Citizen Kane: The Classic Film That Revolutionized Cinema

Citizen Kane 1941: Sins of a Tycoon Exposed in a Brilliant Film that Revolutionized Cinema History

Last updated on September 24th, 2023 at 10:37 am

Citizen Kane is a 1941 American drama film directed and produced by Orson Welles, who also co-wrote, starred in, and edited the film. The film follows the life of Charles Foster Kane, a powerful and wealthy newspaper tycoon who rises to fame and fortune, but ultimately falls from grace as he becomes more and more isolated and unhappy.

Citizen Kane is widely considered one of the greatest films ever made and is known for its innovative use of flashbacks and non-linear storytelling, as well as its powerful performances and technical achievements.


Charles Foster Kane is a fictional character that is slightly based on the life of William Randolph Hearst. Hearst was an American businessman, newspaper publisher, and politician known for developing the nation’s largest newspaper chain and yellow journalism. Circulation of the newspaper by featuring sensationalism, human interest, crime, sex, corruption, and innuendo was his main objective.

The film begins with Kane’s death and the search for the meaning of his last word, “Rosebud.” The story then unfolds through a series of flashbacks and interviews with those who knew Kane best, including his best friend, his wife, and his business associates. The film ends with the revelation that “Rosebud” was the name of the glass ball Kane had as a child and symbolizes the innocence and happiness he lost as he rose to power.

As the story unfolds, we learn about Kane’s humble beginnings as an orphan who is taken in by a wealthy mining tycoon, who raises him as his own and gives him a vast fortune. Kane uses this fortune to build a powerful newspaper empire and becomes a powerful political figure.

Acted by Dorothy Comingore (Susan Alexander Kane), Agnes (Mary Kane) Moorehead, Ruth Warrick, Ray Collins, Orson Welles (Charles Kane), Joseph Cotten (Jedediah Leland), Ruth Warrick (Emily Monroe Norton Kane) and others, Citizen Kane 1941 is number 1 film of 100 best of American Film Institute, number 2 film of the British Film Institute, 4th best film of all time according to Cinemarealm and was enlisted in National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 1989.

Citizen Kane portrays the rise and fall of a publishing tycoon in America. However, Kane’s ambition and desire for power lead him to become increasingly ruthless and isolated. He alienates those closest to him, including his wife and best friend, and ultimately dies alone and unhappy. This is one of the 101 best films of 100 years of my listing.


Charles Foster Kane of Citizen Kane film 1941 died in his pleasure dome, Xanadu. He let his glass ball go off, which he was holding dearly, and uttered his dying word ‘Rosebud’. The rest of the 1941 drama film evolved around the Rosebud that revealed, gradually, story after story about the life of a newspaper tycoon of the USA and how he built his estate empire.

Like most Mongol emperors, Kublai Khan’s pleasure dome Xanadu, about which in 1275 the traveller Marco Polo described to have “the rooms of which are all gilt and painted with figures of men and beasts and birds, and with a variety of trees and flowers, all executed with such exquisite art that you regard them with delight and astonishment”, Kane’s Xanadu lacks nothing of the sort. Samuel Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan opens as:

“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea”

Citizen Kane-1941 starts with a short narration. The narrator narrates that Kane of Florida built a private pleasure ground as legendary as the Xanadu of Kublai Khan. On a private mountain of Florida’s Golf Coast, he built America’s Xanadu with one hundred thousand trees, twenty thousand tons of marble. Among the collections contain paintings, pictures, statues, various stones of other palaces, Spanish furniture, jigsaw puzzles, the fowl of the air, the fish of the sea the beast of the field and the jungle.

So big was Kane’s Xanadu that it is enough for 10 museums, the loot of the world, and the biggest private zoo since Noah. Like the pharaohs, the narrator narrates, “Xanadu’s landlord leaves many stones to mark his grave. Since the pyramids, Xanadu is the costliest monument a man has built to himself”.

Known as America’s Kublai Khan and landlord of Xanadu, Charles Foster Kane, the greatest newspaper tycoon of any other generation, he won 37 newspapers- while Hearst 30- and two syndicates, a radio network, apartment buildings, factories, forests, ocean liners, an empire upon the empire.

The rise and fall of Kane

A boarding housekeeper and a defaulting boarder Mary Kane, Kane’s mother–married to a comparatively older man–gave away her abandoned mineshaft, The Colorado Lode, for 50,000 dollars a year to be given to her and Kane. Walter Thatcher of Thatcher and Company, promised his education and complete possession of the property on his 25 birthday. She made Thatcher a new guardian of Kane and was taken to Chicago. On the other hand, Heart’s father was a millionaire and a gold mining engineer from San Francisco.

