It’s common knowledge that “Citizen Kane” is based on the life and times of William Randolph Hearst. So why did Orson Welles so vigorously try to deny it? Why in 1941 did “Citizen Kane,” arguably the greatest movie ever made, only play in one theater chain before being unceremoniously pulled from distribution? And why did William Randolph Hearst make it a point to attack Welles at every opportunity for as long as he lived?
The answer to all these questions is because of actress Marion Davies, the stunning screen siren turned lifelong companion of Hearst, whose legacy was attacked in the film and forever tarnished.
William Randolph Hearst wouldn’t have turned the other cheek for anyone assailing his reputation. To wit, the publisher was perfectly happy having the country go to war for little more than his own personal gain and to sell more newspapers.
But attacking his paramour, Davies, was that much farther beyond the pale, something only Welles and “Citizen Kane” co-screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz would conceivably dare to do.
Of course, the reasons behind that entire story is best explored in David Fincher’s latest film “Mank,” now playing on Netflix. But for an inside look at the clash between Welles, Citizen Kane, and William Randolph Hearst once the film made its public debut, check out Metaflix’s latest YouTube video essay featured above.