Citizen Kane Thread

citizen-kane-welles-podium

Rather than write a separate post about Citizen Kane, your assignment for this week is to participate in a discussion about the film in the comments of a main post. Here are the ground rules:

  • Each student is expected to contribute at least twice to the conversation. That is the minimum requirement, so feel free to continue to contribute further.
  • At least one contribution should be in response to a classmate’s comment.
  • The total contribution should be substantial, that is, a minimum of about 300 words. (You are welcome to exceed that by as much as you like as long as the conversation continues.)
  • You are, as always, expected to be respectful, but you are encouraged to disagree and engage with what others write.

I want to encourage you to discuss any aspects of the film and its relationship to the history of media and communications  that you find interesting. To get started, here are a few questions to consider:

  • What perspective did Welles take on the history of journalism in the early twentieth century?
  • What role did “great men” like Kane (or his real-life counterpart, William Randolph Hearst) play in the development of media?
  • What was the point of publishing a newspaper?
  • What role did Citizen Kane play in the history of film?

These are just a few options to get you started – you may discuss any aspect of the film that relates to the course material.

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44 thoughts on “Citizen Kane Thread

  1. Hello fellow classmates and history enthusiasts!
    Overall I really liked the film and I found it not only enjoyable to watch, but also equally as informative about the history of media and communications. In particular, I thought that it was very clever how they wove real historical events (Spanish-American War, WW1) into the narrative of the story. I found there depiction of the rampant “yellow journalism” during the lead up to Spanish-American War to be especially historically accurate and I found it overall to be an especially interesting part of the plot. That being said I think the aspect of the film that interested me the most was the supreme power that the popular press is portrayed as having within the film, despite the negative attitude that many of the upper-class characters had towards it. From our readings in class I know that at the dawn of the twentieth century the daily sensational newspapers that were proliferated by Hearst and Pulitzer were extremely powerful entities over public opinion. These newspapers (who are embodied by Kane’s National Inquirer) printed big bold headlines to capture the reader before engulfing them in news stories designed to amaze, shock, and illicit the whole spectrum of extreme emotions. The scandalous and sensational nature of these twentieth century newspapers would help shape public opinion and discourse at such a level that the newspapers themselves gained an immense hold over the public sphere to the point of beings its primary instigator and stimulus. Vaughn raises an interesting question in regard to this phenomenon when she speaks of the power of film on the public sphere and essentially asks whether or not films are a product of public opinion, or is public opinion a product of films. If we take this idea and apply it to newspapers I think that Citizen Kane strongly argues that it is the latter and that public opinion is an effect of the newspaper. Overall, I thought it was a great movie and applied to topics in class very well!

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    • I also really enjoyed the movie and I was also interested by the portrayal of the immense power and influence of the press. As you point out, many of the characters had negative feelings about the yellow journalism used, but papers still sold. I think the public had, and still has, a great need for exaggerated stories. Even if news stories were not entirely factual, they were still entertaining to read about. In regards to Vaughn’s question about the relationship between public opinion and films, I have a hard time picking one side over the other. I feel that public opinion helps determine what types of films are made, since films should resonate with what the public wants to see. However, I can also see how films can act as propaganda and have a great influence over public opinion. I don’t think the relationship is necessarily one sided but rather both parts depend and influence each other.

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    • I enjoyed your post and especially your comment about how newspapers “illicit the whole spectrum of extreme emotions.” It made me think of a psych term I’m surprised I can remember, called crowd manipulation, which these types of tabloid papers are very good at. It is defined as: “The intentional use of techniques based on theprinciples of crowd psychology to engage, control, or influence thedesires of a crowd in order to direct its behavior toward a specification. This practice is common to politics and business and canfacilitate the approval or disapproval or indifference to a person,policy, or product. The ethical use of crowd manipulation is debatable and depends on such factors as the intention of and the means used bythe manipulator, as well as the ends achieved” (Source: scribd.com). Paul Revere used his highly propagandistic engraving of the Boston Massacre to rouse anti-British, as you put it, “extreme emotions,” among colonials in the same manner that Kane’s newspaper tried to rouse American emotions for entrance into foreign wars. Historians have already proven that it was the soldiers and not the colonists who were the victims that night (an engraving by Alonzo Chappel gives a much more historically accurate portrayal of the incident). So in terms of the history of media and communications, American newspapers have been using this tactic since their inception during the eighteenth century. Very well-written and argued post!

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    • I noticed how they mentioned many different historical events as well, and thought it really gave us a good look into the role of newspapers and media during that time, and how influential they could be. I found the “yellow journalism” part extremely interesting due to the fact that it was the media partially responsible for the Spanish American War.

