Citizen Kane

Pre-production

Development

Hollywood had shown interest in Welles as early as 1936.[3]:40 He turned down three scripts sent to him by Warner Bros. In 1937, he declined offers from David O. Selznick, who asked him to head his film company's story department, and William Wyler, who wanted him for a supporting role in Wuthering Heights. "Although the possibility of making huge amounts of money in Hollywood greatly attracted him," wrote biographer Frank Brady, "he was still totally, hopelessly, insanely in love with the theater, and it is there that he had every intention of remaining to make his mark."[4]:118–119, 130

Following "The War of the Worlds" broadcast of his CBS radio series The Mercury Theatre on the Air, Welles was lured to Hollywood with a remarkable contract.[5]:1–2, 153 RKO Pictures studio head George J. Schaefer wanted to work with Welles after the notorious broadcast, believing that Welles had a gift for attracting mass attention.[6]:170 RKO was also uncharacteristically profitable and was entering into a series of independent production contracts that would add more artistically prestigious films to its roster.[5]:1–2, 153 Throughout the spring and early summer of 1939, Schaffer constantly tried to lure the reluctant Welles to Hollywood.[6]:170 Welles was in financial trouble after failure of his plays Five Kings and The Green Goddess. At first he simply wanted to spend three months in Hollywood and earn enough money to pay his debts and fund his next theatrical season.[6]:170 Welles first arrived on July 20, 1939[6]:168 and on his first tour, he called the movie studio "the greatest electric train set a boy ever had".[6]:174

Welles signed his contract with RKO on August 21. This legendary contract stipulated that Welles would act in, direct, produce and write two films. Mercury would get $100,000 for first film by January 1, 1940, plus 20% of profits after RKO recouped $500,000, and $125,000 for second film by January 1, 1941, plus 20% of profits after RKO recouped $500,000. The most controversial aspect of the contract was granting Welles complete artistic control of the two films so long as RKO approved both project's stories[6]:169 and so long so the budget did not exceed $500,000.[5]:1–2, 153 RKO executives would not be allowed to see any footage until Welles chose to show it to them, and no cuts could be made to either film without Welles’s approval.[6]:169 Welles was allowed to develop the story without interference, select his own cast and crew, and have the right of final cut. Granting final cut privilege was unprecedented for a studio since it placed artistic considerations over financial investment. The contract was deeply resented in the film industry, and the Hollywood press took every opportunity to mock RKO and Welles. Schaefer remained a great supporter[5]:1–2, 153 and saw the unprecedented contract as good publicity.[6]:170 Film scholar Robert L. Carringer wrote: "The simple fact seems to be that Schaefer believed Welles was going to pull off something really big almost as much as Welles did himself."[5]:1–2, 153

Welles spent the first five months of his RKO contract trying to get his first project going, without success. "They are laying bets over on the RKO lot that the Orson Welles deal will end up without Orson ever doing a picture there," wrote The Hollywood Reporter.[5]:15 It was agreed that Welles would film Heart of Darkness, previously adapted for The Mercury Theatre on the Air, which would be presented entirely through a first-person camera. After elaborate pre-production and a day of test shooting with a hand-held camera — unheard of at the time — the project never reached production because Welles was unable to trim $50,000 from its budget.[a][b][7]:30–31 Schaefer told Welles that the $500,000 budget could not be exceeded; revenue was declining sharply in Europe by the fall of 1939.[4]:215–216

He then started work on the idea that became Citizen Kane. Knowing the script would take time to prepare, Welles suggested to RKO that while that was being done — "so the year wouldn't be lost" — he make a humorous political thriller. Welles proposed The Smiler with a Knife, from a novel by Cecil Day-Lewis.[7]:33–34 When that project stalled in December 1939, Welles began brainstorming other story ideas with screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who had been writing Mercury radio scripts. "Arguing, inventing, discarding, these two powerful, headstrong, dazzlingly articulate personalities thrashed toward Kane", wrote biographer Richard Meryman.[8]:245–246

