On the 75th anniversary of the release of “Citizen Kane,” two new books have been published that put forth two starkly opposing claims about the origins of the movie.
Frank Mankiewicz in his book “So As I Was Saying” states that although the screenplay is credited to Orson Wells and Herman Mankiewicz, his father, Wells had little to do with the script. According to Frank Mankiewicz, Wells “literally pleaded for at least a joint screen credit ‘so [he] could get paid at all'” under the terms of his contract.”
Harlan Lebo definitely contradicts this premise. In his book “Citizen Kane: A Filmmaker’s Journey” he states that extensive research proves that Wells revised the script extensively. Archives at the Museum of Modern Art and the University of Michigan have produced two overlooked copies of the “corrections script.” Both show that Welles revised the script extensively.
As to the famous last utterance of George Foster Kane, “Rosebud,” there are also alternative explanations of its origin. Herman Mankiewicz stated that the name came from Old Rosebud, the 1914 Kentucky Derby winner. A horse that he had a big bet on. Other film critics feel that it reflexes Orson Welles’ radio days. But it seems it doesn’t matter. Wells was happy to credit the metaphor to Mankiewicz because he called it a “dollar-book Freudian gag.”
Regardless of the endless arguments about this film, “Citizen Kane” is still heralded as one of Hollywood’s greatest films.