The titular protagonist of the film, played by Orson Welles. The plot of Citizen Kane follows a journalist as he tries to make sense of "Rosebud" - this tycoon's dying word. Through the perspectives of the people closest to him, the film depicts Charles Foster Kane's journey from a man who had everything - wealth, power, connections, women - to an old, isolated man who dies alone in his massive, unfinished estate. Kane is considered to have been based on publisher William Randolph Hearst as well as Welles himself - both men of considerable ego and hunger for influence. Kane's rise and fall is a uniquely American tale of humble beginnings, enormous wealth and the corrupting nature of power. Rosebud is his boyhood sled, a symbol of the innocence he lost. Younger Kane is played by Buddy Swan.
Susan Alexander Kane
Susan Alexander (Kane) is played by Dorothy Comingore. She is Charles Foster Kane's second wife, a failed opera singer who, during the film's present day, is the alcoholic owner of the El Rancho in Atlantic City. In comparison to Kane's first wife, Susan is portrayed as common. As her relationship with Kane deteriorates, she becomes increasingly shrill yet also sympathetic.
One of Charles Foster Kane's closest colleagues in the early days of the Inquirer, played by Joseph Cotten. Kane and Leland have a falling-out and lose touch later in life. During the present-day of Citizen Kane, Leland is confined to a wheelchair in a hospital. Leland proves to be a more noble man than his closest friend - and he ultimately sticks to his principles.
Also known as Mrs. Kane, played by Agnes Moorehead. She is Charles Foster Kane's mother who, after inheriting a valuable deed to a goldmine, sends her son away with his new trustee so he can have a better life - away from his abusive father.
Jerry Thompson, played by William Alland, is the reporter assigned to find out the meaning of "Rosebud". He is only ever shown in shadows or with his back to the camera.
Jim W. Gettys
"The Boss", and the corrupt incumbent Governor of New York, Played by Ray Collins. He successfully blackmails Charles Foster Kane in order to hold onto his position.
Walter Parks Thatcher
Charles Foster Kane's guardian, played by George Couloris. He is the trustee of Kane's sizable fortune until Kane turns 25 and can manage it himself. Mr. Thatcher is a proponent of capitalism and big business, which he and Charles clash on frequently - ultimately leading Thatcher to label Kane a 'communist'.
Charles Foster Kane's father, played by Harry Shannon. A simple man who clearly cares for his son, but also has a fiery temper and is prone to violence.
Charles Foster Kane's General Manager, played by Everett Sloane. He is a steadfast supporter of his boss, outspoken and quirky.
Charles Foster Kane's first wife, played by Ruth Warrick. She is the president's niece and mostly detached from her husband's work and political aspirations. She is also the mother of Charles Foster Kane's only child, Junior. Both mother and son perish in a car accident shortly after Emily leaves Charles.
Susan Alexander Kane's Italian singing instructor, played by Fortunio Bonanova, who believes that Susan has no talent for music. Nevertheless, Charles Foster Kane forces Matisti to continue his lessons.
Charles Foster Kane and Emily Norton's only child, a son, who dies in a car accident with his mother.
Herbert Carter is played by Erskine Sanford. He is the editor of the New York Inquirer when Charles Foster Kane buys it, but is frustrated by Kane's desire to turn the paper into a tabloid.
Charles Foster Kane's butler in his last years, as well as the caretaker of Xanadu, played by Paul Stewart.
Gregg Toland (Cinematographer)
The immensely talented cinematographer of Citizen Kane who had won an Oscar for Wuthering Heights only months before accepting the job on Kane. He suggested many of the Expressionist techniques that appear in Citizen Kane. Toland once said, "Photographing Citizen Kane was the most exciting professional adventure of my career" (Kael 113). The collaboration between Welles and Toland on Kane is still considered "a defining moment... in the evolution of the visual language of film" (Ettedgui 9).
Herman Mankiewicz (Co-Screenwriter)
The only Oscar that Citizen Kane won was for Screenplay, which Mankiewicz and Welles shared. When he worked on Kane, Mankiewicz was a renowned screenwriter (with credits like The Wizard of Oz and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and former journalist for the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Chicago Tribune. Pauline Kael famously argued that Mankiewicz was responsible for the Citizen Kane screenplay, which Welles disputed. Besides his wisecracking, Mankiewicz was also known for his alcoholism and his clumsiness.
Citizen Kane Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Citizen Kane is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Kane and Emily's marriage is cold and empty. Emily has no interest in her husband's work or political aspirations. Emily leaves her husband shortly before her death. Kane and Emily's son dies in the car accident alongside his mother.
Citizen Kane is all about continuity. The film's plot is circular rather than linear. Each successive story about Charles Foster Kane flows into the next one giving the viewer perspective on his life never attempted in cinema before.