In 1934 he traveled to Germany to talk to Adolf Hitler . In the film, Kane can be seen on a balcony with Hitler.

Hearst's private life, the failed marriage with Millicent Wilson and his affair with Marion Davies are also portrayed in Citizen Kane , albeit slightly alienated.

It has not been conclusively clarified to what extent the name of the sled, Rosebud (rosebud), is an allusion to Hearst. Director Kenneth Anger claimed in his 1984 book Hollywood Babylon II that Rosebud was Hearst's name for the clitoris of his mistress Marion Davies. This claim was taken up again by Gore Vidal in an article for the New York Review of Books in 1989 .

Louis Pizzitola wrote in his 2002 book Hearst Over Hollywood that Orrin Peck, a friend of the family, gave Hearst's mother Phoebe the nickname Rosebud.

The screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz himself always claimed that he named the sled after a bicycle that he owned as a child.

Orson Welles emphasized in numerous interviews that Charles Foster Kane is not based on a single person, but is composed of many different role models and influences, including the film producers Howard Hughes and Jules Brulatour and the businessmen Harold McCormick and Samuel Insull, who had his daughter's own Had an opera house built.

Parallels to Orson Welles' own biography can also be seen, from his rapid rise to Hollywood prodigy in his early twenties to his ideas about entertainment and mass media. Like Kane, Welles lost both parents at a young age and was raised by a guardian named Maurice Bernstein. Bernstein is the name of the managing director in Citizen Kane and the only character who is consistently portrayed positively.

Tragically, the end of the film should also show autobiographical features; Welles' career as a director ebbed after dealing with Hearst. He was suspected of being a communist by the FBI after a smear campaign in Hearst's newspapers and was never given as much artistic freedom as he was with this film. In old age, Welles was also a bitter person. Citizen Kane's film editor Robert Wise once said that Welles made an autobiographical film without even realizing it.

Susan Alexander

The life of actress Marion Davies provided the template for the character of the talentless opera singer Susan Alexander. Davies was Hearst's long-time lover. The negative portrayal of Susan Alexander as a talentless and alcoholic opera diva seriously damaged the reputation of her real role model. Orson Welles wrote in the foreword to her Times We Had biography in 1975 that he deeply regrets this and that Marion Davies is a good actress and a wonderful woman.

Further sources of inspiration for Alexander are the wives of the film mogul Jules Brulator, Dorothy Gibson and Hope Hampton, who both sought their luck as opera singers after an acting career, but had little success with it.

Jedediah "Jed" Leland

As a role model for Jedediah Leland was the newspaper columnist Ashton Stevens, who worked as a theater critic for the San Francisco Examiner . His brother Landers Stevens has a small role in Citizen Kane . In addition, Joseph Cotten's agent Leland Hayward and producer Jed Harris are considered role models, mainly with regard to the name of the character.

Jim Gettys

Kane's political adversary, Jim Getty's, is based on Charles Francis Murphy, an influential New York businessman and politician of the early 20th century. Much like the film character Gettys, Murphy was also the victim of a defamatory cartoon in the San Francisco Examiner that showed him in convict clothing.


The home of Hearst Castle

In 1919, William Randolph Hearst began building Hearst Castle , a luxurious estate on the Pacific coast. The huge structure, which was never completed, was the inspiration for Charles Foster Kane's Xanadu, including the world's largest private zoo. Hearst Castle was best known in the 1920s and 1930s for the regular receptions and celebrations that took place there, to which numerous celebrities of the time were invited, including Charlie Chaplin , Winston Churchill , Cary Grant and also Herman J. Mankiewicz, the screenwriter by Citizen Kane .

The name Xanadu comes from the poem Kubla Khan by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge , the opening line of which can also be heard in the film. Coleridge writes: In Xanadu did Kubla Khan | a stately pleasure-dome decree: | Where Alph, the sacred river, ran | through caverns measureless to man | down to a sunless sea. Kublai Khan was a Mongol ruler and emperor of China.


