Raising Kane And Other Essays On Education

We’re now more likely to tell our daughters they can be anything they want to be — an astronaut and a mother, a tomboy and a girlie girl. But we don’t do the same for our sons.

Even as we’ve given girls more choices for the roles they play, boys’ worlds are still confined, social scientists say. They’re discouraged from having interests that are considered feminine. They’re told to be tough at all costs, or else to tamp down their so-called boy energy.

If we want to create an equitable society, one in which everyone can thrive, we need to also give boys more choices. As Gloria Steinem says, “I’m glad we’ve begun to raise our daughters more like our sons, but it will never work until we raise our sons more like our daughters.”

That’s because women’s roles can’t expand if men’s don’t, too. But it’s not just about women. Men are falling behind in school and work because we are not raising boys to succeed in the new, pink economy. Skills like cooperation, empathy and diligence — often considered to be feminine — are increasingly valued in modern-day work and school, and jobs that require these skills are the fastest-growing.

In her new book, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Nigerian-born author, gives instructions for raising a feminist daughter. But how can we raise feminist sons?

I asked neuroscientists, economists, psychologists and others to answer that question, based on the latest research and data we have about gender. I defined feminist simply, as someone who believes in the full equality of men and women. Their advice applied broadly: to anyone who wants to raise children who are kind, confident and free to pursue their dreams.


Let him cry

Boys and girls cry the same amount when they’re babies and toddlers, research shows. It’s around age 5 that boys get the message that anger is acceptable but that they’re not supposed to show other feelings, like vulnerability, said Tony Porter, co-founder of A Call to Men, an education and advocacy group.

“Our daughters are allowed to be human beings, and our sons are taught to be robotic,” he said. “Teach him that he has a full range of emotions, to stop and say, ‘I’m not angry; I’m scared, or my feelings are hurt, or I need help.’”


Give him role models

Boys are particularly responsive to spending time with role models, even more than girls, research shows. There is growing evidence that boys raised in households without a father figure fare worse in behavior, academics and earnings. One reason, according to the economists David Autor and Melanie Wasserman, is they do not see men taking on life’s responsibilities. “Put good men in the space of your son,” Mr. Porter said.

Give them strong female role models, too. Talk about the achievements of women you know, and well-known women in sports, politics or media. Sons of single mothers usually have a lot of respect for their accomplishments, said Tim King, founder of Urban Prep Academies for low-income, African-American boys. He encourages them to see other women that way.


Let him be himself

Even as adult gender roles have merged, children’s products have become more divided by gender than they were 50 years ago, research has found: pink princesses and blue trucks, not just in the toy aisle but on cups and toothbrushes. It’s no wonder that children’s interests end up aligning that way.

But neuroscientists say children aren’t born with those preferences. Until the mid-20th century, pink was the boy color and blue was for girls. In studies, infants have not been shown to have strong toy preferences. The difference, according to researchers, emerges at the same time that children become aware of their gender, around age 2 or 3, at which point societal expectations can override innate interests. Yet longitudinal studies suggest that toy segregation has long-term effects on gender gaps in academics, spatial skills and social skills, according to Campbell Leaper, chairman of the psychology department at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

For children to reach their full potential, they need to follow their interests, traditional or not. So let them. The idea is not to assume that all children want to do the same things, but to make sure they’re not limited.

Offer open-ended activities, like playing with blocks or clay, and encourage boys to try activities like dress-up or art class, even if they don’t seek them out, social scientists say. Call out stereotypes. (“It’s too bad that toy box shows all girls because I know boys also like to play with dollhouses.”) It could also improve the status of women. Researchers say the reason parents encourage daughters to play soccer or become doctors, but not sons to take ballet or become nurses, is that “feminine” equals lower status.


Teach him to take care of himself

“Some mothers raise their daughters but love their sons,” said Jawanza Kunjufu, an author and lecturer on educating black boys. They make their daughters study, do chores and go to church, he said — but not their sons.