Screenplay

Mankiewicz as co-writer

Herman J. Mankiewicz was a notorious personality in Hollywood.[9]:12 "His behavior, public and private, was a scandal," wrote John Houseman. "A neurotic drinker and a compulsive gambler, he was also one of the most intelligent, informed, witty, humane and charming men I have ever known."[10]:447 Welles told Peter Bogdanovich that "Nobody was more miserable, more bitter, and funnier than Mank ... a perfect monument of self-destruction. But, you know, when the bitterness wasn't focused straight at you, he was the best company in the world."[7]:52–53

Welles admired Mankiewicz, and had met him in New York in 1938[4]:234 at the time of the Mercury Theatre's Broadway successes. In September 1939[8]:244 Welles visited Mankiewicz while he was hospitalized in Los Angeles after a car accident, and offered him a job writing scripts for the Mercury Theatre's show on CBS radio, The Campbell Playhouse. "I felt it would be useless," Welles said later, "because of Mank's general uselessness many times in the studios. But I thought, 'We'll see what he comes up with.'" Mankiewicz proved very useful, particularly working with Houseman as editor,[8]:240–242 and wrote five scripts for Campbell Playhouse shows broadcast between November 12, 1939, and March 17, 1940.[c][11]:98 Houseman and Welles were partners in the Mercury Theatre,[7]:55 but when Mercury productions moved from New York to California the partnership ended and Houseman became an employee, working primarily as supervising editor on the radio shows.[12]:88 In December 1939, after a violent quarrel with Welles over finances, Houseman resigned and returned to New York.[7]:356 To Welles, his departure was a relief.[6]:235–236[11]:504–505

In late December the RKO executive board all but ordered Schaefer to stop paying salaries to the Mercury staff until Welles submitted an acceptable script and set a start date for filming.[4]:235 Over the next five weeks Welles spent many long evenings brainstorming plot ideas in the bedroom of the small rented house where Mankiewicz was in traction with his shattered leg.[8]:245–246 Mankiewicz testified in a court proceeding a few years later that the idea for the film began with a March of Time-style sequence that set out the life of a particular character whose life would then be the subject of the film.[4]:235 Welles later said the germinal idea was to create a posthumous portrait of a man through many points of view, in the recollections of those who knew him.[d][4]:246 "I'd been nursing an old notion," Welles told Bogdanovich, "the idea of telling the same thing several times – and showing exactly the same thing from wholly different points of view. Basically, the idea Rashomon used later on. Mank liked it, so we started searching for the man it was going to be about. Some big American figure – couldn’t be a politician, because you’d have to pinpoint him. Howard Hughes was the first idea. But we got pretty quickly to the press lords."[7]:53

Welles and Mankiewicz soon settled on the idea of using newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst as their central character.[13]:484 By late January their disagreements over plot details were more frequent and their collaboration less creative. "That's why I left him on his own, finally," Welles said later, "because we'd started to waste too much time haggling."[7]:54 In February 1940,[10]:444, 448 Welles arranged a lunch at New York's 21 Club and persuaded Houseman to return to California. He was hired to supervise Mankiewicz as he put a rough draft on paper.[6]:185

On February 19, 1940, Mankiewicz signed a contract with Mercury Productions to work on the screenplay.[7]:359 He would receive $1,000 a week for his work as long as he was not "incapacitated by illness or any other reasons",[4]:236 and would be paid a $5,000 bonus on delivery of the script.[5]:17 Mankiewicz was to receive no credit for his work as he was hired as a script doctor; a similar clause was present in the writers' contracts for The Campbell Playhouse.[13]:487 Mankiewicz was advised by his agents, Columbia Management of California, and before he signed the contract it was again made clear that all credit for his work belonged to Welles and the Mercury Theatre, the "author and creator".[4]:236–237 Welles hesitated to officially agree to give Mankiewicz credit. His contract with RKO stated that the film would be produced, directed, performed and written by Welles, and his "boy wonder" persona had great publicity value for the studio.[4]:236 Welles's attorney, Arnold Weissberger, did not want to give RKO any cause to break Welles's contract should they wish to promote the film as solely his work. The contract with Mankiewicz left the matter of his receiving credit open; Welles's correspondence with his lawyer indicated that he did not wish to deny credit to Mankiewicz.[6]:202

