Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane: Hearst or Welles

“Any man who has the brains to think and the nerve to

act for the benefit of the people of the country a

radical by those who are content with stagnation and

willing to endure disaster.”(48 Williams) This quote

applies to two men, who in their lives were enemies, but

were more alike than either thought possible. Two men

whose names are recognizable even today, years after

both of their deaths. Two kings of the trade who used

different methods in trying to exploit the other.

William Randolph Hearst and Orson Welles were both

powerful men in history in their own right. One was a

pioneer of journalism, while the other revolutionized

the movie industry. The film Citizen Kane, one of Orson

Welles’ and the film industries greatest

accomplishments, could be said was a film that used the

main character to exploit the personality of Hearst,

which can easily be pointed out, but it was also a film

depicting the personality of Orson Welles, as well. “It

is hard to see one’s self as to look backwards without

turning around.”(57 Williams)

William Randolph Hearst was born on April 29, 1863.

His father was a multi-millionaire miner named George

Hearst. His mother, Phoebe Hearst, was a school teacher

from Missouri. George Hearst became a multi-millionaire

by traveling through the West and becoming partners in

three of the largest mining discoveries in American


As a repayment of a gambling debt, George Hearst, in

1880, accepted a small newspaper. During the

mid-1800’s, William Randolph Hearst, now a student at

Harvard University, wrote to his father demanding to

take over the newspaper. His father, on the other hand,

preferred William to manage his mining industries, but

William overlooked his fathers wishes and took over the

San Francisco Examiner in 1887. William Hearst showed a

lot of adaptability and was determined to make the

Examiner popular and a big selling newspaper. Hearst

used his wealth to create a very powerful newspaper. He

hired the best writers and acquired the best equipment

possible at the time. He went on to publish and expose

corruption and stories filled with drama and

inspiration, or sensationalism.

In the late 1800’s, Hearst ended up into a

head-to-head circulation war with his former mentor

Joseph Pulitzer, owner of the New York World. To

increase their popularity, they both started to include

about the Cuban insurrection. Many stories in both

newspapers greatly exaggerated their claims to make

their stories even more sensational, such as stories

publishing the images of Spanish troops placing Cubans

into concentration camps where they suffered and died

from disease or hunger. Hearst beat out Pulitzer in the

circulation race, when he published a story of how the

Cubans sunk the U.S.S. Maine. This was only days after

Hearst was quoted saying that if you want war, you will

get one. This kind of publicity for the American

entrance into war, caused Congress to declare war on

Spain. This showed the world the power that one man


Years went by, and Hearst met and soon married a want

to be star named Marion Davies. Marion Davies would

have never been known if she was never married to

Hearst. With his money, he tried to make her a star,

but the talent just was not there.

Orson Welles was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on May

6, 1915. His father was a well-to-do inventor, his

mother a beautiful concert pianist. He was gifted in

many arts, such as playing the piano, doing magic, and

painting, as a child. Soon, however, two hardships hit

young Orson. His mother died, when he was only eight

years old. He ended up having to travel with his

father, but it did not last long forever. His father

died only four years later. He became the ward of

Chicago’s Dr. Maurice Bernstein.

In 1931, he graduated from Todd School in Woodstock,

Illinois. Several years later, recommendations from a

couple of significant people, gave Orson an admittance

into Katherine Cornell’s Road Company, with which he

made his New York debut as Tybalt, from Shakespeare’s

Romeo and Juliet, in 1934. That same year, he married

and appeared on radio for the first time.

In radio, Welles became famous for his “War of the

Worlds”, where he created paranoia by making people

believe that there were aliens that were attacking the

Earth. Radio also helped him in movies. In radio,

Welles had developed a special technique using a variety

of voices, each saying a sentence or sometimes merely a

fragment of a sentence. This he carried over into film,

photographing the various speakers in close-up against a

blank background. Put together in quick succession, the

shots gave impression of a whole town talking.

Welles also pioneered the extremely efficient

technique of positioning the camera at a particular