Screenplay by Herman J. Mankiewicz
Produced by Orson Welles
Directed by Orson Welles
Orson Welles Charles Foster Kane Joseph Cotton Jedediah Leland Dorothy Comingore Susan Alexander Everett Sloane Mr. Bernstein Ray Collins Boss J.W. "Big Jim" Gettys George Coulouris Walter Parks Thatcher Agnes Moorehead Mary Kane Paul Stewart Raymond Ruth Warrick Emily Norton Kane
EXT. XANADU – FAINT DAWN – 1940 (MINIATURE)
Window, very small in the distance, illuminated.
All around this is an almost totally black screen. Now, as the camera moves slowly towards the
window which is almost a postage stamp in the frame, other forms appear; barbed wire, cyclone
fencing, and now, looming up against an early morning sky, enormous iron grille work. Camera
travels up what is now shown to be a gateway of gigantic proportions and holds on the top of it – a
huge initial "K" showing darker and darker against the dawn sky. Through this and beyond we see
the fairy-tale mountaintop of Xanadu, the great castle a sillhouette as its summit, the little window
a distant accent in the darkness.
A SERIES OF SET-UPS, EACH CLOSER TO THE GREAT WINDOW, ALL TELLING
The literally incredible domain of CHARLES FOSTER KANE.
Its right flank resting for nearly forty miles on the Gulf Coast, it truly extends in all directions
farther than the eye can see. Designed by nature to be almost completely bare and flat – it was, as will develop, practically all marshland when Kane acquired and changed its face – it is now pleasantly uneven, with its fair share of rolling hills and one very good-sized mountain, all man-
made. Almost all the land is improved, either through cultivation for farming purposes of through
careful landscaping, in the shape of parks and lakes. The castle dominates itself, an enormous pile,
compounded of several genuine castles, of European origin, of varying architecture – dominates the scene, from the very peak of the mountain.
GOLF LINKS (MINIATURE)
Past which we move. The greens are straggly and overgrown, the fairways wild with tropical
weeds, the links unused and not seriously tended for a long time.
WHAT WAS ONCE A GOOD-SIZED ZOO (MINIATURE)
Of the Hagenbeck type. All that now remains, with one exception, are the individual plots,
surrounded by moats, on which the animals are kept, free and yet safe from each other and the
landscape at large. (Signs on several of the plots indicate that here there were once tigers, lions,
THE MONKEY TERRACE (MINIATURE)
In the foreground, a great obscene ape is outlined against the dawn murk. He is scratching himself
slowly, thoughtfully, looking out across the estates of Charles Foster Kane, to the distant light
glowing in the castle on the hill.
THE ALLIGATOR PIT (MINIATURE)
The idiot pile of sleepy dragons. Reflected in the muddy water – the lighted window.
THE LAGOON (MINIATURE)
The boat landing sags. An old newspaper floats on the surface of the water – a copy of the New York Enquirer." As it moves across the frame, it discloses again the reflection of the window in the
castle, closer than before.
THE GREAT SWIMMING POOL (MINIATURE)
It is empty. A newspaper blows across the cracked floor of the tank.
THE COTTAGES (MINIATURE)
In the shadows, literally the shadows, of the castle. As we move by, we see that their doors and
windows are boarded up and locked, with heavy bars as further protection and sealing.
A DRAWBRIDGE (MINIATURE)
Over a wide moat, now stagnant and choked with weeds. We move across it and through a huge
solid gateway into a formal garden, perhaps thirty yards wide and one hundred yards deep, which
extends right up to the very wall of the castle. The landscaping surrounding it has been sloppy and
causal for a long time, but this particular garden has been kept up in perfect shape. As the camera
makes its way through it, towards the lighted window of the castle, there are revealed rare and
exotic blooms of all kinds. The dominating note is one of almost exaggerated tropical lushness,
hanging limp and despairing. Moss, moss, moss. Ankor Wat, the night the last King died.
THE WINDOW (MINIATURE)
Camera moves in until the frame of the window fills the frame of the screen. Suddenly, the light
within goes out. This stops the action of the camera and cuts the music which has been
accompanying the sequence. In the glass panes of the window, we see reflected the ripe, dreary
landscape of Mr. Kane's estate behind and the dawn sky.
INT. KANE'S BEDROOM – FAINT DAWN – 1940
A very long shot of Kane's enormous bed, silhouetted against the enormous window.
