US (1941): Drama
Not rated, Black & White, 119
Certainly one of the ten best films of
countless important filmmakers and
established the taste of discerning
audiences. It is the epitome of
filmmaking, and producer-director-co-
writer Orson Welles will be forever
remembered as one of the greatest
practitioners of cinematic art.
to view the introductory
"true facts" of
Scenes for study (require Realplayer, avaliable as free download from
The "Breakfast Table Montage"
opens in ominous murkiness with the camera focused on high wrought-
iron fencing filigreed with the initial "K". Beyond spreads Xanadu, the vast estate of one of the
world's wealthiest men. The camera surveys the grounds—empty gondolas swaying on a private
lake, exotic animals penned in a private zoo, manicured lawns and shrubbery—all shrouded in
fog. Towering above the mist is the top of a man-made mountain on which sits a castle, a single
light shining from it. Within is a dying man who clutches a crystal ball enclosing a winter scene
and make-believe snow. He utters one word, "Rosebud," and dies, dropping the ball, which then
breaks into tiny shards.
Who was he?
The picture cuts to "March of Time" newsreel footage recounting the long and
colorful career of Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles), newspaper magnate, presidential hopeful,
wielder of power and influence. The newsreel stops and, in the darkened screening room,
Rawlston (Philip Van Zandt), an editor, badgers a group of reporters to find the real Kane: "It's
not enough to tell us what a man did. You've got to tell us who he was.
..What were the last words
he said on earth? Maybe he told us all about himself on his deathbed.
..When Charles Foster Kane
died he said but just one word, 'Rosebud.
..' Now what does that mean?"
Five accounts of one life
. Reporter Jerry Thompson (William Alland) traces five accounts of the
millionaire's life. Walter Parks Thatcher (George Coulouris), a J.P. Morgan-like character, is long
since dead, but Thompson visits his library and is allowed to inspect the financier's memoirs in
manuscript. Through Thatcher's words we see Kane as a boy (Buddy Swan), playing with his
sled on a snow-swept Colorado farm. Through his mother, the boy has just inherited a great
fortune. Unable to settle his bill, a prospector who boarded with the Kanes left behind stock
certificates that make Mrs. Kane (Agnes Moorehead) the sole owner of one of the world's great
silver mines. She then makes her son the ward of the bank that administers her estate, and
Thatcher, whom the angry young Kane bashes with a sled, takes the boy East to be raised.
Through a series of quick cuts, Kane is shown growing up, making life miserable for Thatcher.