The difference shows up in the data: American girls ages 10 to 17 spend two more hours on chores each week than boys do, and boys are 15 percent more likely to be paid for doing chores, according to a University of Michigan study.

“Teach our sons to cook, clean and look after themselves — to be equally competent in the home as we would expect our daughters to be in the office,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, chief executive of New America, a think tank.


Teach him to take care of others

Women still do more of the caregiving — for children and for older people — and the housework, even when both parents work full time, data show. And caregiving jobs are the fastest-growing. So teach boys to care for others.

Talk about how men balance work and family, and how sons and not just daughters are expected to care for parents and relatives when they’re old, Ms. Slaughter said. Enlist boys’ help making soup for a sick friend or visiting a relative in the hospital. Give them responsibilities caring for pets and younger siblings. Encourage them to babysit, coach or tutor. One program brings babies into elementary classrooms, which has been found to increase empathy and decrease aggression.


Share the work

When possible, resist gender roles in housework and child care among parents. Actions speak louder than words, said Dan Clawson, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst: “If the mother cooks the food and cleans the house and the father mows the lawn and is often gone from home, lessons are learned.”

Also share some of the breadwinning. Men raised by mothers who worked for at least a year around the time their sons were teenagers were more likely to marry women who work, one study showed. Another found that sons of women who work for any amount of time before age 14 spend more time on housework and child care as adults. “Men who were raised by employed moms are significantly more egalitarian in their gender attitudes,” said Kathleen McGinn, a professor at Harvard Business School.


Encourage friendships with girls

Research at Arizona State University found that by the end of preschool, children start segregating by sex, and this reinforces gender stereotypes. But children who are encouraged to play with friends of the opposite sex learn better problem-solving and communication.

“The more obvious it is that gender is being used to categorize groups or activities, the more likely it is that gender stereotypes and bias are reinforced,” said Richard Fabes, director of the university’s Sanford School, which studies gender and education.

Organize coed birthday parties and sports teams for young children, so children don’t come to believe it’s acceptable to exclude a group on the basis of sex, said Christia Brown, a developmental psychologist at the University of Kentucky. Try not to differentiate in language, either: One study found that when preschool teachers said “boys and girls” instead of “children,” the students held more stereotypical beliefs about men’s and women’s roles and spent less time playing with one another.

Boys who have friendships with girls are also less likely to think of women as sexual conquests, Mr. Porter said.


Teach ‘no means no’

Other ways to teach respect and consent: Require children to ask before they touch one another’s bodies as early as preschool. Also, teach them the power of the word no — stop tickling them or wrestling with them when they say it.

Model healthy problem-solving at home. Children’s exposure to divorce or abuse has been linked to poor conflict resolution in future romantic relationships, said W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.


Speak up when others are intolerant

Say something when you see teasing or harassment, and role-play with boys so they can intervene when they see it, Ms. Brown said.

Speak up when they’re inappropriate, too. “Boys will be boys” is not an excuse for bad behavior. Expect more of them. “Be vigilant in redirecting conduct which is demeaning, intolerant, disrespectful, offensive,” Mr. King said.


Never use ‘girl’ as an insult

Don’t say — and don’t let your son say — that someone throws or runs like a girl, or use “sissy” or any of its more offensive synonyms. Same for sexist jokes.

Be careful with subtler language, too. The research of Emily Kane, a sociologist at Bates College, shows that parents enforce traditional gender roles for sons mostly because they fear those sons will be teased. “We can all help by avoiding judgment, and avoiding small, everyday assumptions about what a kid will enjoy or be good at based on their gender,” she said. Boys who get teased could say, “No, anyone can play with beads,” or “I am not a girl, but do you think they’re worse than boys?” said Lise Eliot, a neuroscientist at Rosalind Franklin University.


Read a lot, including about girls and women

You’ve probably heard that boys excel at science and math, and girls at language and reading. Stereotypes can become self-fulfilling. Mothers talk more with daughters than sons, according to a meta-analysis by Mr. Leaper. Fight the stereotype by talking to boys, reading to them and encouraging them to read.

