Charles Foster Kane Meets Donald Trump

Kane Rally Long Shot

I am on the record as believing that Citizen Kane is one of the greatest films ever made:

It’s story time, kiddies. I’ve probably seen Citizen Kane more times than any other movie, even The Godfather. I hope Don Vito will forgive me without expecting a Bonasera-like favor from me. I’m not much of an undertaker even if I *am* a 6 Feet Under fan…

I was introduced to the glories of Citizen Kane by my high school journalism teacher, Mr. Quinlan. He was a fussy little man who was a rather dull teacher. He was seriously bald and usually wore a gray suit, white shirt, and a dark tie. Try as we might, he was hard to imitate: our feeble attempts usually involved placing a right hand on the nape of the neck and scowling quizzically. The impression also involved much head-shaking. I told you it was a bad impression.

Mr. Quinlan came to life when discussing Citizen Kane with his students. He was positively bubbly while telling us that Kane was based on William Randolph Hearst and Susan Alexander was based on Marion Davies. He omitted, however, one theory of why Hearst was so livid about the movie. Legend has it that rosebud was the tycoon’s nickname for Ms. Davies’ clitoris. That story would have made Mr. Quinlan blush like a bald beet. I’m not sure if it’s true but Gore Vidal thought it made more sense than that sled/lost childhood mishigas.

Notice how I slipped that rather lengthy self-quotation in there? I seem to have humblebrag fever these days. It beats the hell out of yellow fever even if that’s the title of a fine old Hot Tuna LP.

Back to whole point of this post such as it is. It turns out that the Insult Comedian is a YUUUUGE fan of Orson’s first film and has his own unique toon-tycoon twist on it.

The clip comes from an abandoned Errol Morris project and he posted the Trump clip last fall. I cannot believe I missed it. My spies seem to be letting me down. Where have you gone James Jesus Angleton?

Trump seems to think that Citizen Kane is about “accumulation” whereas most of us Kaniacs believe it’s about loss and the emptiness of materialism. Another Trumpian insight is that “there was a great rise in Citizen Kane and there was a modest fall, not a financial fall but a personal one.” Actually, Kane’s empire shrunk during the Great Depression much like that of William Randolph Hearst. Not that one expects accuracy from the Donald…

What Trump *really* has in common with both Kane and Hearst is a compulsion to build monuments to themselves. Kane had Xanadu or  Sloppy Joe’s as Jedediah Leland mockingly called it. Heart had his castle on the hill, San Simeon. And Trump has a string of hotels, buildings and other joints named for the greatest man he knows, himself. He also has a Florida crib complete with a butler turned estate “historian.” You cannot make this stuff up:

The interview took place at Mar-a-Lago itself, which – despite also functioning as a private club – comes across as merely a snowglobe short of Xanadu. But we shall come to Mr Trump’s self-confessed favourite movie later. In other fiction, a mildly exasperated yet uber-competent valet is an accessory frequently sported by the socially dysfunctional or semi-housebroken rich guy. Perhaps this was the aim of the Trump campaign, which seeks to cast Senecal very much as the Alfred to Trump’s superannuated Bruce Wayne, as opposed to the Oddjob to his Auric Goldfinger.

Even so, Senecal’s sense of professional obligation tends toward the malarial. “Years ago,” reveals the profile, “he received an urgent warning from Mr Trump’s soon-to-land plane that the mogul was in a sour mood. Mr Senecal quickly hired a bugler to play Hail to the Chief as Mr Trump stepped out of his limousine to enter Mar-a-Lago.”

Mr. Senecal puts the servile into servant. He’s nothing like Kane’s snippy-n-snide butler Raymond:

Paul Stewart pretends that Rosebud is important.

It’s no surprise that Trump gets so much wrong about Kane. He natters on about Rosebud when it’s the ultimate MacGuffin: a device to drive the plot along that, in the end, doesn’t mean all that much. As the newsreel reporter says: “No one word can sum up a man’s life.” Word.

Back to the Trump/Morris video. At its end, Morris has the following exchange with the Insult Comedian:

EM: If you could give Charles Foster Kane advice, what would you say to him?

IC: Get yourself a different woman.

Is anyone surprised? I thought not. The only thing genuine about Trump’s campaign persona is his misogyny. It’s one reason I am firmly convinced that Hillary Clinton is the one to take him on. It will increase the chances of his saying something stupidly sexist. It’s his nature. To paraphrase the old Four Tops song, he can’t help himself:

Time to circle back to the Citizen Kane still at the top of the post. There were no *real* crowd scenes in Kane. It was all done by movie magic. Here’s how Rogert Ebert described it:

Crowd scenes. There aren’t any in Citizen Kane. It only looks like there are. In the opening newsreel, stock footage of a political rally is intercut with a low-angle shot showing one man speaking on behalf of Kane. Sound effects make it sound like he’s at a big outdoor rally. Later, Kane himself addresses a gigantic indoor rally. Kane and the other actors on the stage are real. The audience is a miniature, with flickering lights to suggest movement.

I thought of this the other day when Team Sanders held a *very* expensive rally at Safeco Field in Seattle. There were 5-7K people there but they wanted to give the impression that the joint was packed, which they cleverly did by having the stage set up by Third Base. Here’s how it looked from another angle:

Sanders Safeco
Your donations in action.

Remember this image the next time you hear how authentic and genuine Mr. Sanders is. They all use movie magic, even rumpled socialists from Vermont by way of Brooklyn.