After he came to agreement with Welles on the story line and character,[7]:54 Mankiewicz was given the job of writing the first draft that Welles could rework.[6]:185 In the last week of February or the first week of March 1940,[5]:17 Mankiewicz retreated to the historic Verde ranch on the Mojave River in Victorville, California, to began working on the script.[9]:32[14]:221 Welles wanted the work done as inconspicuously as possible,[5]:17 and the Campbell Ranch offered the additional advantage of prohibiting alcohol. Mankiewicz was accompanied by a nurse, secretary Rita Alexander, Houseman, and a 300-page rough script of the project that Welles had written. The preliminary work consisted of dialogue and some camera instructions.[4]:237[8]:252 Author Clinton Heylin wrote that Mankiewicz "… probably believed that Welles had little experience as an original scriptwriter … [and] may even have felt that John Citizen, USA, Welles's working title, was a project he could make his own."[15]:43

Mankiewicz and Houseman worked together in seclusion at the Campbell Ranch for 12 weeks.[4]:237 Houseman was to serve as editor, Carringer noted, "but part of his job was to ride herd on Mankiewicz, whose drinking habits were legendary and whose screenwriting credentials unfortunately did not include a reputation for seeing things through." There was continual communication with Welles,[16]:81 and Houseman often travelled to Los Angeles to confer with him. Welles visited the ranch occasionally to check on their progress and offer direction.[4]:237 With his own secretary, Katherine Trosper, Welles was reworking the draft pages in Hollywood. These pages were given to RKO script supervisor Amalia Kent, who broke the material down in continuity form for the production units.[16]:81–82 Welles respected her for her service on the unproduced Heart of Darkness script.[16]:119 Welles came to suspect that Houseman had turned Mankiewicz against him.[6]:213 "When Mank left for Victorville, we were friends. When he came back, we were enemies," Welles told Meryman. "Mank always needed a villain."[8]:260

Ideas and collaboration

For some time, Mankiewicz had wanted to write a screenplay about a public figure – perhaps a gangster – whose story would be told by the people that knew him.[13]:484 In the mid-1930s Mankiewicz had written the first act of an unproduced play about John Dillinger, titled The Tree Will Grow.[11]:132 "It was something [Mankiewicz] had been thinking about for years," Houseman wrote, “the idea of telling a man’s private life (preferably one that suggested a recognizable American figure), immediately following his death, through the intimate and often incompatible testimony of those who had known him at different times and in different circumstances.”[10]:448–449

Welles himself had worked with the concept. As a teenager in 1932 he wrote a play about the life of abolitionist John Brown called Marching Song. Like that of Citizen Kane, the play’s plot is structured around a journalist attempting to understand Brown by interviewing people who knew him and have different perspectives on him. The plot device of the unseen journalist Thompson in Citizen Kane is also reminiscent of the unseen Marlow in Welles's proposed film Heart of Darkness, in which the narrator's point of view is that of the audience.[6]:55, 184–185 "Orson was from Chicago," said the Mercury Theatre's Richard Wilson, "and I believe he was as much influenced by Samuel Insull and Colonel Robert McCormick as he was by the figure of Hearst."[17]:6 Roger Hill, head of the Todd Seminary for Boys and Welles's mentor and lifelong friend, wrote that Welles once told him about a project he was considering: "He had outlined to me, years earlier, a plan for a stage play based on the life an American tycoon who would be a composite of Insull, McCormick and Hearst."[18]:111 Hill said that even as a boy Welles was interested in the lives of the controversial tycoons: "He sensed, even then, the theatrical impact that could be gained in assaulting, and possibly toppling, giants," wrote Brady.[4]:230