Welles and Hearst

Despite some differences, the American media mogul William Randolph Hearst recognized himself in the guise of the protagonist Charles Foster Kane. He tried to prevent or at least influence the film during production. Welles was guaranteed complete creative freedom by his studio RKO Pictures.

When Hearst's offer to buy up all of the film's negatives for $ 800,000 and then destroy them was rejected by RKO President George Schaefer, he began a large-scale media campaign against Welles. He publicly described the left-liberal director as a communist and prevented his film or other RKO productions from being advertised in his newspapers. He imposed financial sanctions on cinemas showing Citizen Kane . Therefore, the film was not accessible to a wide audience. That it was shown at all was probably mainly due to the advocacy of many critics and journalists, including Henry Luce , the founder of TIME and Life .

Shortly after the premiere, Orson Welles received a police officer warning not to return to his hotel room that evening. Hearst supposedly had hired a naked woman to ambush Welles there and fall around his neck as soon as he entered the room. A photo of the embarrassing situation was due to appear in the San Francisco Examiner the following day . Welles spent that night elsewhere. The truth of this anecdote has not yet been clarified.

In a 1981 BBC interview, Welles told of a single meeting with Hearst in an elevator in which he offered him free tickets to Citizen Kane .

Hearst's anger is understandable insofar as the film is by no means a homage to himself. On the contrary, Kane is portrayed as a man who in the course of his life throws all ideals overboard and ends up as a cold-hearted, power-obsessed and lonely creature.

Until the mid-1970s Citizen Kane was not discussed in any of Hearst's newspapers and was hardly mentioned. The only comment that the publisher himself made was that the film he had been fighting for months was "a little too long ".

In 1996, W. A. ​​Swanberg published a biography of Hearst entitled Citizen Hearst .

Publication and aftermath

Shortly after filming was completed, Welles brought a four-minute trailer to the cinemas in which he introduces the main actors of the film and shows a few short excerpts that were shot especially for this purpose. Welles himself cannot be seen in the commercial, he speaks from the off .

Citizen Kane premiered at New York's Palace Theater on May 1, 1941 . Despite numerous positive reviews, the film was a flop, it fell far short of the studio's expectations. The losses totaled $ 150,000. Welles' career suffered a setback from which he was slow to recover. His generous contract with RKO was withdrawn and replaced by a new one that gave him less artistic freedom.

While Hearst's campaign was certainly a major contributor to the movie's poor box office performance, the unconventional plot, depressing ending, and lack of stars were also blamed. Welles deprived the film of the identifying moment that allows viewers to recognize themselves in at least one of the characters. Through the almost indifferent discussion of the story, which hardly allows direct emotional participation, Welles increases the distance between work and viewer.

After its European premiere in 1946, Citizen Kane received a lot of attention and attention there. The film was first shown in Germany on June 29, 1962. At the time, Constantin Distribution advertised with the slogan “The best film in the world - finally also in Germany”. The film was re-released in the United States in the mid-1950s. Since then, many film critics, journalists and directors have called it one of the best, and often the best film of all time. The American Film Institute ranked him as one of the 100 best American films in 1998 and 2007. From 1962 to 2011 Citizen Kane was number 1 on the critics list of the British Sight & Sound magazine, which he lost to Vertigo in 2012 . Nevertheless, critical voices have been heard over the years, criticizing the film's lack of emotional depth and the superficial characters.

In 1996 Thomas Lennon and Michael Epstein shot the documentary The Battle over Citizen Kane , which deals with William Randolph Hearst's campaign against Welles and his film. Director Benjamin Ross dedicated himself to the same topic in 1999 in his docu-drama RKO 281 (the production code of Citizen Kane ), published in Germany under the title Die Legende - Der Kampf um Citizen Kane , with Liev Schreiber as Orson Welles, James Cromwell as Randolph Hearst and Melanie Griffith as his lover Marion Davies in the leading roles and John Malkovich and Roy Scheider in the supporting roles. The cinematic retelling of the power struggle between Welles and Hearst was produced by director Ridley Scott and his brother Tony Scott .

In the 1970s, Citizen Kane's original negatives were burned .