INT. KANE'S BEDROOM – FAINT DAWN – 1940
A snow scene. An incredible one. Big, impossible flakes of snow, a too picturesque farmhouse and
a snow man. The jingling of sleigh bells in the musical score now makes an ironic reference to
Indian Temple bells – the music freezes –
KANE'S OLD OLD VOICE
The camera pulls back, showing the whole scene to be contained in one of those glass balls which
are sold in novelty stores all over the world. A hand – Kane's hand, which has been holding the
ball, relaxes. The ball falls out of his hand and bounds down two carpeted steps leading to the bed,
the camera following. The ball falls off the last step onto the marble floor where it breaks, the
fragments glittering in the first rays of the morning sun. This ray cuts an angular pattern across
the floor, suddenly crossed with a thousand bars of light as the blinds are pulled across the
The foot of Kane's bed. The camera very close. Outlined against the shuttered window, we can see
a form – the form of a nurse, as she pulls the sheet up over his head. The camera follows this
action up the length of the bed and arrives at the face after the sheet has covered it.
INT. OF A MOTION PICTURE PROJECTION ROOM
On the screen as the camera moves in are the words:
Stirring, brassy music is heard on the soundtrack (which, of course, sounds more like a soundtrack
The screen in the projection room fills our screen as the second title appears:
NOTE: Here follows a typical news digest short, one of the regular monthly or bi-monthly
features, based on public events or personalities. These are distinguished from ordinary newsreels
and short subjects in that they have a fully developed editorial or storyline. Some of the more
obvious characteristics of the "March of Time," for example, as well as other documentary shorts,
will be combined to give an authentic impression of this now familiar type of short subject. As is
the accepted procedure in these short subjects, a narrator is used as well as explanatory titles.
Legendary was the Xanadu where Kubla Kahn decreed his
stately pleasure dome –
(with quotes in his voice)
"Where twice five miles of fertile ground, with walls and
towers were girdled 'round."
(dropping the quotes)
Today, almost as legendary is Florida's XANADU – world's
largest private pleasure ground. Here, on the deserts of the
Gulf Coast, a private mountain was commissioned,
successfully built for its landlord. Here in a private valley,
as in the Coleridge poem, "blossoms many an incense-
bearing tree." Verily, "a miracle of rare device."
CHARLES FOSTER KANE
Opening shot of great desolate expanse of Florida coastline (1940 – DAY)
SERIES OF SHOTS
Showing various aspects of Xanadu, all as they might be photographed by an ordinary newsreel
cameraman – nicely photographed, but not atmospheric to the extreme extent of the Prologue
(dropping the quotes)
Here, for Xanadu's landlord, will be held 1940's biggest,
strangest funeral; here this week is laid to rest a potent
figure of our Century – America's Kubla Kahn – Charles
Foster Kane. In journalism's history, other names are
honored more than Charles Foster Kane's, more justly
revered. Among publishers, second only to James Gordon
Bennet the First: his dashing, expatriate son; England's
Northcliffe and Beaverbrook; Chicago's Patterson and
"TO FORTY-FOUR MILLION U.S. NEWS BUYERS, MORE NEWSWORTHY THAN
THE NAMES IN HIS OWN HEADLINES, WAS KANE HIMSELF, GREATEST
NEWSPAPER TYCOON OF THIS OR ANY OTHER GENERATION."
Shot of a huge, screen-filling picture of Kane. Pull back to show that it is a picture on the front
page of the "Enquirer," surrounded by the reversed rules of mourning, with masthead and
A GREAT NUMBER OF HEADLINES
Set in different types and different styles, obviously from different papers, all announcing Kane's
death, all appearing over photographs of Kane himself (perhaps a fifth of the headlines are in
foreign languages). An important item in connection with the headlines is that many of them –
positively not all – reveal passionately conflicting opinions about Kane. Thus, they contain variously the words "patriot," "democrat," "pacifist," "war-monger," "traitor," "idealist,"
"1895 TO 1940 – ALL OF THESE YEARS HE COVERED, MANY OF THESE YEARS HE
Newsreel shots of San Francisco during and after the fire, followed by shots of special trains with
large streamers: "Kane Relief Organization." Over these shots superimpose the date – 1906.
Artist's painting of Foch's railroad car and peace negotiators, if actual newsreel shot unavailable.
Over this shot sumperimpose the date – 1918.