Welles did not know Hearst, but he knew much about him through drama critic Ashton Stevens.[7]:44 He also said that his father and Hearst knew each other.[4]:230[7]:66 When Welles arrived in Hollywood in 1939 everyone was talking about Aldous Huxley's new book, After Many a Summer Dies a Swan, a novel that dealt with the film colony and seemed to be a portrait of Hearst. Welles was invited to celebrate Huxley's birthday at a party where the consensus was that the book could never be made into a film due to Hearst's influence.[4]:218–219 How much Huxley's book influenced Welles's choice of subject is unknown; Brady wrote that "a more personal coincidence, however, might have helped fuel the idea." Welles's first wife Virginia moved to Los Angeles shortly after their divorce,[4]:231–232[19] and on May 18, 1940, she married screenwriter Charles Lederer, favorite nephew of Hearst's mistress Marion Davies.[6]:204–205[20][e]

In his earlier years as a journalist, Mankiewicz sought political reporters who kept him up on gossip about Hearst, and he had even started to write a play about him.[8]:53, 72 Soon after moving to Hollywood in 1926,[8]:215 Mankiewicz met Hearst and Davies through his friendship with Lederer.[21]:20 "There were two castes in Hollywood," wrote biographer Richard Meryman, "those who had been guests at San Simeon and those who had not." Mankiewicz and his wife were part of the social set invited to Hearst Castle on several occasions.[8]:215 They were always given the same apartment in La Casa del Monte guest cottage[8]:214 — "like a little castle of our own," said Sara Mankiewicz.[8]:227 A celebrated wit, Mankiewicz was valued for his conversation and was seated near his hosts at dinner. He respected Hearst's knowledge and was privileged to be invited to his private office where he mingled with Hearst's editors and columnists.[8]:230 "For the first time Herman's Hollywood pleasure merged with his political scholarship", wrote Meryman.[8]:212

Described by biographer Simon Callow as "a keen student of power and its abuses",[13]:484 Mankiewicz was fascinated by Hearst,[8]:212 and Hearst in turn was interested in the former journalist with so much political knowledge.[8]:230 Mankiewicz and Lederer delighted in concocting facsimile newspapers that needled Hearst and his publications, for the amusement of Hearst and Davies.[8]:212–213 By 1936, however, Mankiewicz was no longer welcome in Hearst's circle due to his drinking and political arguments.[8]:231 "Mankiewicz, nursing his resentment, had subsequently become obsessed by both Hearst and Davies," Callow wrote, "collecting stories about them the way small boys collect stamps."[13]:484

Scripting

During March, April and early May 1940, Mankiewicz dictated the screenplay, titled American.[5]:17–18[7]:359 Welles re-wrote and revised an incomplete first draft given to him, dated April 16, and sent it back to Victorville.[6]:185 Forty-four revision pages dated April 28 were given to Welles.[5]:23 Mankiewicz and Houseman delivered the second draft, bearing a handwritten date of May 9,[16]:99 to Welles after finishing their work in Victorville. Mankiewicz immediately went to work on another project for MGM,[g][5]:24 and Houseman left for New York four days later.[8]:257

"Despite Houseman's description of himself and Herman paring every excess out of American, it was 325 pages long and outrageously overwritten, even for a first draft," wrote Meryman. "Houseman blandly ignores this fact. He implies that American, with only the conventional amount of polishing, was what was filmed."[8]:257 Welles had been editing and rewriting the script pages in Beverly Hills. With the Victorville script now in hand he cut it by some 75 pages, and added or revised more than 170 pages.[5]:26–27 "By far the most serious dramatic problem in American is its treatment of Kane," wrote Carringer.[16]:21 The RKO legal department warned Welles that it was too close a portrait of Hearst and that if the script was not changed a suit for libel or invasion of privacy was almost certain.[4]:244

"There is a quality in the film — much more than a vague perfume — that was Mank and that I treasured," Welles said. "It was a kind of controlled, cheerful virulence … I personally liked Kane, but I went with that. And that probably gave the picture a certain tension, the fact that one of the authors hated Kane and one loved him. But in his hatred of Hearst, or whoever Kane was, Mank didn't have a clear enough image of who the man was. Mank saw him simply as an egomaniac monster with all these people around him."[8]:260 Mankiewicz had made a study of Hearst over many years, and he had firsthand knowledge as one of his frequent guests at San Simeon; but he also drew on published accounts about Hearst for the script. "He always denied it," wrote Carringer, "but coincidences between American and Ferdinand Lundberg's Imperial Hearst are hard to explain." Welles removed a great deal of Mankiewicz's Hearst material, but Lundberg would eventually file suit nevertheless.[h][5]:21, 23