One of the snow sleds that can be seen in Citizen Kane is now owned by director Steven Spielberg , who bought it in 1982 for around $ 60,000.


source rating
Rotten tomatoes

“Orson Welles, who was 24 at the time and was free to design his debut film as a writer, director and leading actor, creates an ingenious portrait of character and society in which the myth of the American Dream is both conjured up and critically questioned. The nested flashback technique - after his death a reporter researches Kane's past - splits the character into a multitude of contradicting facets; the figure of “Citizen Kane” only emerges at the intersection of its public and private existence, in the interplay of memory, commentary and fictional document. Welles makes virtuoso use of the technical possibilities of his time; the elliptical montages, the expressive image compositions, the rapid change of perspective had a groundbreaking effect and set new standards. "

“Citizen Kane is by far the most surprising and cinematically exciting feature film, one that you will only find once every jubilee. In fact, it's coming close to being the most sensational film ever made in Hollywood. "

"Welles' artfully arranged tangle of flashbacks and inserts turned out to be a virtuoso gimmick that had not been seen on the screen before."

- The mirror , 1962

“Citizen Kane is more than a big movie; it summarizes the knowledge of the emerging era of the sound film ... "

“It's only now that I understand why Citizen Kane is the film it is and what makes it unique; it is the only debut directed by a celebrity. Its creation was awaited with such enthusiasm that it was forced not only to enter the film industry, but to make the film that sums up and anticipates all the others. (…) Everything that is significant in cinema after 1940 is influenced by Citizen Kane. "

"The masterpiece, which is based on an American myth, has long since become a myth itself."

- Metzler's film dictionary

“Rough, pedantic, slack. Nor is it intelligent (...) Citizen Kane will survive in the same way as certain films by Griffith or Pudowkin : Nobody disputes their historical status, but nobody watches them again. "

"I think the camerawork is pretty good, the cast is mediocre, and the whole thing is a bit boring ... Mr. Welles' aloof direction is the kind of overly cunning that prevents you from knowing what the film is about."

- James Agate, 1941

“Thanks to its almost unbelievable density, its artistic perfection and its enormous influence, 'Citizen Kane' is rightly considered the best film of all time, a favorite film - and this is where the problem with such a name comes in - but hardly any film fan will cite it. He has no identification figure, lacks emotional sympathy and does not give his viewer any wisdom on the way - except perhaps the realization that money does not make people happy, but that is not exactly new either. (...) A masterpiece that hovers so high that the contact with the film friend's brain still exists, but has already been torn off with the heart. "

- F.-M. Helmke on

“An epoch-making film as an exhibition of film history, which in terms of styles, moods, perspectives, tricks, objects, characters and decorations contains everything that Hollywood had only promised up to then and never showed again in such a compressed form. (Rating: 4 stars (highest rating) - outstanding) "

- Adolf Heinzlmeier and Berndt Schulz : Lexicon "Films on TV", 1990


Citizen Kane received nine Academy Award nominations in 1942 in the categories of Best Picture , Best Director , Best Actor (Orson Welles each), Best Original Screenplay (Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles), Best Editing (Robert Wise), Best Production Design (Perry Ferguson, A. Roland Fields, Van Nest Polglase and Darrell Silvera), Best Cinematography (Gregg Toland), Best Sound (John Aalberg) and Best Film Music (Bernard Herrmann). Orson Welles was the first person to be nominated for an Oscar in four different categories at the same time.

During the award ceremony, the film was booed by the audience every time it was mentioned, largely due to William Randolph Hearst's influence. Citizen Kane eventually won the trophy for Best Original Screenplay. Orson Welles' acceptance speech was also accompanied by boos.

In 1941, the film received a National Board of Review Award and a New York Film Critics Circle Award. In 1989 Citizen Kane was one of the first films to be included in the National Film Registry .

In 1998 and 2007, the American Film Institute selected Citizen Kane as one of the 100 best American films. In 2005, the term "rosebud" was ranked 17th for best movie quotes.