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  2. I found the movie Citizen Kane to be quite educational, in regards to the history of media and communications. The biggest takeaway from the movie was the emphasis of “yellow journalism” in the early twentieth century media, represented in Kane’s New York Inquirer. Welles displayed journalism, in the newspapers, as dependent on sensationalism and bold headlines to capture the readers. This is far different than the newspapers that we looked at in the beginning of the class, where it was vastly information based, containing a myriad of information for merchants, as well as lots of advertisements. Welles depiction of the newspaper in the early twentieth century vastly contrasted the newspapers in Early American History. A big reason for the stark differences in the newspapers had to do with the circulation time of each newspaper. In Early American History, newspapers were circulated once a week and printing was not easy, so every word counted, thus more informative pieces were printed because that was what was needed. With the evolution of media and communications, people were able to communicate more easily, leaving the information printed in Early American newspapers irrelevant to the population in the early twentieth century. Hence, the newspapers in the early twentieth century needed a way to catch the buyers’ eye. Orson Welles depicts this beautifully in Citizen Kane when the flashbacks show Charles Foster Kane realizing that exaggerated, catchy title and articles would make the newspaper more successful.
    This film was huge for the history of filmmaking in the United States. Compared to the films we watched in class before, Citizen Kane was far superior in cinematography and filming techniques. The use of flashback, although not totally new, was brilliantly used to explain the life of Charles Foster Kane while keeping the viewer on edge. The camera angles and zoom were used at great times to capture the faces of the characters, specifically when Susan Alexander leaves Kane closer to the end of the movie. The zoom into Kane’s face, showed his despair followed quickly by his anger that led to the destruction of the room as Xanadu. Techniques like this made the movie just as enjoyable as educational for our class.

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    • I agree, the film had outstanding cinematography. The techniques you pointed out, such as zoom, and the usage of angles, were subtle. You wouldn’t notice them unless you were paying specific attention to the cinematography, and yet they still served to highlight characters and their emotions, as was the case with the examples of scenes you provided. I was watching some scenes from another landmark film, Gone With the Wind, for comparison. It was released only a few years before Citizen Kane. And yet I noticed that even Gone With the Wind did not have the same kind of advanced cinematography as Citizen Kane. I can see how Citizen Kane may have changed filmmaking.

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      • I agree with all this commentary, not only as a fellow audience member interested in what this film says about newspapers, but also as a student who had to watch Citizen Kane from a very analytically perspective for a visual communications class. Citizen Kane is considered one of the best films to come out of western media and is still used as a benchmark of success and utilized as a model for the film industry today. I agree with you Pat and Derek that the way in which each scene was zoomed in or zoomed out really pointed out to us as the viewers where the director wanted us to feel the emotion of the shot. With that being said this film is also innovative because of the way in which each shot is taken with so much purpose. The beginning and ending angles from each scene, when intertwined with the ability for the camera to zoom, where employed to render the strongest emotion from the shot. This film shows this tactic being used in the best way that the film industry had seen yet.

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      • I loved that you used the reference to Gone with the Wind and how the films are both iconic and differentiate from one another. Your comparison reminded me of a class that I had taken last year (Holocaust and Genocide) and I remember learning how the Nazis hired a film maker who also used a lot of techniques in film making a not a decade before. Her technique was mostly on angles, and I know that this feels like it came completely out of left field, but the scene in Citizen Kane that reminded me of it was the rally that he had when running for governor. It looked a lot like a rally that Hitler might’ve had not too long beforehand. Maybe they took the idea of perspective angles from the Nazi propaganda footage and used it for their filming for the movie.

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    • I agree with the point you made about the newspapers being far more different than the ones we looked at and wrote about. I think it has to do with more news is available at a faster rate. So if something Kane had done in New York the news traveled faster to other newspaper companies around the country, compared to the amount of time news reached philadelphia in 1720 when something happened in Boston which is now about a month old news up North. I also think it has to do with the concept of “yellow Journalism”. With more exaggerated news coming in and out of newspaper companies, the faster the gossip gets around.
      I also agree with you and Derek about how the film is a historic film for the cinematography. With this being made in the 1940s the limitations were far greater than the ones we have now. When watching the film as a film buff then you can see what had been done to make this film memorable and even historic. Especially during the scene at the end when Kane is trashing Susan’s room, and you get the action from all different sides of the room from all different angles. All together I enjoyed this movie, and it seems like you did as well.

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  3. The movie “Citizen Kane” showed us how Welles viewed journalism in the early 20th century America, as a propaganda piece that came with a lot of power. One part of the movie that really sticks out to be in regard to this argument is when Kane was at the dinner table talking to his wife about a story written in the paper about the president (her uncle). She made a comment about the accuracy of what was written and how the people reading will react to it, and Kane responded with “I tell them what to think”. That showed me that Welles saw journalism as a way to control what people think, and influence public opinion, rather than an unbiased news source that was mainly information based like we saw in early American journalism. It also goes on to show us what kind of power Welles felt the newspaper had, that it could persuade people so easily. We see that same sense later in the movie when they are writing the play review. They made it very clear that the review written in the paper would make or break the play, giving a lot of power to one person’s opinion. I feel as though the movie portrayed that sense of power in a negative way, especially because we see the collapse of his personal life after both instances, which does not seem like a coincidence. With the movie, Welles sends the message of the great power the newer journalism, how it was used as a propaganda piece, and how that was dangerous for traditional forms of journalism.

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    • Kevin,
      I think that the part of the movie where Kane’s paper was publishing the opera reviews was the point where it was clearest that it had become all about manipulating public opinion, and not about the truth. He was basically outright lying to the public by producing reviews that lauded his wife’s performance, while in reality she was a mediocre singer. A powerful scene in the movie was the one where Leland sent him back his original declaration of principles. This really drove home the point of how far Kane had come from producing a paper that was originally supposed to tell the public nothing but the truth. He had gone from an idealistic young man, to one who had no apparent reservations about manipulating public opinion, for a cause as petty as promoting the opera career of his wife, who didn’t even really want that career. Perhaps Orson Welles felt that, however well-intentioned they may have been, news media outlets would inevitably start to pander towards certain interests. In Kane’s case, it was his own petty interests.