Denver's Bonfils and Sommes; New York's late, great
Joseph Pulitzer; America's emperor of the news syndicate,
another editorialist and landlord, the still mighty and once
mightier Hearst. Great names all of them – but none of
them so loved, hated, feared, so often spoken – as Charles
Foster Kane. The San Francisco earthquake. First with the
news were the Kane papers. First with Relief of the
Sufferers, First with the news of their Relief of the
Sufferers. Kane papers scoop the world on the Armistice –
publish, eight hours before competitors, complete details of
the Armistice teams granted the Germans by Marshall
Foch from his railroad car in the Forest of Compeigne. For
forty years appeared in Kane newsprint no public issue on
which Kane papers took no stand. No public man whom
Kane himself did not support or denounce – often support,
then denounce. Its humble beginnings, a dying dailey –
Shots with the date – 1898 (to be supplied)
Shots with the date – 1910 (to be supplied)
Shots with the date – 1922 (to be supplied)
Headlines, cartoons, contemporary newreels or stills of the following:
1. WOMAN SUFFRAGE
The celebrated newsreel shot of about 1914.
Breaking up of a speakeasy and such.
4. LABOR RIOTS
Brief clips of old newreel shots of William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, Stalin, Walter P.
Thatcher, Al Smith, McKinley, Landon, Franklin D. Roosevelt and such. Also, recent newsreels of
the elderly Kane with such Nazis as Hitler and Goering; and England's Chamberlain and
Shot of a ramshackle building with old-fashioned presses showing through plate glass windows
and the name "Enquirer" in old-fashioned gold letters. (1892)
Kane's empire, in its glory, held dominion over thirty-seven
newpapers, thirteen magazines, a radio network. An
empire upon an empire. The first of grocery stores, paper
mills, apartment buildings, factories, forests, ocean-liners –
An empire through which for fifty years flowed, in an
unending stream, the wealth of the earth's third richest
gold mine... Famed in American legend is the origin of the
Kane fortune... How, to boarding housekeeper Mary Kane,
by a defaulting boarder, in 1868 was left the supposedly
worthless deed to an abandoned mine shaft: The Colorado
The magnificent Enquirer Building of today.
1891-1911 – a map of the USA, covering the entire screen, which in animated diagram shows the
Kane publications spreading from city to city. Starting from New York, minature newboys speed
madly to Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Atlanta, El Paso,
etc., screaming "Wuxtry, Kane Papers, Wuxtry."
Shot of a large mine going full blast, chimneys belching smoke, trains moving in and out, etc. A
large sign reads "Colorado Lode Mining Co." (1940) Sign reading; "Little Salem, CO – 25
AN OLD STILL SHOT
Of Little Salem as it was 70 years ago (identified by copper-plate caption beneath the still). (1870)
Shot of early tintype stills of Thomas Foster Kane and his wife, Mary, on their wedding day. A
similar picture of Mary Kane some four or five years later with her little boy, Charles Foster Kane.
Fifty-seven years later, before a Congressional
Investigation, Walter P. Thatcher, grand old man of Wall
Street, for years chief target of Kane papers' attack on
"trusts," recalls a journey he made as a youth...
Shot of Capitol, in Washington D.C.
Shot of Congressional Investigating Committee (reproduction of existing J.P. Morgan newsreel).
This runs silent under narration. Walter P. Thatcher is on the stand. He is flanked by his son,
Walter P. Thatcher Jr., and other partners. He is being questioned by some Merry Andrew
congressmen. At this moment, a baby alligator has just been placed in his lap, causing
considerable confusion and embarrassment.
Newsreel close-up of Thatcher, the soundtrack of which now fades in.
... because of that trivial incident...
INVESTIGATOR It is a fact, however, is it not, that in 1870, you did go to
THATCHER I did.
INVESTIGATOR In connection with the Kane affairs?
THATCHER Yes. My firm had been appointed trustees by Mrs. Kane for
the fortune, which she had recently acquired. It was her
wish that I should take charge of this boy, Charles Foster
NARRATOR That same month in Union Square –
INVESTIGATOR Is it not a fact that on that occasion, the boy personally
attacked you after striking you in the stomach with a sled?
Loud laughter and confusion.
THATCHER Mr. Chairman, I will read to this committee a prepared
statement I have brought with me – and I will then refuse
to answer any further questions. Mr. Johnson, please!