Read about a wide variety of people, and stories that break the mold, not just those about boys saving the world and girls needing to be saved. When a book or a news item fits that mold, talk about it: Why does the mother in the “Berenstain Bears” always wear a housecoat and rarely leave the house? Why does a news photograph show all white men?

“That should start at 3, when they really pick up stereotypes and notice them,” Ms. Brown said. “If you don’t help them label them as stereotypes, they assume this is the way it is.”


Celebrate boyhood

Raising a son this way isn’t just about telling boys what not to do, or about erasing gender differences altogether. For instance, all male mammals engage in rough-and-tumble play, Ms. Eliot said.

So roughhouse, crack jokes, watch sports, climb trees, build campfires. Teach boys to show strength — the strength to acknowledge their emotions. Teach them to provide for their families — by caring for them. Show them how to be tough — tough enough to stand up to intolerance. Give them confidence — to pursue whatever they’re passionate about.


Art Direction by Antonio de Luca

Claire Cain Miller writes about gender, families and the future of work for The Upshot. She joined The Times in 2008, and previously covered the tech industry for Business Day. @clairecmFacebook

From the Spring 1972 issue of Film Comment; this is also reprinted, with a lot of contextual material, in my 2007 collection Discovering Orson Welles (where I’ve also retained my original title — not used by Film Comment, who ran it as an untitled review). I’m still hugely embarrassed by the assertion early in this piece that “[Kael’s] basic contention, that the script of KANE is almost solely the work of Herman J. Mankiewicz, seems well-supported and convincing” — a howler if there ever was one. I’m not sure if this would qualify as a valid excuse, but this was the first lengthy essay about film that I ever published.

Recently I‘ve been reading Brian Kellow’s biography of Pauline Kael, and I’m very pleased that he’s up front about the serious flaws of “Raising KANE,” factual and otherwise — but also disappointed that Kellow is unaware that “The Kane Mutiny” — signed by Peter Bogdanovich, and the best riposte to Kael’s essay ever published by anyone — was mainly written by Welles himself. (See This is Orson Welles and Discovering Orson Welles for more about this extraordinary act of impersonation.) It appears that the main source of this doubtful assumption in Kellow’s book is Bogdanovich himself. Of course, Peter knows far better than I or Kellow do who wrote what, but one fact worthy of consideration in this matter is that he’s never reprinted “The Kane Mutiny” in any of his books (apart from the portions of his interview with Welles from that piece that I recycled in This is Orson Welles). I also happen to think that this essay is superior, as prose and as argument, to anything else ever published under Peter’s name.

I was delighted to discover that the following review is included in the collection of Welles’ s papers purchased from Oja Kodar that are now housed at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. On the other hand, whether Welles read it before or after I met him is something I’ll never know.–- J.R.

The conceptions are basically kitsch…popular melodrama – Freud                            plus scandal, a comic strip about Hearst.

Although these words are used by Pauline Kael to describe CITIZEN KANE, in a long essay introducing the film’s script, they might apply with greater rigor to her own introduction. Directly after the above quote, she makes it clear that KANE is “kitsch redeemed,” and this applies to her essay as well: backed by impressive research, loaded with entertaining nuggets of gossip and social history, and written with a great deal of dash and wit, “Raising KANE” is a work that has much to redeem it. As a bedside anecdote collection, it is easily the equal of The Minutes of the Last Meeting and Robert Lewis Taylor’s biography of W. C. Fields, and much of what she has to say about Hollywood is shrewd and quotable (e.g., “The movie industry is always frightened, and is always proudest of films that celebrate courage.”) Her basic contention, that the script of KANE is almost solely the work of Herman J. Mankiewicz, seems well-supported and convincing — although hardly earth-shaking for anyone who was reading Penelope Houston’s interview with John Houseman in Sight and Sound nine years ago (Autumn 1962). But as criticism, “Raising KANE” is mainly a conspicuous failure — a depressing performance for a supposedly major film critic — in which the object under examination repeatedly disappears before our eyes. Contrary to her own apparent aims and efforts, Kael succeeds more in burying KANE than in praising it, and perpetrates a number of questionable critical methods in the process. The following remarks will attempt to show how and why.