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    • Kevin, I really liked your inclusion of the Kane quote and how you tied it to yellow journalism. That scene was one that I thought about a lot while writing my post, and I think that’s because it perfectly embodies the way that Orson Welles thought of about the newspaper industry at the time. He knew that people like Kane (Hearst) were willing to print anything in order to sell papers. In the end I think that that is what yellow journalism boils down to, it was a tactic that was used by these men solely for the purpose of selling more units, and subsequently gaining more power. Initially there may have been some kind of enthusiasm for reporting the truth but people in the early 20th century realized that there was a massive amount of money to be made in publishing sensational and sometimes completely fabricated titles. I completely agree with you when you say that Welles was beginning to see just how powerful newspapers and the people running them were becoming and I think that that was his main motivation for making the movie; he wanted to expose these men (mainly William Randolph Hearst) for lying to the American public while demonstrating the negative impact that their lies were having both on them and on the country as a whole. The movie was extremely effective in doing all of this and so I completely agree with your view of the movie as a propaganda piece, it was absolutely meant to sway public opinion of the newspaper and of Hearst himself.
      Nicely Done,
      Matt Woodward

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      • One thing you said that stuck out to me was that Welles was aware of the growing power of the newspaper industry and that he had achieved his intentions of exposing the ideas of “yellow journalism”. Do you think if a movie similar to this one came out today exposing media bias it would have the same effect as citizen Kane did? I feel like we have moved on to a point where every media source now has a bias but people just ignore that. If Citizen Kane was able to work as way to expose the fallacies of the newspaper business, maybe the same could occur for more modern forms of media.

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    • Hi Kevin, great post! I hadn’t remembered that part of the movie until I read it in your post. It was really shocking how obvious Welles was with how he viewed the media. He made sure we all knew that the job of the newspaper is not just to inform the citizens as to what was happening but it was also to shape how the people felt about those events. Even today we are seeing very biased news outlets, for example, Fox News is very Republican while CNN is very Democrat. Both of these news sources tell their audience about the same events but in totally different fashions because they want to shape the way their audience feels. I think what was most interesting about the review part was that Kane was actually hoping the people would like his wife’s play. He only made her do it because he wanted to prove to people that she was not a ‘singer’ but a singer. He could have easily written a very good review and persuaded the people to believe his wife was a very talented opera singer but he decided not to. In this part, I think it shows that Kane wanted to keep journalism true while also proving to his friend that he was willing to do anything for good journalism. Still, he chose to tell the people the truth rather than convince them that he was right and his wife was talented. BY doing this, I think Welles was showcasing how tricky journalism is. While the news reporters do try to convince you to lean one way or another, there are still truths that lie in the stories they tell. It is then the responsibility of the reader to decide for themselves what they choose to believe and how they choose to feel about something, media is simply an outlet to attain the information necessary to come up with an opinion.

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    • This is as an awesome post and i think that your point concerning Kane’s newspaper as being a propaganda piece to be very insightful. I think that throughout the film Welles clearly puts across that newspapers are a powerful medium for broadcasting propaganda to the masses. From the Spanish American War to the biased reviews of his wife’s opera debut; Kane utilizes The National Enquirer consistently as a medium for distributing his personal views. However, with this in mind, I was quite intrigued by the fact that the film did not put a lot of emphasis on World War I. From our readings in class and my own knowledge about American propaganda in the First World War, I know that propaganda was used extensively by many different media outlets to sponsor and advocate for the war. Therefore, I found it strange that the film only barely mentioned World War 1 when it could have been very relevant to the plot and utilized to a great degree. Regardless, I enjoyed your post and found your analysis to be very intuitive!

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  4. Charles Foster Kane is considered the “greatest newspaper tycoon” according to the film, while Kane’s character is quite similar of that to real life William Randolph Hearst [1] who was in his prime during the later 19th century. Hearst inherited the San Francisco Journal from his father and then bought the New York Journal in hopes of challenging a rival. Hearst also served two terms in the House of Representatives, as we saw Kane get involved as a political leader after his newspaper days. *Fun fact, Hearst was expelled from Harvard for raucous behavior.
    Characters like these, real or imaginative, can make huge impacts on the course of history and Kane is responsible for transforming the New York Inquirer from a 12 hour operation to a 24 hour, nonstop media coverage. This is seen when he moves all of his bedroom furniture into the office of the previous editor and basically says that news is always happening so people need to be working all hours of the day. Only so much can be covered in a 12 hour day, but think about all of the things left out after those 12 hours.
    I found fault in Kane’s character, and after reading about Hearst, he struggled a lot too. Kane was basically given up as a child by his parents in hopes of providing him with a better life. One thing I noticed that I would like to bring up was the complete 180 he did when first stating that “I don’t look after the interests of the underprivileged. I have enough money and power.” When first of all he was underprivileged his whole childhood and then got swept up in the money and power, which is obviously the purpose of the film, as it delved into the life of a powerful but lonely man. But then, when Kane was running for Governor, he states he “will do everything to protect the underprivileged and underpaid.” As we all know, politicians will say anything to get people on their side, but I found this very interesting and revealing a lot about his character.
    ——
    [1] http://www.history.com/topics/william-randolph-hearst

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    • Jen, I agree with you on the 180 that Kane had taken throughout the movie. It really shows you what people’s intentions do once they enter a substantial amount of money and power. But it also points out how he was a lonely man who turned to drinking and it shows the other side of that money driven power filled life. I do believe that Kane really loved Susan Alexander but he didn’t know how to show it. He wanted her to be the perfect wife and have the perfect life, but in the end I think she would’ve been happier if he didn’t force everything she had to do onto her. Yes, she wanted to be an opera singer, but she knew she was not cut out for it but Kane continued to push her to the limit.
      I aso agree with you pointing out how Kane transformed the operations of nonstop media coverage. This really points out how fast the news was traveling during this period, when many years before it took weeks maybe even months for news to travel to another country. It also gives you insight on how the news was changing. Everything was being documented about. All of the reviews made by people on the staff about Susan’s singing, and the wedding of a lifetime when Kane married Emily Monroe Norton. All that has to be said is the fact that many things have changed throughout the years in media.

