And that, apparently, was where Welles messed up. His decision to portray Hearst's mistress as a worthless alcoholic rather than the talented and beloved figure she was at the time was what turned yet another satirical portrayal of a public figure into an all-out shitstorm.
There's no joke here. We just really love staring at pictures of Marion Davies.
Hearst was old, rich and powerful, and for a while there, he won. He bullied theaters by banning the ones that screened the film from advertising in his newspapers. Citizen Kane performed poorly at the box office, and the film was literally booed at every time it was mentioned at the Academy Awards in 1942. Like that time your drunk aunt and your sister's boyfriend took off for a three-hour drive in her pickup, Citizen Kane became the movie that everyone quietly swept under the carpet and never mentioned again.
Although your aunt nevertheless maintains the opinion that he was the greatest shag of all time.
At least, for about 15 years, which was how long it took for the world to realize they had been bamboozled by a media smear campaign. Today, it's just the opposite -- you can get skinned alive for trash-talking Citizen Kane.
But, here's the real twist of the story. In real life Hearst wasn't the reclusive, eccentric loner Charles Foster Kane was. He started charities, loved parties, loved life and apparently stuck by his lady friend until the day he died. You know who did become a reclusive, eccentric loner, right?
Welles, in trying to write the nastiest ending to Kane's/Hearst's life possible, wound up predicting his own fate. We're not sure if that's irony, or if on some level Welles knew things were going to end badly. How far did Welles fall from Kane? His final performance was as the voice of Unicron in the 1986 animated Transformers movie.
Still, between "Rosebud," and "You cannot destroy my destinyyyy," we know what we'd have as our final words.
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