First, a word about The CITIZEN KANE Book itself, which appears to be a fair reflection of Kael’s tastes and procedures. In many ways, it epitomizes the mixed blessing that the proliferating movie book industry has generally become: one is offered too much, yet not enough, and usually too late. Thirty years after the release of CITIZEN KANE, the script is finally made available, and it is packaged to serve as a coffee table ornament — virtually out of the reach of most students until (or unless) it comes out as an expensive paperback, and illustrated with perhaps the ugliest frame enlargements ever to be seen in a film book of any kind. (1) One is grateful for much of the additional material — notes on the shooting script by Gary Carey, Mankiewicz’s credits, an index to Kael’s essay, and above all, the film’s cutting continuity — and a bit chagrined that (1) no production stills are included, (2) Carey’s notes are somewhat skimpy, and (3) apart from THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, FALSTAFF, and MR. ARKADIN, no other titles directed by Welles are even mentioned (and the latter, inexplicably, is listed only under its British title, CONFIDENTIAL REPORT).

When Kael began carving her reputation in the early Sixties, she was chiefly known for the vigorous sarcasm of her ad hominem attacks against other critics. Now that she writes for a vastly wider audience in The New Yorker (where “Raising KANE” first appeared), the sarcasm is still there, but generally the only figures attacked by name are celebrities — like Orson Welles; the critics are roasted anonymously. This may be due to professional courtesy, or the likelier assumption that New Yorker readers don’t bother with film books by other writers, but it makes for an occasional fuzziness. Thus we have to figure out on our own that “the latest incense-burning book on Josef von Sternberg” is Herman G. Weinberg’s; and that when she ridicules “conventional schoolbook explanations for [KANE’s] greatness,” such as “articles…that call it a tragedy in fugal form and articles that explain that the hero of CITIZEN KANE is time,” she is referring not to several articles but to one–specifically, an essay by Joseph McBride in Persistence of Vision. (2) The opening sentence of McBride’s piece reads, “CITIZEN KANE is a tragedy in fugal form; thus it is also the denial of tragedy,” and three paragraphs later is the suggestion that “time itself is the hero of CITIZEN KANE.” Yet taken as a whole, McBride’s brief essay, whatever it may lack in stylistic felicities, may contain more valuable insights about the film than Kael’s 70-odd double-columned pages. While it shows more interest in KANE as a film than as the setting and occasion for clashing egos and intrigues, it still manages to cover much of the same ground that The CITIZEN KANE Book traverses three years later — detailed, intelligent comparisons of the shooting script with the film (the first time this was ever done, to my knowledge), an examination of the movie’s relationship to Hearst, and a full acknowledgement (amplified by a quotation from the Houseman interview) that “Welles does play down Mankiewicz’s contribution.” And if we turn directly to Kael’s own account of KANE published in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang the same year, we find not only “conventional school book explanations” that are vacuous indeed (Kane is “a Faust who sells out to the devil in himself”), but also the assumption that KANE is “a one man show …staged by twenty-five-year-old writer-director-star Orson Welles.”

