The biography of William Randolph Hearst bears so many similarities to that of Charles Foster Kane, it would've been as ludicrous then as it is now to deny that he provided direct inspiration for Welles and Mankiewicz's script.
Like Kane, Hearst was a multi-millionaire newspaper magnate; like Kane, he’d been thrust into money at an early age, and mucked around to the point of expulsion at several prestigious colleges before throwing his hat, almost on a whim, into the daily newspaper ring.
Moreover, Hearst had become a byword for so-called ‘yellow journalism’ (pushing scandal and gossip up the agenda, and happily dressing up rumour as fact when it suited his agenda) during his early circulation battles on the streets of New York.
It proved a ratings winner and Hearst’s flourishing empire gradually developed a stranglehold on the American news media, with ever-more-powerful tentacles extending deep into national politics and beyond.
In many ways, this gradual eroding of boundaries, as Welles saw it, at the highest levels of industry and influence was also the driving force for one of the key themes in Kane; namely the potential for easy souring, when left in the wrong hands, of the much-vaunted American dream.
Next: Berating the baron...