A young assistant hands him a sheet of paper from a briefcase.
"With full awareness of the meaning of my words and the
responsibility of what I am about to say, it is my considered
belief that Mr. Charles Foster Kane, in every essence of his
social beliefs and by the dangerous manner in which he has
persistently attacked the American traditions of private
property, initiative and opportunity for advancement, is –
in fact – nothing more or less than a Communist."
Newsreel of Union Square meeting, section of crowd carrying banners urging the boycott of Kane
papers. A speaker is on the platform above the crowd.
(fading in on soundtrack)
– till the words "Charles Foster Kane" are a menace to
every working man in this land. He is today what he has
always been and always will be – A FASCIST!
NARRATOR And yet another opinion – Kane's own.
Silent newsreel on a windy platform, flag-draped, in front of the magnificent Enquirer building.
On platform, in full ceremonial dress, is Charles Foster Kane. He orates silently.
"I AM, HAVE BEEN, AND WILL BE ONLY ONE THING – AN AMERICAN."
CHARLES FOSTER KANE.
Same locale, Kane shaking hands out of frame.
Another newsreel shot, much later, very brief, showing Kane, older and much fatter, very tired-
looking, seated with his second wife in a nightclub. He looks lonely and unhappy in the midst of
Twice married, twice divorced – first to a president's niece,
Emily Norton – today, by her second marriage, chatelaine
of the oldest of England's stately homes. Sixteen years after
that – two weeks after his divorce from Emily Norton –
Kane married Susan Alexander, singer, at the Town Hall in
Trenton, New Jersey.
"FEW PRIVATE LIVES WERE MORE PUBLIC"
Period still of Emily Norton (1900).
RECONSTRUCTED SILENT NEWSREEL
Kane, Susan, and Bernstein emerging from side doorway of City Hall into a ring of press
photographers, reporters, etc. Kane looks startled, recoils for an instance, then charges down
upon the photographers, laying about him with his stick, smashing whatever he can hit.
For wife two, one-time opera singing Susan Alexander,
Kane built Chicago's Municipal Opera House. Cost: three
million dollars. Conceived for Susan Alexander Kane, half-
finished before she divorced him, the still unfinished
Xanadu. Cost: no man can say.
Still of architect's sketch with typically glorified "rendering" of the Chicago Municipal Opera
A GLAMOROUS SHOT
Of the almost-finished Xanadu, a magnificent fairy-tale estate built on a mountain. (1920)
Then shots of its preparation. (1917)
Shots of truck after truck, train after train, flashing by with tremendous noise.
Shots of vast dredges, steamshovels.
Shot of ship standing offshore unloading its lighters.
In quick succession, shots follow each other, some reconstructed, some in miniature, some real
shots (maybe from the dam projects) of building, digging, pouring concrete, etc.
One hundred thousand trees, twenty thousand tons of
marble, are the ingredients of Xanadu's mountain.
Xanadu's livestock: the fowl of the air, the fish of the sea,
the beast of the field and jungle – two of each; the biggest
private zoo since Noah. Contents of Kane's palace:
paintings, pictures, statues, the very stones of many another
palace, shipped to Florida from every corner of the earth,
from other Kane houses, warehouses, where they
mouldered for years. Enough for ten museums – the loot of
More shots as before, only this time we see (in miniature) a large mountain – at different periods
in its development – rising out of the sands.
Shots of elephants, apes, zebras, etc. being herded, unloaded, shipped, etc. in various ways.
Shots of packing cases being unloaded from ships, from trains, from trucks, with various kinds of
lettering on them (Italian, Arabian, Chinese, etc.) but all consigned to Charles Foster Kane,
A reconstructed still of Xanadu – the main terrace. A group of persons in clothes of the period of 1917. In their midst, clearly recognizable, are Kane and Susan.
Kane urged his country's entry into one war, opposed
participation in another. Swung the election to one
American President at least, was called another's assassin.
Thus, Kane's papers might never have survived – had not
"FROM XANADU, FOR THE PAST TWENTY-FIVE YEARS, ALL KANE
ENTERPRISES HAVE BEEN DIRECTED, MANY OF THE NATIONS DESTINIES
Shots of various authentically worded headlines of American papers since 1895.
Spanish-American War shots. (1898)
A graveyard in France of the World War and hundreds of crosses. (1919)
Old newsreels of a political campaign.
Insert of a particularly virulent headline and/or cartoon.