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    • I think you make an interesting point about Kane saying anything just to gain the support of the people when he was running for political office, because it seems a large part of what he did with the newspaper was saying anything just to get people’s attention. For example, when he found out Leland was writing the negative review of the play but had passed out drunk while he was writing it, Kane continued with the truthful review because he knew it would benefit the paper. He didn’t care how it would negatively impact the play, or his wife’s career. “Yellow Journalism” is also another way we see this, because everything is over-sensationalized just to get people’s attention and sell papers, regardless of if it’s true or not. I don’t think there is anything Kane wouldn’t do or say just to gain someone’s attention.

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    • I wanted to refer to the first part of your response in that Kane was based off of a real life figure. I seem to be seeing that in a lot of fictional stories and movies that I’ve seen, especially when I sat down to watch a Star Wars movie with my little brother the day after we watched this movie.

      I was so surprised that I never noticed how Nazi-like the empire was in the movies. Comparing their uniforms to that of a group that almost destroyed Europe one could find astounding similarities. Both the Empire and the Nazis were well formed in ranks and also how uniform and cookie cut both sides looked. (Sorry that all of my comments refer to the Nazis…but it was during their time too) Even in the newer movie (episode vii) the uniforms of the First Order (the enemy) and the largely concrete outside rally was very Nazi-like.

      Please refer to the third image on this link for a more definitive image of what I talk about.
      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3362851/From-Star-Trek-Apocalypse-obscure-1964-film-inspired-Star-Wars-creator-George-Lucas-secret-references-hidden-director-JJ-Abrams-Force-Awakens.html

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  5. From David R.: Welles is telling the story from the perspective of yellow journalism’s rise in the United States during the twentieth century (although the film takes place during the nineteenth century). In terms of the history of media and communications, these shocking and sensational stories not only sold millions of newspapers but also helped newspapers become the leading form of mass media at the time. The expression “yellow journalism” was used during the newspaper rivalry between William Randolph Hearst (the inspiration for the Charles Foster Kane character) and Joseph Pulitzer II. Hearst ran the New York Journal and Pulitzer was in charge of the New York World. Yellow journalism refers to how their respective newspapers ran embellished stories with more political caricatures and propaganda drawings. There did not seem to be any depths that either publisher would not sink to for fabricating stories, which in turn would increase their circulations. The Kristin L. Hoganson article Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars gave a prime examples of this in that, during the Spanish-Cuban conflict, the Journal reported that three Cuban women were strip searched on board an American ship but neglected to include the women were in fact searched by female soldiers and not male soldiers, as the story clearly implied. Hearst’s newspaper was one of many that, according to Hoganson: “portrayed real Cuban men and women as if they were the protagonists of one of the adventure-filled romance novels that were so popular at the time.” Yellow journalism was used attempt to influence American popular opinion for entry into the conflict through this dominant mass media form.

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  6. I really enjoyed watching Citizen Kane, and I can see why it would be listed as one of the best movies of the twentieth century. The film does a nice job demonstrating the role of newspapers during this time, and how the film industry itself has developed. One major takeaway from the film was Welles’ idea that newspapers and journalism had an incredibly powerful effect on the public. Welles shows how yellow journalism and the exaggeration of stories drew people in, and encouraged them to buy papers with more stories than news. In the film, Kane seemed unconcerned with fact checking the stories his papers ran. Kane understood the public’s need for entertaining and interesting news, and his success reflects how people continued to purchase his papers regardless of correctness. I believe that in Kane’s outburst, when he was arguing with his wife over a story he ran on the President, he proclaimed the public would think about what he told them to. This line really shows how dependent people were on newspapers to form their own thoughts and opinions. This idea actually reminded me of the 1997 movie, Wag the Dog. In the movie, a spin doctor and movie producer create a fake war with Albania to distract the American public from a presidential candidate’s sex scandal. The media starts to run the story and the public believes it. Both of these films demonstrate how essential the media is for educating the public and keeping everyone informed. However, they also show how quick the public is to believe something they read or see in the news. With regards to Citizen Kane’s cinematic significance, it exhibited techniques that were new to the industry and which were executed flawlessly. All of the fades from present time to the past in the flashbacks were really well done. Not to mention all the incredible set design. Since the film was in black and white, set designers had to capture the mood of the scene without color, using shadows and the placement of items to reflect what was going on with the characters. The scene in which this is the most visible, I thought, was when Susan was making the puzzle by the fireplace when Kane walks in. In the giant room Kane’s chair was so far away that the two had to yell to hear each other. This would symbolize the physical and emotional gap that had grown between the two.

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    • Hey Alyssa,
      Reading your entry I noticed we both have somewhat the same ideas about the film! For one the great cinematography aspect of the film was one of my main focuses, compared the earlier movies we watched in class Citizen Kane seemed to be very developmentally mature even for the time it was released. Also, discussing yellow journalism and how Kane seemed to rather just publish things that would be an “eye catcher” to the public, not phased by the fact that some of the information was false. I think these points and many more that you made and our other classmates made show how we are living with media and commination today. How everything is protected under the law, from false accusations to false advertising. Great Job!