After Kane’s death, Newsreel was trying to cover the life of Kane and his ascension to glory. So, doing the reporters decided to find out the meaning of his last word: Rosebud. The newspapers sensationalised his death. Mr. Thompson, the reporter went to anyone who possibly came close to him including his second wife Susan Alexander, his friends, colleagues, and the memoire of Walter Thatcher in Walter Thatcher Library.

Kane's second wife Susan Alexander
Kane with his second wife Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore) in Citizen Kane film.

Right after Kane’s death Mr. Thompson first went to his second divorced singer wife Susan Alexander. Bereaved and mournful she refused to talk to anyone about anything. Therefore, he was led to the Thatcher Library. Walter P. Thatcher’s memoir reads that on his 25th birthday, Thatcher wrote a letter to Kane about his full responsibility of Thatcher and Company, the world’s largest private fortune.

But Kane wrote, “Dear Mr. Thatcher.” Sorry, I’m not interested in gold mines, oil wells, shipping or real estate. One item on your list intrigues me: The New York Inquirer. Don’t sell it. I am coming back to take charge. I think it would be fun to run a newspaper”. The New York Inquirer was a dying daily, in a ramshackle building where Kane’s fortune began with full editorial control of it.

Mr. Thompson read in the memoir that, after taking charge of The New York Inquirer, he began his yellow journalism. although Mr. Thomson did not find anything about Rosebud, what he was all up to unearth.

Without much information he then Mr. Thompson went to Mr. Bernstein, Kane’s General Manager. He recalled Jed Leland, his long-time friend, and who had been with Kane from the very day he took over the newspaper.

Mr. Bernstein told how Kane came up with the idea of the Declaration of Principles which he published on the front page after he forcefully took over The New York Inquirer from the previous editor.

“There’s something I’ve got to get into this paper besides pictures and print”, recalled Bernstein saying, Kane. “I’ve got to make the New York Inquirer as important to New York as the gas in that light” which he did by sensationalising news with sex, crime, and innuendo and presenting the truth warped manner.”

“His Declaration of Principles on the front page bears, “I’ll provide the people of this city with a daily paper that will tell all the news honestly. I will also provide, that people will know who’s responsible and they’ll get the truth in the Inquirer, quickly, simply and entertainingly. No special interests will be allowed to interfere with that truth”.

The next day Inquirer circulated 26,000 copies. But Kane declared to buy off all the staff of the Chronicle which took for it 20 years to reach 500,000 circulations. Once they were taken to The New York Inquirer, its circulation leapt as much as 684000 the next morning. Kane flew to Paris for a vacation after a ‘success celebration’.

Mr. Bernstein remembered that 467 employees of the New York Inquire welcomed him as he returned from France. on the event, while all employees were waiting to receive him with a big trophy, he let them know that could not accept the party because he did not have time.

But he told, by giving a note, the social editor of the new paper to publish a social announcement, that he is going to be engaged with Mrs Emily Norton, niece to the president of the USA.

Charles Forter Kane with his first wife Emily Norton Kane
Kane with his first wife Emily Monroe Norton Kane (Ruth Warich) and son Kane III (Sonny Bupp) in Citizen Kane film.

Mr. Bernstein told Mr. Thompson that it is not Emily whom he would call ‘Rosebud’. He rather suggested that the ‘Rosebud’ they were looking for might be something he lost, not someone lost or loved. He then started to find out about Kane’s friend, Mr. Jedediah Leland.

Mr. Thompson, however, found Jed Leland in a hospital. He remembered to Thompson, “I was his oldest friend, and as far as I was concerned, he behaved like a swine. Not that Charlie was ever brutal. He just did brutal things”.

Mr. Thompson asked him if he knew anything about Kane’s dying word: Rosebud. Instead, Mr. Leland recalled Kane’s first love, Emily Norton. He said even though they were happily married they got into a rivalry because of what Kane would print in his newspaper, attacking her president uncle.

Over time, their interests parted, she for the president, and him against the president. She would read a different daily in front of him while Kane basked at his brainchild, The New York Inquirer. Emily despised his footing in political affairs.

Kane ran for the governor of the state with the purpose of defeating a professional politician Boss Jim W. Gettys, which he said would do by making public his dishonesty, the downright villainy and his political machine. In his election campaign, Kane severely attacked to sway voters.