Restored version 2009

In 2009 a restored version of the film was released on DVD; Image and sound were processed. The DVD also contains a documentary about the restoration itself, an audio commentary by retired film scholar Thomas Koebner , who talks about the fascination, timelessness and complex background of the film, as well as Welles' first short film The Hearts of Age from 1934 (he directed him together with William Vance ).

Allusions in other works

Due to the importance and notoriety of Citizen Kane , the film has been imitated, parodied and quoted in numerous other works. Woody Allen's Mockumentary Zelig (1983), for example, contains a sequence that is based on the news program in Citizen Kane .

In an episode of the animated series The Real Ghostbusters , the team is called to a mansion for an assignment. The ghost haunted there is only articulated by the word "Rosebud" and is said to be the embodiment of Charles Foster Kane. After a long search, the "Ghostbusters" discover a sled with the same label. In a roundabout way, the spirit finally comes into possession of the sled, which, as it turns out, was the purpose of the operation. At the end of the episode, the ghost “blissfully descends a snowy mountain” with his sledge.

Numerous allusions to the film can also be found in individual episodes of the American animated series The Simpsons . So in the episode Rosebud - German title: Kampf um Bobo - (USA 1993, D 1995), the first sequences of the film are completely parodied. In addition to the title of the US version (which does not appear in the episode itself) there are various other references - starting with the slow tracking shot over the fences of Xanadu: Springfield's nuclear power plant operator Charles Montgomery Burns takes on the role of Charles Foster Kane - of course with that subtle difference that he happily separates from his parents in order to strive for a life of wealth. And instead of the sled, a teddy bear sinks into the snow, which after numerous confusions falls into the possession of Maggie Simpson .

In the episode "Directed by Al Bundy" of the sitcom A Terribly Nice Family, Al Bundy and his daughter Kelly make a short film called "Sheos", at the end of which the leading actor pronounces "Rosebud" dying with a shoe in hand.

In DreamWorks Animation's Ab durch die Hecke (2006) , the possum Ozzie breathes the word rosebud after seeing a rose bush when it fakes a dramatic death before collapsing.

In the 1978 Columbo episode Murder by Telephone , the word rosebud was used by Citizen Kane's sleigh to set trained dogs on the victim. In this episode also played Kim Cattrall , who three years earlier in the film company Rosebud (original title Rosebud) was involved.

The term is also used in the Russ Meyer film Over, Under and On , as the character "Margo Winchester", played by Raven de la Croix , has a rose tattoo.

In the Austrian film Müller's office , Rosebud is the last word of the murdered prostitute Maria; Nevertheless, the quoted word is assigned to the film M there (wanted?) .

The beginning of the last chapter of the Disney comic Uncle Dagobert - His Life, His Billions by Don Rosa quotes the film and thus indicates the parallels between Dagobert Duck and Charles Foster Kane. After a life full of fame, adventure and fortune, Dagobert Duck has retired to his private mansion. The common elements are the one lighted window in the darkness, the snow globe and the style of the television report, in which the protagonist's life is looked back.

In the film Independence Day , the landing site of the aliens in the Nevada desert, about which even the President of the United States knows nothing, is called Rosebud, which is also an indirect reference to the legendary Roswell incident . At this point, a laboratory is being built that will contain a still airworthy UFO that Will Smith controls for the decisive attack on the alien computer system.

The band The White Stripes put the text of the song The Union Forever together from quotes from the film.

In the computer game Wolfenstein 3D (1992), the final boss's death exclamation in the sixth episode, General Fettgesicht, is “Rosebud!” - the literal German translation of “Rosebud!” It is an intended reference to Citizen Kane and has no deeper meaning .

In the computer game series The Sims , the term Rosebud is used as a cheat code for additional money .

In the comic Alfred Jodocus Kwak by Harald Siepermann and Hans Bacher, based on a story by Herman van Veen , Rosebud is ironically the last word of the fleeing king or one of the members of his court after they have been chased away by a bee. In the penultimate panel on page 56, next to the exclamations of the fleeing court and the falling crown, a speech bubble with the saying Rosebud ... can be seen.