The fourth draft dated June 18 was the first to be titled Citizen Kane.[11]:102 The title was contributed by RKO studio chief George Schaefer,[7]:82 who was concerned that calling the film American would seem cynical and identify too closely with Hearst, whose newspapers included the American Weekly and the New York Journal-American.[i][4]:246 Mankiewicz and Houseman were put back on the Mercury payroll[8]:262 June 18–July 27,[5]:29–30 and continued to help revise the script.[4]:238 Dated July 16, 1940, the final shooting script was 156 pages.[16]:82, 114 "After seven complete revisions, Welles finally had what he wanted," wrote Brady.[4]:244 Carringer summarized:

Mankiewicz (with assistance from Houseman and with input from Welles) wrote the first two drafts. His principal contributions were the story frame, a cast of characters, various individual scenes, and a good share of the dialogue. … Welles added the narrative brilliance — the visual and verbal wit, the stylistic fluidity, and such stunningly original strokes as the newspaper montages and the breakfast table sequence. He also transformed Kane from a cardboard fictionalization of Hearst into a figure of mystery and epic magnificence. Citizen Kane is the only major Welles film on which the writing credit is shared. Not coincidentally, it is also the Welles film that has the strongest story, the most fully realized characters, and the most carefully sculpted dialogue. Mankiewicz made the difference.[5]:35

Welles called Mankiewicz's contribution to the script "enormous".[7]:52–53 He summarized the screenwriting process: "The initial ideas for this film and its basic structure were the result of direct collaboration between us; after this we separated and there were two screenplays: one written by Mr. Mankiewicz, in Victorville, and the other, in Beverly Hills, by myself. … The final version of the screenplay … was drawn from both sources."[7]:500[22]

In 1969, when he was interviewed for the official magazine of the Directors Guild of America, Houseman concurred with Welles's description of the scripting process: "He [Welles] added a great deal of material himself, and later he and Herman had a dreadful row over the screen credit. As far as I could judge, the co-billing was correct. The Citizen Kane script was the product of both of them."[17]:6

But at the same time, Houseman was stirring controversy, lunching with film critic Pauline Kael and giving Mankiewicz total credit for the creation of the script for Citizen Kane.[9]:32[11]:471[23] Carringer wrote that "in his lengthy account of the Victorville interlude, Houseman gives the impression that Mankiewicz started out with a clean slate, and that virtually everything in the Victorville drafts is Mankiewicz's original invention."[j][5]:18 Houseman would openly say that Mankiewicz deserved sole credit for writing the film for many years[24] — right up until his death — without explaining the contradictions present even in his own personal papers.[6]:204[7]:499–500

Authorship

One of the long-standing controversies about Citizen Kane has been the authorship of the screenplay.[8]:237 Mankiewicz was enraged when an August 1940 column by Louella Parsons quoted Welles as saying, " … and so I wrote Citizen Kane."[6]:201[13]:517 When RKO released the film in May 1941, the souvenir program included a double-page spread depicting Welles as "the four-most personality of motion pictures … author, producer, director, star."[8]:270[25] Mankiewicz wrote his father, "I'm particularly furious at the incredibly insolent description of how Orson wrote his masterpiece. The fact is that there isn't one single line in the picture that wasn't in writing – writing from and by me – before ever a camera turned."[8]:270

Mankiewicz had seen rushes of the film shortly before this and said he was unhappy with the footage. However, Mankiewicz's assessment of the footage was full of contradictions. He told Welles that there were "not enough standard movie conventions being observed" and that he disliked the theatricality and lack of close-ups in the film. But Mankiewicz also called the footage "magnificent" and said he like it "from an ascetical point of view." He also said that he thought the audience would not understand the film.[6]:204

Mankiewicz began threatening Welles to get credit for the film. This included threatening to post full-page ads in trade papers and getting his friend Ben Hecht to write an exposé about their collaboration in the Saturday Evening Post. Mankiewicz also threatened to go to the Screen Writers Guild and claim full credit for writing the entire script by himself. Welles biographer Barbara Leaming believes that Mankiewicz reacted this way out of fear of getting no credit at all.[6]:204