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      • Hey Kylie and Alyssa,

        I liked how you both also brought up the importance of this film for both media and communication, but also films themselves. I also briefly touched upon how important the film techniques used in this movie were extremely innovated at the time. The little fades and transitions, and using the set to help set the mood and tone of a film are little things today that we don’t think are important but were very new in the early films and still continue to be important today. I like who you described Citizen Kane as “developmentally mature”. I think the new film techniques rally added to the narrative and made this film appear on every top movie list.
        Great job to both of you!

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    • Alyssa, reading your post (especially the section about the new cinematic techniques and the scene with Susan doing the puzzle by the fireplace) made me think of a scene early on in the movie, the one that set the tone for the entire rest of the film. In the beginning, when Kane is dying in his bedroom and says, “Rosebud” before expiring, there wasn’t anyone in the room. The nurse who attended to him came in AFTER she heard the globe shatter on the ground, so there is no way she could have heard him utter that word because he whispered it. The reporter, Thompson, spends the rest of the film trying to find out the importance of the meaning of that last deathbed word. How did he know that rosebud was Kane’s last word if no one was in the room to hear it? When Thompson interviews Kane’s butler, he recounted how he heard Kane say “rosebud” after flying into a rage after Susan left him, calming down only when he saw the snow globe that obviously reminded him of his happy moments as a child playing with his sled.If neither he nor the nurse were actually IN the room when Kane said rosebud, how does ANYONE know that rosebud was Kane’s last words? Since your wrote such an excellent analysis of the film, I was hoping you noticed that and could shed some light on it for me.

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  7. I thin the narrative that Citizen Kane presents about I think the narrative that Welles told in Citizen Kane shows just how powerful journalism is. When Kane took over the Inquirer, he got to choose what news he wanted to print and what that news was going to say. With bold headlines and pictures, Kane used yellow journalism in order to get a following and rise to power. We see this type of journalism, who was really created by William Randolph Hearst, still around today. New Medias have even turned to this type of news telling. The large, bold headlines that drew people in to read newspapers remind me of the endless Facebook and Twitter news article links that you sometimes can’t help but click on even though you know that what’s behind them is usually over exaggerated and false. I think a lot of people use this same method to gain power.

    Switching over to the history of film, Citizen Kane was huge for new movie techniques that are so normal in movies today. I was a communication major before this and had to sit through hours of movie techniques (which wasn’t the best time for somebody who is really bad at watching movies) and there are many simple things that are done it movies today that were innovated in the earlier movies. The transitions, zooms, and close-up that the movie uses are relatively new and innovated film techniques. The opening scene of this movie, when the snow in the snowball switches to snow in real life was probably one of the first times that something like that was shown on screen. When we watched The Great Train Robbery and the early films in class that are only 30 years prior to Citizen Kane, it was amazing how far film techniques have come.
    Citizen Kane is a great movie to see the history of media and communication both in its content and the way the content is shown.

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    • I agree with your points about the power of journalism in the twentieth century, for the media outlets controlled just exactly what people read and thought about certain topics. Yellow journalism was a huge transition into a different type of journalism when compared to the Early American Newspapers. This new type of journalism created a new way form of consuming media for the patrons of newspapers, and Charles Foster Kane fully exemplified this idea of yellow journalism. Another aspect of newspapers that Charles Foster Kane symbolized was the new idea of twenty four hour news coverage. Most newspapers before that were twelve hours, so this twenty four hour coverage was revolutionary to the newspaper industry. The movie was a great depiction of this new way of publishing newspapers, as Charles Foster Kane provided a great example of a newspaper tycoon in the twentieth century, getting carried away with the power he possessed from the newspaper he ran. The ideas about the newspaper that the movie brought up were extremely helpful for our class.
      Similarly, I agree with your deep analysis of the filming techniques used in the movie, especially since you studied some of these techniques at the college level. Your analysis of the film was great, showing that this movie was so advanced for this time period, and laid the groundwork for many films that followed. Citizen Kane provided our class with a great way to study media and communications because it talked about the newspaper industry, one form of media, as well as itself being a film allowed us to study the history of film and just how important this movie was for cinematography. As students of the history of media and communications, this film was a great way for us to understand different forms of media and their impact on the United States.

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    • I like how you compared the headlines of newspapers, such as the ones published by Kane, to social media headlines. I agree that they are alike in the way you described them. This also makes me think about how they are different. Kane’s stories were more centralized; they all came from him, or from people who worked for him, whereas just about anybody can post stories on social media. On the one hand, you might say this gives more power to everyday people to disseminate information. On the other, you might say that means that anyone, including highly uninformed and dishonest people, can distribute news. But then again, Kane’s paper’s devolved into dishonesty as the movie progressed. So I suppose that both have disadvantages.

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    • Your analysis of the movie was great and brought up some good points from a past communications major that some of us history majors do not recognize, myself entirely. It’s crazy to think that The Great Train Robbery was made only 30 years prior to, how much movie production has evolved! But that is basically what we are studying in our media and communications class, right? How these things have progressed and expanded in such a short amount of time, we can only imagine what the future will hold in terms of communication.

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      • I really enjoyed reading your take on the film from a cinematographic stance. It fascinates me that once the technology was there, film took off so fast. Like many have mentioned before, watching clips from movies made only a few years before, many films cannot match the greatness and importance of Citizen Kane.
        Toward the beginning of the film when we first see the bar that Susan Alexander was featured in, the camera panned across the top of the building to a window on the roof. The camera got closer to the window and eventually the scene beneath the window was unfolding. I can’t imagine, and correct me if I’m wrong, that that technique had been used before. If it hadn’t, it just further shows the revolutionary nature of the film. Looking at a window and then being basically pushed through it to see what was happening inside the building is seen in many movies in our time. When I watched this happen in Citizen Kane, it almost took my breath away because I could only imagine what it was like seeing something like that for the first time. This movie is rightfully remembered as one of the greatest not only in content but creation.

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  8. The movie Citizen Kane shows many important aspects of media and communication in the early twentieth century. Personally, this was my first time ever seeing Citizen Kane and I wonder why it took me so long to see this classic film. Wells, the director of the film shows an in-depth perspective to just how important newspapers and journalism were in the early twentieth century. Charles Foster Kane, who grew up in a low-income family became a newspaper tycoon when he was sent to live with a wealthy business man Thatcher. From there Kane began his impact on the newspaper business becoming the owner of the New York Inquirer. Newspaper was an extremely large part of communication in the public in the early twentieth century. Kane used yellow journalism to persuade the public into buying the Inquirer, using very little or no research to his published articles. A great man like Kane showed development in media, and more importantly showed progress in technology. In the film, we saw machines printing hundreds of newspapers a minute, and each newspaper would be renewed a few times a week rather than only once a week. Not only did the film discuss the importance of newspapers and their impact on society, it also showed historical events that happened during the time such as the Spanish-American War. Yet again, this historical was written using the aspect of yellow journalism, Kane only wrote what he thought was important and wanted to make sure the title was eye catching.
    Not only did Citizen Kane play a role in the history of media and communication it played a great role in the history of film. Citizen Kane used many different features, and filming techniques compared to the earlier films we looked at in class. Citizen Kane used sound, multiple camera angles, and specific shots to get the full view off a scene. One of the most memorable scenes is when Kane’s wife is singing in the opera house he made for her and the camera pans upwards to show the stage the curtain and everything above where she was standing. That was the first time I saw that aspect of cinematography being used. Not only do I think the public carries on this legend of Citizen Kane to show the importance of media and communication I think Well’s knew while making it that it would be a gateway film not only to the film industry but to media and journalism history.

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    • The opera scene, (or scenes, as it was shown from two different perspectives) in my opinion, was the most fantastic scene of the film. It was magnificent, but at the same time, slightly horrifying. I don’t think I have seen anything like that in a movie that came out before Citizen Kane. We see emotions on the faces of several characters. Most are unenthusiastic, or worse. But Kane sits there, knowing that the only opinion that will ultimately matter, in the eyes of the public, is his own.

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  9. The movie Citizen Kane in my opinion perfectly embodies the history of media and communications, particularly the evolution of journalism and the newspaper industry throughout the late 19th and early 20th century. It took the story of one of the largest newspaper tycoons of the age William Randolph Hearst and immortalized it on the big screen. The evolution of media and communications is often studied and talked about in history but it is also important to consider the impact that men like Hearst had on the development of this history. Men like William Randolph Hearst were able, through their manipulation of the media, to gain an overwhelming amount of control over public opinion and national press. These men, namely Hearst, were able to gain this surprising amount of control through a tactic that we now call “yellow Journalism.” Yellow journalism is a term which describes the publishing of a story that has been seriously embellished or completely fabricated; it is a practice that tempted many newspaper publishers to falsify stories in order to sell more papers and ultimately make more money. When Orson Welles made the movie his goal was to expose yellow journalists and the massive amount of power they held over what kind of news was being published in America at the time. This unparalleled control over the information that was being given to the public would end up having far reaching consequences. William Randolph Hearst set the standard for sensationalist journalism in the 20th century, taking it further than anyone before him; he staged crimes so that his reporters could write about them and perhaps most notably (this part made it into the movie) he fabricated stories of war in Cuba all in order to sell his brand and gain more control over public opinion. The problem with journalism and newspapers at the time is that their goal was first and foremost to make themselves more wealthy and powerful; it didn’t matter whether or not a paper was reputable until later on. If we can take anything away from the movie Citizen Kane it is that early on the popularity and credibility of a newspaper were one in the same, it was not until later on in the 20th century that people began to realize the implications of yellow journalism and demand greater credibility. Men like Kane (fictional) and Hearst (real) controlled the minds of millions, and shaped the history of media and communications through sensationalist or yellow journalism.

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    • Movies and characters like these give us a glimpse into how corrupt history is, as you stated that people will write whatever as long as they sell papers and make a profit. But isn’t that ultimately defeating the point of a newspaper? Weren’t people tired of hearing these false stories and wanted some real, honest news? No wonder there are trust issues in the govt. and the media, because people were lied to even as early as the 19th century.

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      • Jen,
        While I totally agree with your comment, I can’t help but feel like towards the end of the movie there was more of a psychological explanation to the way in which Kane acted all of his life, as seen through his paper, his campaign for governor and his dealings with his two wives. His character parallels with the role of the media in this film in a kind way. By the story portraying him as never fully satisfied and always in search of someone else’s need and want for him, the flip side, as seen in the way that media is treated at this period it time, is also relevant. News is so wanted and needed by the people during this era and such shows that the demand for it, by itself, really was the true pathway in which, I think, that many people were able to manipulate it, to serve for their own needs and wants of power like you said.

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    • Matt,
      I felt that your analysis of the history of media and communications in terms of the newspaper was very well done. I was stricken, in particular, by your example of Hearst staging crimes just so his men could write about it. Do you know whether this was a common practice of the newspaper tycoons or unique of Hearst? I think that it is a fascinating concept, so any insight you could give to me about that would be extremely helpful.

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  10. I really enjoyed the movie Citizen Kane not only as an educational tool but also just as a regular movie. The movie laid out the story of Charles Foster Kane (William Hearst) and his life exploring his start in the newspaper business and its expansion into an empire. Throughout the movie, we are taken on a journey of discovering what “Rosebud” is because some reporters thought that since these were Kane’s last words they would give great insight to the man himself. I think this was a great example of how Kane had developed newspapers.
    Through Kane’s story, we are able to see how he transformed media and newspapers. One line that stood out to me was “The news goes on for 24 hours a day.” He revolutionized how the newspaper was constructed. He had his team redevelop the newspapers multiple times of day to make sure it was the most up-to-date news a person could ask for. We can see how this has even escalated into today’s news where you can watch history happen live on any device that connects to the internet.
    Kane (Hearst) was also detrimental in establishing “yellow journalism”. This was shown in the movie when Kane is dancing and laughing saying they, The Inquirer, will declare war on Spain. In this he has displayed how big the newspapers have become. When he was first buying the newspaper, the person he was buying it from was curious as to why that was all Kane wanted. Kane was able to show how powerful the news could be by putting in this “yellow journalism” in which he stretched the truth slightly and was able to get more people engaged with what was happening in the world.
    Kane (Hearst) played an important role in making newspapers influential. They developed a new way of telling the news that made people interested and made them think differently. They showed the world just how important the news could be and how it could affect everything from an election to a war. Even in today’s society, we are seeing how powerful the media is and just recently we saw how the media took down a presidential candidate and how the media was shocked by who won.

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  11. In just skimming the entirety of this discussion thread I have to say that I think we as a class are all pretty much on the same page about this film. May I interject and say that despite this movie being from the 40’s, I thoroughly enjoyed it, as it would seem that you all did. We are all pretty much agreeing that the film techniques used in this movie seem beyond their time. I think that partly because the Movie industry had changed so much since Citizen Kane was filmed, we as critical viewers of this piece of media can appreciate techniques that have dissipated over the last 50 years in movies and have been replaced by special effects. We may not be blown away as much as the people that watched the film industry go through this kind of transportation, from silent film, to subtitled film, to film as full of like as Citizen Kane, but it seems as if we are appreciating anyway just the same.

    One point that I did not see anyone come across, and I apologize if someone did make this statement (like I said I skimmed the blogs), was that this film really highlights the way in which journalism could very well be “bought”. The part of the film in which Mr. Kane seemingly purchased the writers for the Chicago Tribunal and has that elaborate dinner with them, speaks to how the newspaper industry changed in the wake of competition (which some of you guys did tough upon). Not only was information competitive in the news market but so, it would appear, were the wages and quality treatment of the employees of a firm.
    On a different, but similar note, when Citizen Kane was running for Governor is it interesting to think what other newspapers during that period were printing based on their political affiliation and level, if any, of governmental monetary backing, like we read early on in Starr. This factor built into the plot of the film Citizen Kane makes me think about the political machines relevant during the 40’s and their widespread effect on the evolution of the news. The point I am trying to drive at is that the way in which this movie perpetuates the news to be so easily manipulated by money and political influence is very accurate for this period, as it still is today. This film also drives at the fact that over time the news, as Charles Kane figures out, can easily be the peddler of personal agendas and can gain attraction by projecting information that is catchy but not necessarily true. Many of you touched on this idea as well. What I found interesting about that point, of news being catchy but not necessarily true when published by Kane, is that the “National Inquirer”,which published all kinds of hoaxes and is a much more ridiculous version of Kane’s paper, shows that yellow journalism had gone through a kind of evolution as well.

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  12. Overall, I really enjoyed the film. I found it to be equal parts educational and entertaining. What I found really interesting about the movie is how modern the cinematic techniques really were, when you stop and think about them. The camera angles, the fading in and out to other scenes, and the zooming. These are things that we do not really notice today, or find particularly fascinating, but for 1941, this was filmmaking history. Citizen Kane forever changed filmmaking, and media. What I took away from the movie was just how much power the media, or newspaper moguls had during this time. People like Kane, or really William Randolph Hearst, could literally make whatever news they wanted. You see this in the film, with his second wife and how Kane makes hew an opera star, even though she was awful. Men like this were so powerful; they literally could dictate the news. This also shows how important newspapers were, not only for media, but also for history overall. In the film you hear references to the Spanish American War, Yellow Journalism, and you even see Kane saying, “There will be no war!” I forget which war he is talking about, but I do know it did end up happening. I’m mentioning this though because it is just another example of the influence of papers, and how cocky these powerful men could be.

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    • Hi Kylie,
      I think you bring up some great points about the movie. I like how you pointed out the different cinematic techniques that we take for granted today such as camera angles, fading in and out, etc. It is cinematic techniques that make movies so great, weither it be zooming in on something important or focusing in on a romantic moment between two actors. I agree with your point as well that men like Kane are so influnetial over the media because of their power. This reminds me about how some powerful celebs can have certain things about them taken down etc. Overall I liked your comments about the movie.

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  13. Many comments have already brought up great points about the film so I will try to think of something new to say. Along with many of you, I really enjoyed this Citizen Kane. I had never seen it before so having the opportunity to see it and have it relate to something I am studying was really great.

    The portrayal of Charles Foster Kane as a media tycoon was very interesting. When he inherited the New York Inquirer, he immediately stepped in and took charge. He moved into the office and started running a 24- hour newspaper because, as he put it, “The news goes on for 24 hours a day.” This part of the film caught my attention. His recognition of the fact that the news is always happening is what I believe led him to yellow journalism. Newspapers were once sources of pure and vital information that was spread on a weekly basis. Kane’s daily newspaper was filled with stories that were often completely untruthful and only written to grab the reader’s attention. Large headlines seemed to validate the article’s importance and the use of yellow journalism worked for him for the most part (the publishing of his affair was probably a time where this journalism turned against him).

    The reason this was so interesting to me is because we see this today. The 24 hour cable news cycle changed the way news was spread throughout the United States. I find that watching an hour of local news today is just 30 minutes of fluff stories and weather reports that are then repeated in the last 30 minutes. Sure, news happens 24 hours a day, but often it is not worth reporting. The implementation of the 24 hour cycle however has bred a dependence on often not-worth-reporting news. When a major event occurs, the news segments are filled with updates and descriptions of the important event. News stations report information they are given often immediately, and the facts reported are not always, well, factual. They care only about being the first station to break the news, not about checking to make sure the information is correct. Breaking news stories on cable networks are much like the front page stories of Kane’s papers. Yellow journalism was and is somewhat of a necessity to make readers and viewers continue reading and viewing. Making connections between a film from 75 years ago to current media is often easier than one might think.

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    • I totally agree with your comments about Kane saying “news happens 24 hours a day”-this was a part of the film that really stuck with me, as well, because honestly I never thought of that before! Today we have access to news 24/7 and can get even world news practically instantly. However, Kane saying he was going to live in the office really made me stop to think how differently media outlets worked back then. I also like your idea about this being the start of yellow journalism, because those who wrote about non-essential news could have a scandal, etc happen at any time.

      I wondered, while watching the film, what newspaper reporters of the 1900s would think of how we get news today, and your last comment about news outlets wanting to have information first reminded me of that. I would rather have one, complete and factual story a few hours after an event happened than multiple outlets telling different versions of the event 15 minutes after it happened. I would think anyone of that time period would marvel at having a 24/7 news network, and maybe wonder how is there even that much to report? But that, I think, goes back to your comment on the origins of yellow journalism. Great comment!

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  14. Hello!
    Overall, I enjoyed the movie more than I thought that I was going to. I thought that the acting was very well done as well as film in general, seeing that it was produced in the 1940s. The film showcases what can happen when get you so wrapped in the publicity and fame, which is something that we can all relate to today, Britney Spears, for example. As a young child, he was taken from his home and at the age of 25 when he was given access to his trust fund, started getting involved in yellow journalism. To me, that seems like still a young age to give someone so much money, which could be a reason why he soon became obsessed with power and money. Great men like Kane or Hearst played a great role in the development of the media. For one, they both played a part in selling news not for the story, but for the attractiveness of it. Also, another important part is how soon people became curious about not just media and newspapers, but the men operating them. In the movie, Kane’s affair is huge publicity story and in real life people were obsessed with Hearst’s mansion, which many people still visit today. They created the interest not only in the stories that they were selling, but who was creating and selling them. I believe that this still holds true today, and can be seen in modern culture. For example, the public is interested in author’s personal lives, sometimes even more than the work that they produce. In addition, it is men like Kane and Hearst that caused more attention to the media, as well as get more people interested in it, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

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  15. I was really glad we got to watch Citizen Kane in class, because it is one of those movies I have always heard about and one I know is referenced a lot, but I had not gotten around to seeing it myself. I had no idea what it was about but I really enjoy old Hollywood films so I was excited to watch it in class. I think the idea of a figure like Mr. Kane, who is so amazingly wealthy and famous is really fascinating. I think how the movie started, with the reporter trying to find out more about Kane’s life, was really creative and made the story that much more interesting, because we were learning about the life of Mr. Kane at the same time Thompson does while trying to gather more information to finish up the newsreel on Kane’s life-primarily trying to find out what Kane’s dying word, “Rosebud” meant.

    I am obviously not a news reporter so I am not sure how it typically works these days, but I also thought it was interesting to see how Thompson got his information. His boss told him to get any information he could, and he traveled the states to find it. Each character he met with brought a new piece of the puzzle to the table so I was always interested to see what he would learn.

    Seeing how Kane built his empire was also really captivating to watch because even though he ended up having money put away for him anyway, he still worked had to build up the Inquirer and it was funny when he said he would be living in the office. I wondered if his mother seemed cold when she was talking with Thatcher about sending Kane away with him because she did not care so much about him, or because she was trying to be numb to having her son leave her. I think it is the latter, because she remarks that Charles will be where his father cannot find him and subsequently hurt him, it seems.

    I thought this movie was great to see how empires get built, in this case media. It was interesting because at first Kane makes his money selling outlandish and scandalous stories, and soon his life becomes one. I think this shows the nature of what celebrity life is like, especially towards the end when his second wife leaves him, and all of his possession get gone through/thrown out when he passes away. This movie is honestly really great (though I know I am far from the first to say so) and it shows how important media and communications are, while also being an important cultural and historical film itself.

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