A young man inherits a fortune and turns it into a newspaper empire but dies alone, causing reporters to uncover his selfish relationships.
Xanadu palace was built in Florida by Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles). After Kane dies saying "Rosebud," a newsreel summarizes his life. He was influential but much hated; his political ambition was ruined by a scandal; and in the 1930s his empire declined. Reporters are sent out to learn about Kane. Drunk Susan Alexander Kane (Dorothy Comingore) refuses to talk. Jerry Thompson (William Alland) reads a manuscript by Walter Parks Thatcher.
On a snowy day the boy Charles Kane (Buddy Swan) has to leave his parents to go with Mr. Thatcher (George Coulouris) until he is 25, when he comes into a great fortune. Kane runs a newspaper with Mr. Bernstein (Everett Sloane), promoting a war in Cuba. Kane tells Thatcher he challenges the money-mad pirates. In 1929 Kane signs over control to Thatcher.
Bernstein tells Thompson about Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotton) when they took over the Inquirer. Kane lives there and orders editor Carter (Erskine Sanford) to report on murders. In his declaration of principles Kane promises readers honest news. Kane hires top reporters and gains the biggest circulation. Kane dances with chorus girls. After buying statues and the largest diamond, Kane returns from Europe engaged to Emily Norton (Ruth Warrick).
Thompson goes to old Jedediah Leland, who says Kane only believed in himself. Kane sees Emily at breakfast, and she complains about the newspaper. On the street Kane meets Susan Alexander and makes her laugh. In her apartment he asks her to sing. Kane runs for governor against boss Jim Gettys (Ray Collins) and is leading. Emily goes with Kane to find Susan after Gettys made her write to Emily. Gettys blackmails them to keep from being prosecuted. Kane says he will fight it and stays with Susan. Kane loses the election and admits to Leland he set back the cause of reform. Leland warns Kane of organized labor. Leland asks Kane if he can be drama critic in Chicago. Kane marries Susan and builds an opera house for her. Leland has passed out drunk at his typewriter, and Kane finishes his bad review of Susan. Kane fires Leland. Old Leland tells Thompson that Kane built Xanadu for Susan but never finished anything.
Thompson interviews drinking Susan, who says her singing was Kane's idea. He has her take lessons, but she sings off-key. Susan is angry at Leland's review and complains that Kane sent him $25,000. Kane gets his declaration of principles in the mail from Leland. Kane's newspapers promote Susan's career. Kane finds she took sleeping pills, and Susan says she won't sing anymore. In Xanadu Susan does jigsaw puzzles and tells Kane she is lonesome. Kane gives her a party at the beach, but she complains he doesn't love her. Susan leaves Kane. Susan tells Thompson to see his butler Raymond (Paul Stewart). Kane destroys Susan's room. After his death reporters look at his things. A sled with the name "Rosebud" is burned.
This character study of a newspaper mogul is obviously
based on William Randolph Hearst and his yellow journalism, his
palatial retreat stocked with art objects, and his marriage to
Marion Davies. Those who knew Kane believe he really only wanted
to be loved and thus used his wealth and influence for selfish