After lodging a protest with the Screen Writers Guild, Mankiewicz withdrew it, then vacillated. The question was resolved in January 1941 when RKO awarded Mankiewicz credit. The guild credit form listed Welles first, Mankiewicz second. Welles's assistant Richard Wilson said that the person who circled Mankiewicz's name in pencil, then drew an arrow that put it in first place, was Welles. The official credit reads, "Screenplay by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles".[8]:264–265

Mankiewicz's rancor toward Welles grew over the remaining 12 years of his life. Welles's irritation with Mankiewicz passed quickly, and he spoke of him with fondness.[11]:498

"One of the things that bound his friends to him was his extraordinary vulnerability," Welles told Mankiewicz's biographer. "He liked the attention he got as a great, monumental self-destructing machine. That was his role, and he played it to the hilt. He was a performer, as I think all very sucessful personalities are. He couldn’t be affectionate or loving outside his family. You never felt you were basking in the warmth of his friendship. So it was his vulnerability that brought the warmth out from the friends. And people loved him. Loved him. That terrible vulnerability. That terrible wreck."[8]:168

Welles further said this to Mankiewicz's biographer: "I have only one real enemy in my life that I know about, and that is John Houseman. Everything begins and ends with that hostility behind the mandarin benevolence."[8]:255

"Raising Kane"

Questions over the authorship of the Citizen Kane screenplay were revived in 1971 by influential film critic Pauline Kael,[7]:494 whose controversial 50,000-word essay "Raising Kane" was printed in two consecutive issues of The New Yorker and subsequently as a long introduction to the shooting script in The Citizen Kane Book.[21] Kael's unacknowledged primary source was Houseman.[k][6]:203–204

"The major focus of Kael's essay is its defense and celebration of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as the principal, neglected creative force behind Kane," wrote film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum. "According to Kael, the script was written almost entirely by Mankiewicz, and Welles had actively plotted to deprive him of any screen credit."[7]:494

Without ever crediting him Kael used the research and interviews of Dr. Howard Suber, an assistant professor at UCLA, where she was a guest lecturer.[27]:30 She approached him in mid-1969 and offered him the chance to write a separate essay that would appear with hers in The Citizen Kane Book, and split the money. Suber extricated himself from an agreement to co-author an almost identical book with two fellow academics, and gave Kael his research. She sent him a check for something more than $375, half of the advance she was to be paid by Bantam Books, and he sent his essay to her. Kael dismissed Suber's repeated requests that she formalize their agreement and in time she stopped communicating with him. Suber was astonished to discover "Raising Kane" in The New Yorker in February 1971; he received no credit or further payment.[28]:157–161

"Significantly, no transcripts of Pauline's purported conversations with John Houseman, George Shaefer, or Rita Alexander have survived — perhaps because she took no notes," wrote Kael's biographer Brian Kellow. "The only research materials in her personal archive, housed at Indiana University's Lilly Library, are copies of Howard Suber's interviews."[28]:166[29] His interview with Sara Mankiewicz particularly confirmed Kael's thesis.[28]:160 Kael specifically did not interview Welles: "I already know what happened," she told Suber, "I don't have to talk to him."[28]:163

Kael credulously reported what she was told by Mankiewicz's secretary: "Mrs. Alexander, who took the dictation from Mankiewicz, from the first paragraph to the last, and then, when the first draft was completed and they all went back to Los Angeles, did the secretarial work at Mankiewicz’s house on the rewriting and the cuts, and who then handled the script at the studio until after the film was shot, says that Welles didn’t write (or dictate) one line of the shooting script of Citizen Kane."[21]:38 Kael did not interview Katherine Trosper, who worked as Welles's secretary from the script's rough draft through the completion of the film. When Bogdanovich repeated Kael's assertion that Mankiewicz was the sole author of the script, Trosper replied, "Then I'd like to know, what was all that stuff I was always typing for Mr. Welles?" Kael likewise did not interview associate producer Richard Baer, who stated that he himself was "in the room and saw" Welles writing important parts of the script.[30]:xxvi