For all its theoretical limitations and embarrassing factual errors, the best criticism of CITIZEN KANE is still probably found in André Bazin’s small, out-of-print, and untranslated book on Welles (Orson Welles, Paris: P.-A. Chavane, 1950). It is one sign of Kael’s limitations that she once wrote in a book review about Bazin’s essays being “brain-crushingly difficult” — in English translation. A brain that easily crushed is somewhat less than well equipped to deal with intellectual subjects, as her early remarks on Eisenstein and Resnais (among others) seem to indicate. IVAN THE TERRIBLE, for her, is “so lacking in human dimensions that we may stare at it in a kind of outrage. True, every frame in it looks great…but as a movie, it’s static, grandiose, and frequently ludicrous, with elaborately angled, over-composed photography, and overwrought, eyeball-rolling performers slipping in and out of the walls….Though no doubt the extraordinarily sophisticated Eisenstein intended all this to be a non-realistic stylization, it’s still a heavy dose of décor for all except true addicts” (Kiss Kiss BangBang). And LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD is “a ‘classier’ version of those Forties you-can-call-it-supernatural-if-you-want-to movies like FLESH AND FANTASY — only now it’s called ‘Jungian’” (I Lost It at the Movies). Basic to both these reactions is a refusal or inability to respond to self-proclaiming art on its own terms, an impulse to cut the work down to size — or chop it up into bite-size tidbits — before even attempting to assimilate it. At her rare best, as in her sensitive review of MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER last year, Kael can grapple with a film as an organic unity; more frequently, it becomes splintered and distributed into ungainlv heaps of pros and cons, shards of loose matter that are usually dropped unless they can yield up generalities or wisecracks, until all that remains visible is the wreckage. Many films, of course, are wreckage, and few critics are better than Kael in explaining how certain ones go over the cliff — the complex (or simple) mentality that often lies just behind banality or incoherence. But confronting the depth of KANE, she can hail it only as a “shallow masterpiece.”

Small wonder, then, that so much of the film confuses or eludes her. First she tries to “explain” as much of the film as she can by relating it to the biographies, public personalities, and (presumed) psychologies of Welles, Mankiewicz and Hearst (”Freud plus scandal”). And when some parts of the film don’t seem to match her “real-life” drama, she connects them anyway: “There’s the scene of Welles eating in the newspaper office, which was obviously caught by the camera crew, and which, to be ‘a good sport,’ he had to use.” But what’s so obvious or even plausible about this fantasy when we find the eating scene already detailed in the script?

Kael is at her weakest when she confronts the film’s formal devices. The use of a partially invisible reporter as a narrative device, for instance–training our attention on what he sees and hears rather than on what he is — clearly confuses her. After criticizing William Alland in a wholly functional performance for being “a vacuum as Thompson, the reporter,” she goes on to note that “the faceless idea doesn’t really come across. You probably don’t get the intention behind it in KANE unless you start thinking about the unusual feebleness of the scenes with the ‘News on the March’ people and the fact that though Thompson is a principal in the movie in terms of how much he appears, there isn’t a shred of characterization in his lines or performance; he is such a shadowy presence that you may even have a hard time remembering whether you ever saw his face…”

Quite aside from the speculation she sets up about “the scenes with the ‘News on the March’ people” (isn’t there only one?), it is distressing — and unfortunately, not uncharacteristic — to see her treating one of the film’s most ingenious and successful strategies as a liability. Where, indeed, can one find the “unusual feebleness” in the brilliant projection-room sequence — a model of measured exposition, a beautiful choreography of darting sounds and images, dovetailing voices and lights — except in her misreading of it? Kael’s use of the second person here, like her resort to first person plural on other occasions, is ultimately as political and rhetorical as it is anti-analytical: one is invited to a party where only one narrow set of tastes prevails.

It’s hard to make clear to people who didn’t live through the                                    transition[from silent to sound films] how sickly and unpleasant                             many of those ‘artistic’ silent pictures were — how you wanted to                           scrape off all that mist and sentiment.

It’s hard indeed if you (Kael) fail to cite even one film as evidence — does she mean SUNRISE or THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK (lots of mist and sentiment in each), or is her knife pointed in another direction? — but not so hard if you (Kael) don’t mind bolstering the prejudices of your lay audience: they’d probably like to scrape off “all that silent ‘poetry’” too, and producers at the time with similar biases often did it for them.

Kael finds a similar difficulty in taking KANE straight:

The mystery…is largely fake, and the Gothic-thriller atmosphere and the Rosebud gimmickry (though fun) are such obvious penny-dreadful popular theatrics that they’re not so very different from the fake mysteries that Hearst’s American Weekly used to whip up — the haunted castles and the curses fulfilled.

