William Randolph Hearst would not so much turn in his grave as become apoplectic with rage. Some 64 years after the newspaper baron’s death, Citizen Kane, the film he tried to suppress, is to be screened at the fairytale castle where he lived.
Orson Welles’ cinematic masterpiece, often voted the greatest film of all time by critics, was partly based on Hearst. Xanadu, a vast mountaintop estate where the film’s protagonist Charles Foster Kane dies alone, was inspired by Hearst Castle, the media mogul’s palatial residence overlooking the Pacific Ocean in California.
The movie will be screened in the property’s private cinema on March 13 as part of the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival and an audience of 50 people will each pay $1,000 for a ticket, which will go towards preservation of the castle.
The film will be introduced by Ben Mankiewicz, grandson of Herman Mankiewicz, who wrote the screenplay with Welles. In 2012 the film was screened at the estate’s visitor centre, about two miles from the castle itself.
When Citizen Kane was released in 1941, Hearst was outraged. He tried to get a Hollywood studio boss to burn the film and successfully campaigned for it not to win the Oscar for best picture, which eventually went instead to How Green Was My Valley?
According to his family, Hearst never actually saw Citizen Kane before he died in 1951. Six years later the castle was donated to the state of California and it is now a state park and visited by one million tourists a year. Hearst’s family has said the film is an ‘American classic’ but is in ‘no way an accurate depiction’ of Hearst or Hearst Castle.