Kael wrote that the idea to use Hearst as the basis for Kane was Mankiewicz's idea, a claim supported by Houseman.[5]:17 She reported that a former babysitter for the Mankiewicz family said that in 1925 she had typed portions of a screenplay Mankiewicz dictated to her that involved Hearst, organized in flashbacks.[21]:35 Welles claimed it was his idea, which was supported by Baer in sworn testimony taken at the time Citizen Kane was released.[5]:17[l]

Kael reported that Mankiewicz "probably didn’t get more than eight or nine thousand dollars for the whole job; according to the cost sheets for the movie, the screenplay cost was $34,195.24, which wasn’t much, even for that day, and the figure probably includes the salary and expenses of John Houseman and the others at Victorville."[21]:50 Mankiewicz was paid $22,833.35 for his work.[6]:202

Kael wrote that Mankiewicz "had ample proof of his authorship, and he took his evidence to the Screen Writers Guild and raised so much hell that Welles was forced to split the credit and take second place in the listing."[21]:38 Lederer, a source for Kael's essay, insisted that the credit never came to the Writers Guild for arbitration.[7]:499

Kael reported that before the film was finished, without Welles's knowledge, Mankiewicz gave the script to Lederer. "But Lederer, apparently, was deeply upset and took the script to his aunt and Hearst. It went from them to Hearst's lawyers … It was probably as a result of Mankiewicz's idiotic indiscretion that the various forces were set in motion that resulted in the cancellation of the premiere at the Radio City Music Hall [and] the commercial failure of Citizen Kane."[21]:45 Lederer said that Kael never bothered to check with him about the facts, that he did not give Davies the script Mankiewicz loaned him: "I gave it back to him. He asked me if I thought Marion would be offended and I said I didn't think so."[7]:557

Kael wrote that the production could not afford the fee to perform the opera called for in the script, Jules Massenet's Thaïs — a work written for Sibyl Sanderson, one of Hearst's mistresses — so composer Bernard Herrmann had to write something instead.[31]:79 "But Miss Kael never wrote or approached me to ask about the music," Herrmann said. "We could easily have afforded the fee. The point is that its lovely little strings would not have served the emotional purpose of the film." Herrmann disagreed with Kael's entire premise: "She tries to pretend that Welles is nothing and that a mediocre writer by the name of Mankiewicz was a hidden Voltaire. I'm not saying that Mankiewicz made no contribution … but he could not have created Citizen Kane."[32]

Kael also related a damaging anecdote from Nunnally Johnson, who said that during the filming of Citizen Kane Mankiewicz told him that Welles offered him, through a third party, a $10,000 bribe to relinquish screen credit. Mankiewicz, ever in need of money, was tempted by the offer. Mankiewicz reportedly said that Ben Hecht advised him to take the money and double-cross Welles. "I like to believe he did," Johnson replied when Kael asked if he believed the story. Kael left it at that: "It's not unlikely", she wrote.[21]:49–50 The unresearched rumor became part of the record.[7]:497[33]:91–92[34]:42:50–43:00

Attorney Arnold Weissberger advised Welles not to file suit for libel. Proving malice would be difficult; Welles was a public figure, and Kael's ideas were theories and matters of opinion. A complicating factor was that Welles was receiving a portion of the royalties of The Citizen Kane Book, which contained the script as well as Kael's essay. "As it turned out, much to his sorrow, the book sold extremely well and has been reprinted many times", wrote Brady.[4]:554

The mainstream press accepted Kael's flamboyant but unsubstantiated essay — an extension of her dispute with Andrew Sarris and the auteur theory — based on her credibility as one of the country's top film critics.[35]:206–207 New York Times reviewer Mordecai Richler praised Kael for "cutting Orson Welles down to size, denying his needlessly grandiose claim to having been solely responsible for everything that went into Kane, including the script and photography."[36]