Mr. Leland revisits that, in the meantime, Kane accidentally fell in love with Susan Alexander, a singer with minimal singing talent. Jim Gettys just did not let slip his chance through Kane’s fingers. He went as far as to exploit their affair as a political ploy against Kane.

Jim Gettys made Susan write a threatening note to Kane’s wife Emily: “Serious consequences for Kane, for you and your Son”. With the note Emily, after a campaign, forced him to meet with Jim Gettys to deal with the matter in a nearby house where Susan was present.

Gettys demanded Kane that unless Kane decides by the next day that he is ill and has gone away for a year, all the newspapers of the state, except Kane’s, will carry the story that gives. The story about Kane and Susan.

Emily implored Kane to listen to ‘reason’ and do what Gettys had said. Susan too told him to consider his family instead of the concerns and love of the voters of the state. But Kane declared that “There’s only one person in the world to decide what I’ll do. And that’s me. I’m Charles Foster Kane! I’m no cheap, crooked politician trying to save himself from the consequences of his crimes!” Emily left, divorced and died with her son in a car accident, alter.

The next morning the newspapers of the state carried the love story between Kane and Susan Alexander, the singer. Still, Kane remained unrelenting about the election.

Defeated, Kane plunged in the deep prostration. His long-standing friend Jed Leland blamed Susan for his defeat. The next day his newspaper carried a headline that the election fraudulence was responsible for his defeat. And Jed Leland told him that he wanted to work with a different daily, The Chicago.

Mr. Leland recalled that Kane married Susan afterwards. As per her wish of becoming an opera singer he built her an Opera House expending millions. And Kane fired Jedidiah after finding him asleep drunk on his typewriter in his office while writing a review for The New York Inquirer criticising the musical talent of Susan Alexander.

After Leland Thompson went back to Susan again and trying to quiz information about Kane and his dying word. She recalled how they were separated during a picnic after a few days Jed Leland published an editorial note about her musical talent. During a picnic, Susan complained to Kane that he never had given her anything that she wanted.

She objected that there is no difference between giving her something and giving away 1,000 dollars for a statue, and she never wanted him to build an opera house for her. It was rather his idea to win her love for him. It is just the money which does not mean anything, but all the time he was trying to buy her by giving her something.

But Kane replied with a furious voice, “Whatever I do, I do because I love you”. She told the reporter that she left Kane in the picnic after he slapped her in the face.

What is Rosebud in Citizen Kane?

Without having anything about, ‘Rosebud’, Mr. Thompson went to Xanadu to meet with its caretaker. He recollected that after Susan had left him, he became frustrated and started breaking and throwing things inside the room and picked up the glass globe and uttered ‘Rosebud’.

He said ‘Rosebud’ was nothing but the name of a glass ball, one of the collections of many things. he liked to collect anything and everything. statues of Venus, a Burmese temple, a Spanish ceiling, paintings, and toys. He was a man who got everything he wanted and then lost it.

To conclude, when men came and started auctioning and incineration the contents of Xanadu, a piece of furniture printed ‘Rosebud’ was seen burning in the fire. A man who was so mad in collecting things ended up holding a thing that meant nothing to anyone. A glass ball and a piece of furniture by the name of ‘Rosebud’ became his dying word.

“He couldn’t get or something he lost. I don’t think any word can explain a man’s life”, says one of the employees of the insurer. after his death, the collections of million-dollar worth were thrown in the fire and regarded as junk. In fact, the mystery behind ‘Rosebud’ revealed the mystery of Kane’s life.

Citizen Kane quotes

There are some marvellous quotes from the film. The following are a few of them.

Well, it’s no trick to make a lot of money. if all you want is to make a lot of money. You take Mr. Kane. It wasn’t money he wanted”.

Charles Forter Kane, Citizen Kane 1941

“Just old age. It’s the only disease that you don’t look forward to being cured of”. “The greatest curses ever inflicted on the human race: Memory”.

“My reasons satisfy me, Susan.”

“Yes. Dear Wheeler: You provide the prose poems; I’ll provide the war”.


Even though Citizen Kane 1941 has been considered one of the 100 best films of the time, many may find it unentertaining. It is just a life story of a man who happened to change the history of American politics through newspapers.

Citizen Kane 1941 tells us how the general public can be subjects of the newspaper business. It also tells how news media can be used to exploit public sentiment for personal gains.

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