Within such a climate of appreciation, even her highest tributes come across as backhanded compliments or exercises in condescension, as in her reversions to nostalgia. Having established why none of us should take KANE very seriously, she grows rhapsodic: “Now the movie sums up and preserves a period, and the youthful iconoclasm is preserved in all its freshness — even the freshness of its callowness.”

But if Kael can be dreamy about the past, she also records her misgivings about film as “the nocturnal voyage into the unconscious” (Buñuel’s phrase): “Most of the dream theory of film, which takes the audience for passive dreamers, doesn’t apply to the way one responded to silent comedies–which, when they were good, kept the audience in a heightened state of consciousness.” But does a dreamer invariably relate to his own dream — much less someone else’s –  passively? And are “dreams” and “a heightened state of consciousness” really antithetical?

Much of the beauty of CITIZEN KANE, and Welles’ style in general, is a function of kinetic seizures, lyrical transports, and intuitive responses. To see KANE merely as the “culmination” of Thirties comedy or “a collection of blackout sketches” or a series of gibes against Hearst is to miss most of what is frightening and wonderful and awesome about it. When the camera draws back from the child surrounded by snow through a dark window frame to the mother’s face in close-up, one feels a free domain being closed in, a destiny being circumscribed, well before either the plot or one’s powers of analysis can conceptualize it. As Susan Alexander concludes her all-night monologue, and the camera soars up through the skylight over her fading words (”Come around and tell me the story of your life sometime”), the extraordinary elation of that movement is too sudden and too complex to be written off as superficial bravura: a levity that comes from staying up all night and greeting the dawn, the satisfaction of sailing over a narrative juncture, the end of a confession, a gesture of friendship, the reversal of an earlier downward movement, a sense of dramatic completion, a gay exhaustion, and more, it is as dense and immediate as a burst of great poetry. At its zenith, this marvelous art –- which is Welles’ and Welles’ alone –- can sketch the graceful curve of an entire era; in the grand ball of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, perhaps the greatest achievement in his career, a track and dissolve through the mansion’s front door, while a fleeting wisp of garment flutters past, whirls us into a magical continuum where the past, present and future of a family and community pirouette and glide past our vision–the voices and faces and histories and personal styles flowing by so quickly that we can never hope to keep up with them.

What has Kael to say about AMBERSONS? It’s “a work of feeling and imagination and of obvious effort…but Welles isn’t in it [as an actor], and it’s too bland. It feels empty, uninhabited.” It’s nice of her, anyway, to give him an A for effort.

Throughout “Raising KANE,” a great show is made of clearing up popular misconceptions about Welles. Yet within my own experience, the most popular misconception is not that Welles wrote CITIZEN KANE (although that’s popular enough), but that he “made” or “directed” THE THIRD MAN. And the worst that can be said about Kael’s comments is that they don’t even say enough about his style as a director to distinguish it from Carol Reed’s. So intent is she on documenting Welles’ vanity that the films wind up seeming secondary, trails of refuse strewn in the wake of the Great Welles Myth, and many of his finest achievements are denied him.

Seeing KANE again recently, she reports that “most of the newspaper-office scenes looked as clumsily staged as ever” (no reasons or explanations given). With a sweep of her hand, she consigns the rich complexity of THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI and TOUCH OF EVIL to oblivion: “His later thrillers are portentous without having anything to portend, sensational in a void, entertaining thrillers, often, but mere thrillers.” (Like James Bond?) A page later, noting “the presence in KANE of so many elements and interests that are unrelated to Welles’ other work,” she takes care of those elements and interests by adding, parenthetically, that “mundane activities and social content are not his forte.” I’m still puzzling over what she could mean by “mundane activities,” in KANE or elsewhere, but if interesting social content is absent from any of Welles’ later movies (including the Shakespeare adaptations), I must have been seeing different films.

