Citizen Kane A Study In Success, Or Lack Thereof Essay, Research Paper
A success as a publisher, a failure at life. Such is the sad legacy of fictional newspaper mogul Charles Foster Kane. Orson Wells masterpiece allows us a candid overview of the life and conquests of an early twentieth century media giant, a character based substantially on William Randolph Hurst.
Kane, the only child of simple Midwestern peseant class couple, finds himself thrust into a new world of fortune and destiny when a family holding turns profitable. Kane is adopted by savvy investor Walter Parks Thatcher (portrayed by George Coulouris), and given access to a first rate education. His fortune continues to grow. As he comes of age, he developes a passion for newspaper publishing, and purchases a newspaper of his own to satiate his infatuation with print. He brings an altogether new attitude to the paper and its staff, embracing a sensationalistic portrayal of the news, where his predecessor had clung to convention. The revolutionary approach proves popular, and sales soon eclipse those of the formerly abomidable competition. As his sales grow, so does his influence, which in turn stimulates his ever more grandiose aspirations. He meets Emily Warton (Ruth Warrick), the niece of the current president, and is married after a short courtship. The marige is an unhappy one. Kane becomes increasingly self absorbed, riding high on public adulation which he hopes will carry him to the govornorship, and perhaps further. His high hopes, and his mairrage were finally dashed when his affair with aspiring singer Susan Alexander was exposed. He weds the singer, the mairrage fails, and Kane lives his remaining years a recluse in the giant mansion he built for Susan.
The thread which holds together the otherwise hyper temporal flash forwards is a clever plot device which creates an astonishingly simple framework around which we are left to watch, and put together the pieces. The puzzle is entitled Rosebud. Kane s dying word arouses the interest of an intrepid group of newsreel journalists. Their interviews of Kane s bereft gave opportunity to engage in a series of expository flashbacks to various stages of his life. The true meaning of Rosebud is not revealed until the very end of the film, in a present time scene which harkens back to a poignant childhood flashback near the beginning of the film. The true significance is not explained, but implied.
The cinematic style of chief photographer Gregg Tolland broke new ground, incorporating fades, dissolves, and unconventional camera angles to eccentuate, or in some cases, subdo elements of the film. For example, Tollend used the relatively new effect of the dissolve to create seemless transitions from scene to scene. He also utilized a low angle shot to effectively aggrandize Kane, thus providing subtle visual reenforcement of the idea of Kane as a powerful presence.
The film is a study in the contrast between outward success, or how ones life is perceived based on one s worldly accomplishments, and inner success, or one s personal piece of mind. Charles Foster Kane seemed larger than life outwardly, a multi millionaire, a man of profound influence, loved and hated, but always a household name. In his personal life, however, he seemed torn by opposing forces. He desired the love of the people, but in its persuit he sacrificed his once loving marriage. As he endevours to love the singer, he loses the love of his constituency. All throughout, he misses the innocent bliss of his childhood. So poor Charles Foster Kane dies a failure at life, his fa ade of success crumbling around him, his lofty dreams left unrealized, as the stark unfinished corridors of xanidu witness his final introspection.