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The Scroll

No. 19: Citizen Kane

Great American tragic hero

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(Getty Images)

1941, dir. Orson Welles. Contra Pauline Kael, co-writer Herman J. Mankiewicz was not the true auteur of the greatest American movie ever made, though Mankiewicz’s modest sensibility did temper Orson Welles’ bravado. But the most Jewish thing about Citizen Kane is Citizen Kane: The titular newspaper tycoon and politician was notoriously based on the real-life publisher William Randolph Hearst. But Welles and Mankiewicz wanted their Hearst to be a great American tragic hero, and the real Hearst, whose childhood was happy and who appeared motivated mostly by a petty rivalry with Joseph Pulitzer, didn’t fit the bill. So, less than two years after Freud’s death, Welles and Mankiewicz gave Kane extreme mother issues—when your mother is the divine Agnes Moorehead, you’re bound to have those—and, by temporarily separating him from his fortune, imbued him with a striving and sense of inferiority. Think about it: Immigrants, most often, are the ones with Rosebuds.

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No. 19: Citizen Kane

Great American tragic hero

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