citizen candy kane: sums of discrepancies

After foisting one over on the low threshold of common sense that characterizes the American public with his radio adaptation of H.G. Well’s The War of the Worlds, a kind of national exercise in mass hysteria and trauma that conveyed how quickly the bacteria of terror as an epidemic could spread; Orson Welles seemed to have the Midas touch. A kind of bad boy who could become a national focus of admiration mixed with anger. The trickster who let a few too many cats out of the bag. The touch of Welles was unlike the touch of most men.

And the proof continued to pile up. Hollywood signed him to one of the richest, most open contracts ever offered a newcomer; that and a beard grown for a production of The Heart of Darkness, which he never made, earned Welles the instant and virulent hatred of the film colony. His first big picture was Citizen Kane; it is the best picture he ever made, and probably the most notorious picture ever made in America.

---D. H. Lawrence’s *Women in Love* (1920) as an attempt to articulate a utopian space for fiction within what Walter Lippmann called the “pseudo-environment” of mediated images produced by World War I propaganda. The project closes by showing how modernism re-emerges from within British propaganda in Hitchcock’s two World War II propaganda films. Momentarily released from the constraints of the Hollywood studio system, Hitchcock used the space provided by the MoI to explore cinematic experiments suggested a few years earlier by Orson Welles’s *Citizen Kane*, a film deeply engaged with forms of propaganda made possible by the cultural ascendancy of film and the enduring influence of the popular press. Studying Welles and Hitchcock against the backdrop of increasingly pervasive cinematic propaganda in the 1930s, this epilogic treatment reflects on modernism’s capacity to intervene effectively in a media environment in which the distinction between information and propaganda seems to have been entirely erased.---Read More: image:

We can safely ignore the disclaimers: Citizen Kane was based on the life of William Randolph Hearst. It held that life up to scorn and pity; worse, it envisioned its end, and Hearst, who had a morbid fear of death, trained the fire of the most powerful and ruthless newspaper empire in America on Welles, on RKO, on Hollywood. There was no battle-RKO made a few bold statements, Hedda Hopper fired some girlish grapeshot at Hearst’s Louella Parsons, Welles tried quite futiley to get hold of his creation. RKO, and certainly Hollywood, had no intention of fighting for anything as abstract as a principle. To this day Citizen Kane has never had a wide circulation. One of Welles’s holds on fame, then, is that he made a great picture which has had fewer viewers than any of a similar renown.

Citizen Kane opens with a fake “March of Time” newsreel on the death of “the great man” that is as brilliant as the Martian broadcast. At its conclusion, the lights come up on what is seen to be a preview studio, where the editor is heard expressing dissatisfaction because the picture does not get to the central “truth” about Kane.

---This relates to Citizen Kane by the use of the newspaper to spread “good stories” of fake wars with Spain, and other fake articles to make the newspaper seem more well endowed, and to get supporters. When Kane was trying to run for governor of New York he made up his bogus stories to gain respect from his voters. Propaganda is the reason in Citizen Kane why he was able to obtain all of his wealth and all of his power. The bogus articles, stories gave him the respect that he needed to grasp what he couldn’t without lying to the people to get what he wants. Which goes right into current times, when candidates for the US presidency lie to the people to give the people what they want, but they never have what they tell come true.---Read More: image:

This is not entirely likely- it being no function of newsreels to provide pinpoint analysis-but it does provide a splendid narrative device. A reporter is assigned to track down the meaning of Kane’s last word- “Rosebud”- and the film proper is a series of flashbacks showing the public and private Kane as he is remembered by the men and women who were closest to him. These portraits are alike- but not quite; and the real portrait is the sum of the discrepancies.

What makes Citizen Kane so good is not the rather thin psychological thread that ends in “Rosebud.” It is rather that Welles drew a character of genuine stature, and by he reporting device, showed his man with depth, clarity, anger, understanding, and compassion. Welles was superb in the role of Kane. It is doubtful there is much autobiography in the characterization, or at least conscious autobiography, though Welles did name Kane’s lifelong friend and adviser after Dr. Maurice Bernstein.

But Kane also was more prodigy than giant, and Welles understood his subject. The unforgettable scene in which the young publisher dances and clowns in front of the distinguished staff he has just bought away from a rival paper is curiously like what had been recounted about Welles fooling around, telling wild stories, and of being the life of the party on the set of The Trial. Kane lived his whole life in front of an audience; and so did Welles for the most part.


( see link at end) …According to researcher Mack White (, “Psychologist Hadley Cantril conducted a study of the effects of the broadcast and published his findings in a book, The Invasion from Mars: A Study in the Psychology of Panic. This study explored the power of broadcast media, particularly as it relates to the suggestibility of human beings under the influence of fear. Cantril was affiliated with Princeton University’s Radio Research Project, which was funded in 1937 by the Rockefeller Foundation. Also affiliated with the Project was Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) member and Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) executive Frank Stanton, whose network had broadcast the program. Stanton would later go on to head the news division of CBS, and in time would become president of the network, as well as chairman of the board of the RAND Corporation, the influential think tank which has done groundbreaking research on, among other things, mass brainwashing. Two years later, with Rockefeller Foundation money, Cantril established the Office of Public Opinion Research (OPOR), also at Princeton. Among the studies conducted by the OPOR was an analysis of the effectiveness of “psycho-political operations” (propaganda, in plain English) of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Then, during World War II, Cantril and Rockefeller money assisted CFR member and CBS reporter Edward R. Murrow in setting up the Princeton Listening Center, the purpose of which was to study Nazi radio propaganda with the object of applying Nazi techniques to OSS propaganda. Out of this project came a new government agency, the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service (FBIS). The FBIS eventually became the United States Information Agency (USIA), which is the propaganda arm of the National Security Council. Thus, by the end of the 1940s, the basic research had been done and the propaganda apparatus of the national security state had been set up–just in time for the Dawn of Television.” Read More:

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