In the film The Snake Woman's Bite, the snake woman Lady Sylvia Marsh claims that she was paralyzed for a while in her childhood due to a snake bite. Since then she has been both repulsed and fascinated by snakes. A little later she throws a board from the game "Snakes and Ladders" into the fire and comments on it with the word "Rosebud".

In the episode The Substitute Detective of the 1984 television series Magnum , Thomas Magnum receives an order from Robin Masters over the phone. The computer password required to run it is "Rosebud".

In the Harley and Ivy episode of the animated series Batman: The Animated Series , the license plate of the getaway car of the plant-loving villain Poison Ivy reads "ROSE BUD" (rosebud).


  • Robert Carringer: The Making of Citizen Kane . Murray, London 1985, ISBN 0-7195-4248-0 .
  • Birger C. Dulz: Narcissism and Narcissism and Narcissism - Citizen Kane. In: Stephan Doering, Heidi Möller (eds.): Frankenstein and Belle de Jour - 30 film characters and their mental disorders. Springer, Heidelberg 2008, ISBN 978-3-540-76879-1 , pp. 320–334.
  • Ronald Gottesman: Focus on Citizen Kane. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs 1971, ISBN 0-13-134759-4 .
  • Pauline Kael , Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles: The Citizen Kane Book. Secker & Warburg, London 1971, ISBN 0-436-23030-5 .
  • Pauline Kael: Raising Kane. In: Pauline Kael, Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles: The Citizen Kane Book. Secker & Warburg, London 1971, ISBN 0-436-23030-5 .
  • Mikel J. Koven: Citizen Kane (1941). In: Steven Jay Schneider (Ed.): 1001 films. Edition Olms, Zurich 2004, ISBN 3-283-00497-8 , pp. 172f.
  • Dieter Krusche, Jürgen Labenski : Reclam's film guide. 7th edition, Reclam, Stuttgart 1987, ISBN 3-15-010205-7 , pp. 132f.
  • Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles: The Shooting Script. In: Pauline Kael, Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles: The Citizen Kane Book. Secker & Warburg, London 1971, ISBN 0-436-23030-5 .
  • Laura Mulvey: Citizen Kane. The classic film by Orson Welles. (Original title: Citizen Kane ). German by Reinhard Tiffert. Europe, Hamburg / Vienna 2000, ISBN 3-203-84108-8 .
  • Tanja Prokić, Oliver Jahraus (eds.): Orson Welles' “Citizen Kane” and the film theory. 16 model analyzes. Reclam, Stuttgart 2017, ISBN 978-3-15-017690-0 .


Much of the information about the making of the film can be found in Robert L. Carringer's book The Making of Citizen Kane . Details about the conflict between William Randolph Hearst and Orson Welles are largely taken from the documentary The Battle over Citizen Kane by Thomas Lennon and Michael Epstein.