A case could be made, I think, that the influence of Mankiewicz and Toland on KANE carries over somewhat into Welles’s later work, for better and for worse: MR. ARKADIN, in particular, suggests this, both in the clumsiness Of its KANE-derived plot and the beauty of its deep-focus photography. But in her zealous efforts to carry on her crusade against Welles’ reputation as an auteur, Kael seems to find more unity in Mankiewicz’s career as a producer than in Welles’ as a director. And despite her lengthy absorption in the battle of wills between Mankiewicz, Welles, and Hearst, all she can find to say about the following quotation, from one of Mankiewicz’s letters, is that it “suggests [Mankiewicz’s] admiration, despite everything, for both Hearst and Welles”.

With the fair-mindedness that I have always recognized as my outstanding trait,I said to Orson that, despite this and that, Mr. Hearst was, in many ways, a great man. He was, and is, said Orson, a horse’s ass, no more nor less, who has been wrong, without exception, on everything he’s ever touched.

Here, in a nutshell, we have a definition of contrasting sensibilities that is almost paradigmatic: Welles (almost) at the beginning of his career, Mankiewicz (almost) at the end of his own. Considering this quote, it’s hard to agree with Kael when she writes of Mankiewicz that he “wrote a big movie that is untarnished by sentimentality,” that is “unsanctimonious” and “without scenes of piety, masochism, or remorse, without ‘truths.’” KANE, on the contrary, has all of these things, and never more so than when it entertains and encourages the idea that Kane is “a great man,” and worships raw power in the process of condemning it. It is a singular irony that the aspect Of KANE that Kael writes about best — Welles’s charm as an actor — is precisely the factor that makes the script’s corruptions, obeisance to wealth and power (and accompanying self-hatred), palatable. But when similar sentimental apologies for megalomania occur in ARKADIN and TOUCH OF EVIL, they carry no sense of conviction whatever. One suspects, finally, that KANE’s uniqueness in Welles’ work largely rests upon the fact that it views corruption from a corrupted viewpoint (Mankiewicz’s contribution), while the others view corruption from a vantage point of innocence. By abandoning the “charismatic demagogue” and “likeable bastard” — the sort of archetypal figure that commercial Hollywood thrives on, in figures as diverse as Hud and Patton — Welles gave up most of his audience; but it could be argued, I think, that he gained a certain integrity in the process.

                                                  The overwhelming emotion conveyed by KANE in its final moments is an almost cosmic sense of waste: an empire and a life that has turned into junk, and is going up in smoke. If we compare this smoke to the smoke that rises at the end Of THE TRIAL, we may get some measure of the experience, intelligence, and feeling that Mankiewicz brought to CITIZEN KANE. Yet thankful as one may be to Kael for finally giving him his due, one wishes that some of the despair and terror of KANE’s ending had found its way into her tribute. Perhaps if, as Kael claims, KANE “isn’t a work of special depth or a work of subtle beauty,” the ending may be just another joke in what she calls “almost a Gothic comedy” — the final blackout gag. But for some reason, I didn’t feel like laughing.

 

Footnotes

1. As evidence, I can cite the examples on pages 104, 234-235, and 276 as Exhibits A, B, and C. Most of the others are nearly as bad. It is also regrettable that the stills illustrate the script rather than the cutting continuity, a strategy that gives the former no chance to exist on its own (although it may subliminally–and unfairly–reinforce the notion that the film is more Mankiewicz’s than Welles’). A bizarre consequence is that some of the images shown, like the famous cockatoo, misrepresent the script. And for the record, the shot shown on pages 116-117 is out of sequence, misplaced by some 93 pages.

2. An anthology edited by McBride, and published by the Wisconsin Film Society Press in 1968. In the same collection is an article on THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, also by McBride, which is probably the most useful account of the film that has yet been written — including a rather complete description of the original 135-minute version that far surpasses the inadequate summary given in Charles Higham’s The Films of Orson Welles.

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