Historians Fact-Check 'Mank': Who Really Wrote 'Citizen Kane?' And Does 'Rosebud' Have A Hidden Meaning?Historians in the News
tags: film, Hollywood, Orson Welles, Citizen Kane, television, cinema history, Frank Mankiewicz
"Mank" is now on Netflix, giving viewers a peek behind the scenes of one of the greatest films ever made.
David Fincher's black-and-white drama transports us back to 1930s Hollywood, where alcoholic screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) – nicknamed "Mank – is commissioned to write a script about a newspaper man for rising star Orson Welles (Tom Burke). The film explores the politics and power dynamics of the studio system and how Mank's distaste with media mogul William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) inspired Welles' 1941 masterpiece "Citizen Kane" and its titular character, the tortured billionaire tycoon Charles Foster Kane (also played by Welles).
After watching "Mank," we called up two Hollywood historians to discuss what's real and what isn't in Netflix's sumptuously crafted awards contender.
Orson Welles was responsible for making 'Citizen Kane' what it is
Who “actually” wrote “Citizen Kane” has been a subject of debate among film scholars for decades, and “Mank” unsurprisingly sides with its title character. At the beginning of the movie, Mank agrees to write a first draft for Orson Welles without writing credit, understanding that Welles will likely rewrite most of it. But by the end of the film, Mank realizes this is the best script he’s ever written and demands co-writing credit, leading to a heated confrontation with Welles. The two eventually share an Oscar win for best original screenplay, but still feud in the press in the final coda of "Mank."
Historians have read Mank’s drafts, and “it would have been a very tired, sort of standard Hollywood biography about a rich man whining about his life, and that’s exactly what Orson Welles did not want to do,” says Harlan Lebo, author of "Citizen's Kane: A Filmmaker's Journey." Charles Foster Kane’s motivations and consequences “really emerged when Welles started work on it, and there were important scenes that were never in any draft that Welles wrote later during production.”
“So sure, Herman Mankiewicz absolutely had a role in making ‘Citizen Kane’ and he put down those first words,” Lebo continues. “But other than that, it became Orson Welles’ project and that's what makes it great.”
comments powered by Disqus
- The Debt Ceiling Law is now a Tool of Partisan Political Power; Abolish It
- Amitai Etzioni, Theorist of Communitarianism, Dies at 94
- Kagan, Sotomayor Join SCOTUS Cons in Sticking it to Unions
- New Evidence: Rehnquist Pretty Much OK with Plessy v. Ferguson
- Ohio Unions Link Academic Freedom and the Freedom to Strike
- First Round of Obama Administration Oral Histories Focus on Political Fault Lines and Policy Tradeoffs
- The Tulsa Race Massacre was an Attack on Black People; Rebuilding Policies were an Attack on Black Wealth
- British Universities are Researching Ties to Slavery. Conservative Alumni Say "Enough"
- Martha Hodes Reconstructs Her Memory of a 1970 Hijacking
- Jeremi Suri: Texas Higher Ed Conflict "Doesn't Have to Be This Way"
- New transcript of Ayn Rand at West Point in 1974 shows she claimed “savage" Indians had no right to live here just because they were born here
- The Mexican War Suggests Ukraine May End Up Conceding Crimea. World War I Suggests the Price May Be Tragic if it Doesn't
- The Vietnam War Crimes You Never Heard Of