"Raising Kane" angered many critics, most notably Bogdanovich, a close friend of Welles who rebutted Kael's claims in "The Kane Mutiny", an October 1972 article for Esquire.[m][n][37] Other rebuttals included articles by Sarris,[38] Joseph McBride[39] and Rosenbaum,[40] interviews with George Coulouris and Herrmann that appeared in Sight & Sound,[41] a definitive study of the scripts by Carringer[16] and remarks in Welles biographies by Leaming[6]:203–204 and Brady.[4]:553–554 Rosenbaum also reviewed the controversy in his editor's notes to This is Orson Welles (1992).[7]:494–501 Film historian Richard B. Jewell concluded that Welles deserves credit as the film's co-writer and that Kael's arguments are "one-sided and unsupported by the facts."[42]:164

"Orson was vigorously defended," wrote biographer Barton Whaley, "but in less prominently placed articles; so, again, the damage was immense and permanent."[11]:394

"'The Kane Mutiny' … did surprisingly little damage to Pauline's reputation", wrote Kellow. "It did, however, represent a serious breakdown of The New Yorker's fact-checking process."[28]:166

Decades after the controversy over the essay, Woody Allen told Bogdanovich that he had been with Kael immediately after she finished reading "The Kane Mutiny" in Esquire. Kael was shocked at the case made against her — including the revelation that she had taken credit for the work of Suber, something Bogdanovich learned through his own connections at UCLA. Kael asked Allen, "How am I going to answer this?"[28]:165–167

"She never responded," Bogdanovich wrote. He noted that Kael had included "Raising Kane" in a recent collection of her essays[43] — "untouched, as though these other people's testimony didn't count or exist, as though Welles's feelings or reputation didn't matter."[30]:xxvi–xxvii

By the time of Kael's death 30 years after its publication, "Raising Kane" was discredited.[44][45] Reviewing Kellow's biography for The New York Times, critic Frank Rich remarked on the fortuitous omission of the essay from the 2011 anthology, The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael. "'Raising Kane' was omitted from the Library of America volume for reasons of space … but Kellow's account suggests it should have been eliminated in any event for its improprieties."[46]

"The Scripts of Citizen Kane"

An essential article on the subject of authorship is Carringer's "The Scripts of Citizen Kane", first published in 1978.[16][47]:247 Rosenbaum observed that Carringer included only some of its facts in his subsequent book, The Making of Citizen Kane, and that the earlier essay is "the definitive and conclusive word on the issue of the script's authorship".[47]:18

Carringer likewise rebutted Kael's conclusions and refers to early script drafts with Welles's incorporated handwritten contributions, and mentions the issues raised by Kael rested on the evidence of an early draft which was mostly written by Mankiewicz. However Carringer points out that subsequent drafts clarified Welles's contribution to the script:

Fortunately enough evidence to settle the matter has survived. A virtually complete set of script records for Citizen Kane has been preserved in the archives of RKO General Pictures in Hollywood, and these provide almost a day-to-day record of the history of the scripting ... The full evidence reveals that Welles's contribution to the Citizen Kane script was not only substantial but definitive.[16]:80

Carringer notes that Mankiewicz' principal contribution was on the first two drafts of the screenplay, which he characterizes as being more like "rough gatherings" than actual drafts. The early drafts established "... the plot logic and laid down the overall story contours, established the main characters, and provided numerous scenes and lines that would eventually appear in one form or another in the film."[16]:115 However he also noted that Kane in the early draft remained a caricature of Hearst rather than the fully developed character of the final film. The main quality missing in the early drafts but present in the final film is "... the stylistic wit and fluidity that is the most engaging trait of the film itself."[16]:116

Carringer cites that Mankiewicz's main contribution was providing Welles with "… what any good first writer ought to be able to provide in such a case: a solid, durable story structure on which to build."[16]:117 Carringer considered that at least three scenes were solely Welles's work. After weighing both sides of the argument, he concluded, "We will probably never know for sure, but in any case Welles had at last found a subject with the right combination of monumentality, timeliness, and audacity."[5]:11, 149 Author Harlan Lebo agrees: "The years have fogged the precise origins of the original idea for Citizen Kane. … However, of far greater relevance is reaffirming the importance of the efforts that both men contributed to the creation of Hollywood's greatest motion picture."[9]:13, 32


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