Web links

Commons : Citizen Kane  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. AFI's 100 Years… 100 Movies. American Film Institute, accessed September 9, 2011 .
  2. Cahiers du cinéma's 100 Greatest Films., accessed May 4, 2018 .
  3. Thomas Bräutigam : Lexicon of film and television synchronization. More than 2000 films and series with their German voice actors etc. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-89602-289-X , p. 96 / Citizen Kane (1940) in Arne Kaul's synchronous database , accessed on November 30, 2008
  4. Guido Marc Pruys : Die Rhetorik der Filmsynchronisation: How foreign feature films are censored, changed and seen in Germany , Gunter Narr Verlag, Tübingen 1997, p. 121
  5. ^ Obituary for Kathryn Popper in Hollywood Reporter
  6. a b 3sat culture time
  7. ^ A b c d e Kurt Brokaw: War of the Welles , Madison Avenue Journal
  8. ^ A b c Richard Corliss: Praising Kane , TIME
  9. a b c d Robert Carringer: The Making of Citizen Kane
  10. a b c d e f Director's Guild of America: Interviews with the main actors ( Memento from September 30, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  11. Orson Welles: F for Fake , Documentation, 1973
  12. DVD Journal: Citizen Kane
  13. ^ Pauline Kael: The Citizen Kane Book. 1971
  14. ^ Pauline Kael: Raising Kane. The New Yorker, 1971  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as broken. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  15. ^ The Mercury Theater
  16. a b BBC: Citizen Kane
  17. ^ Settling The Score ( Memento from October 30, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  18. Box Office & Business
  19. Spark Notes: Citizen Kane
  20. ^ John W. Cones: How the Movie Wars Were Won
  21. a b c d Thomas Lennon and Michael Epstein: The Battle over Citizen Kane , Documentation, 1996
  22. Turner Classic Movies: Trivia ( Memento of the original from October 1, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  23. Kathy Merlock and Ray Merlock: Leaving Rosebud, Leaving the Valley
  24. ^ Ringo
  25. The New York Times: The Power and the Glory ( Memento of the original from October 11, 2003 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  26. Beth Gilligan: The Power and the Glory
  27. a b c Citizen Kane
  28. Maximum Movies Online
  29. Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf: Citizen Kane ( Memento of the original from March 4, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  30. Spark Notes: Filmic Elements
  31. film noir
  32. Spark Notes: Themes, Motives and Symbols
  33. I'll Furnish the War , TIME
  34. Kenneth Anger: Hollywood Babylon II , 1984
  35. ^ Gore Vidal: Remembering Orson Welles , The New York Review of Books, 1989
  36. Louis Pizzitola: Hearst Over Hollywood: Power, Passion & Propaganda in the Movies , 2002
  37. ^ Turner Classic Movies
  38. ^ Marion Davies: Times We Had
  39. a b Turner Classic Movies: Trivia and other Fun Stuff
  40. Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Kubla Khan ( Memento of the original from November 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  41. a b Leslie Megahey's interview with Orson Welles, BBC, 1981
  42. Channel 4: History
  43. a b Manfred Etten: Xanadu Revisited (film-dienst, 1991)
  44. Der Spiegel , 11/1962
  45. ↑ Film lists on which Citizen Kane ranks first: Editorial Jaguar, FIAF Centenary List, France Critics Top 10, Kinovedcheskie Russia Top 10, Romanian Critics Top 10, Time Out Magazine Greatest Films, Village Voice 100 Greatest Films.
  46. ^ American Film Institute: 100 Years ... 100 Movies
  47. Sight & Sound: Top Ten 2012
  48. IMDb entry for The Battle over Citizen Kane
  49. IMDb entry for RKO 281
  50. "TV tip: Citizen Kane - The Hollywood legend" ( Memento of the original from June 11, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Kölnische Rundschau , accessed on February 11, 2009  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  51. ^ L. Enticknap: Film Restoration: The Culture and Science of Audiovisual Heritage . Springer 2013, p. 50 restricted preview in the Google book search
  52. Anthony Breznican: Spielberg's Family Values , USA Today , June 23, 2005
  53. a b [1] at Rotten Tomatoes , accessed on January 10, 2014
  54. Citizen Kane in the Internet Movie Database (English)
  55. Citizen Kane. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed March 2, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  56. Bosley Crowther ( Memento of the original from January 3, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. in the New York Times , May 2, 1941  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  57. ^ Der Spiegel , March 14, 1962
  58. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times , May 24, 1998
  59. Mediaculture online ( Memento of the original from September 10, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , quoted from Metzler Filmlexikon. JB Metzler Verlag, Stuttgart / Weimar 1995 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  60. Ronald Bergan: The greatest movie ever made. Isn't it? , The Guardian , May 21, 1999
  61. Tookeys Film Guide ( Memento of the original from September 22, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  62. F.-M. Helmets on
  63. ^ Adolf Heinzlmeier, Berndt Schulz: Lexicon "Films on TV" . Extended new edition. Rasch and Röhring, Hamburg 1990, ISBN 3-89136-392-3 , p. 130
  64. Movie Site: Citizen Kane
  65. American Film Institute: 100 Greatest American Movies of all Time
  66. ^ American Film Institute: 100 Movie Quotes
  67. 2009 ( Memento of the original from October 7, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /