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Cast

  • Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane
  • William Alland as Jerry Thompson
  • Ray Collins as Jim W. Gettys
  • Dorothy Comingore as Susan Alexander Kane
  • Joseph Cotten as Jedediah Leland
  • George Coulouris as Walter Parks Thatcher
  • Agnes Moorehead as Mary Kane
  • Harry Shannon as Jim Kane
  • Everett Sloane as Mr. Bernstein
  • Ruth Warrick as Emily Monroe Norton Kane
  • Paul Stewart as Raymond

About 'Citizen Kane'

Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles), the enormously wealthy media proprietor, has been living alone in his vast palatial estate Xanadu for the last years of his life, with a "No trespassing" sign on the gate. He dies in a bed while holding a snow globe and utters "Rosebud..."; the globe slips from his lifeless hand and smashes. Kane's death then becomes sensational news around the world. Newsreel reporter Jerry Thompson (William Alland) tries to find out about Kane's private life and, in particular, to discover the meaning behind his last word. The reporter interviews the great man's friends and associates, and Kane's story unfolds as a series of flashbacks. Thompson approaches Kane's second wife, Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore), now an alcoholic who runs her own club, but she refuses to tell him anything. Thompson then goes to the private archive of Walter Parks Thatcher (George Coulouris), a deceased banker who served as Kane's guardian during his childhood and adolescence. It is through Thatcher's written memoirs that Thompson learns about Kane's childhood. Thompson then interviews Kane's personal business manager Mr. Bernstein (Everett Sloane), best friend Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotten), Susan for a second time, and Kane's butler Raymond (Paul Stewart) at Xanadu.

Flashbacks reveal that Kane's childhood was spent in poverty (his parents ran a boarding house), until the "world's third largest gold mine" was discovered on an apparently worthless property his mother had acquired. He is forced to leave his mother (Agnes Moorehead) when she sends him away to live with Thatcher, to be educated. After gaining full control over his possessions at the age of 25, Kane enters the newspaper business with sensationalized yellow journalism. He takes control of the newspaper, the New York Inquirer, and hires all the best journalists. His attempted rise to power is documented, including his manipulation of public opinion for the Spanish American War; his first marriage to Emily Monroe Norton (Ruth Warrick), a President's niece; and his campaign for the office of governor of New York State, for which alternative newspaper headlines are created depending on the result.

Kane's marriage disintegrates over the years, and he begins an affair with Susan Alexander. Both his wife and his opponent discover the affair, simultaneously ending his marriage and his political career. Kane marries his mistress, and forces her into an operatic career for which she has no talent or ambition. She attempts suicide, and eventually leaves him.

Kane spends his last years building his vast estate and lives alone, interacting only with his staff. The butler recounts that Kane had said "Rosebud" after Susan left him, right after seeing a snow globe.

At Xanadu, Kane's belongings are being catalogued, most of which are practically worthless. During this time, Thompson finds that he is unable to solve the mystery and concludes that "Rosebud" will forever remain an enigma. He theorizes that "Mr. Kane was a man who got everything he wanted, and then lost it. Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn't get, or something he lost." In the ending of the film, it is revealed to the audience that Rosebud was the name of the sled from Kane's childhood - an allusion to the only time in his life when he was truly happy. The sled, thought to be junk, is burned and destroyed by Xanadu's departing staff in a basement furnace.

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