Movie of the Week: Orson Welles & Citizen Kane

 

In a day and an age when Hollywood had so many boy wonders, Orson Welles was advertised as the greatest boy wonder of them all. When Welles went off to Hollywood, it was like Moses parting the Red Sea. He was going to lead RKO to the Promised Land of Major Studiodom. He was going to save the studio single-handedly.

Many great men, even artists, are full of themselves, and none were more full of themselves than Orson Welles. He fought the critics in the New York City theater world and won. He scared the bejesus out of the country with his radio presentation of “War of the Worlds”, creating a panic. Now he was off to Hollywood to save it with that boy wonder charm of his.

They said his movie was the story of William Randolph Hearst. But from Rosebud to Rosebud, it is Welles we are seeing on the screen, not William Randolph Hearst. Orson was William Randolph Hearst and John Foster Kane all rolled into an Ayn Rand sized ego. If truth be told, Orson Welles was right. “Citizen Kane” was not about William Randolph Hearst. It was as much about Orson Welles as it was about anybody else.

At least the early part. Both Charles Foster Kane and Orson Welles were orphans. Welles lost his parents at a young age; Kane was taken away from his parents when he was a boy.

Then Hearst’s story, you know the newspaper part, took over the movie. At least, that was what everybody ran with. Like Hearst, Kane took on a younger woman as his mistress. Soon Kane’s reputation was falling faster than an apple dropping off the branch of a tree. Until at the end, Kane, like Hearst, lost much of the power and the glory of his earlier years. But who is to say this wasn’t Welles doing his own prophecy? How his fall would be as great as his rise.

In all of this, I am reminded of Ayn Rand’s John Galt. “If they’d only do it my way.” Though Welles created a great film, he didn’t mind what bodies he stepped on to get where he was going and make the suckers stand up and cheer him on along the way. No matter who it hurt Welles was doing this for the sake of his art. Sacrifice was the price you had to pay. Especially if it was somebody else doing the sacrifice. Marion Davies’ reputation for one.

We all say, “What could have been, what would have been, if only.” The thing is “if only” was never possible. Welles with that oversized ego of his was bound and determined not to allow any “if only” to come between him and his ego. Talk about selfies. Orwell had the first.

Hamlet: To Soliloquy or Not To Soliloquy

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go. (Hamlet. Act 3. Scene 3.)

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Act 1. Scene 2. A soliloquy is like an aria in opera. Or that solo in a musical such as Julie Andrews doing “The Sound of Music” on top of that mountain.

It’s when an actor lets loose and shows his stuff. It doesn’t happen in drama that much these days. Modern dramatists prefer the strong, silent type. You know, the James Dean type of acting.

A soliloquy is like a gift under the Christmas tree for an actor. Christmas is the play.

It’s like the comedian doing stand-up. The actor is out there on a tightrope and there’s no net. It is an aside. That moment in a play when the actor takes the audience into his confidence and says, “You have to hear this.”

It’s that jazzman’s solo. He takes off in the middle of a piece and scats for twenty minutes, then returns to the conversation he has been carrying on with his fellow mates.

We’ve all heard soliloquies in everyday life. A co-worker tells a joke. A teacher gives a lecture. A mother shares a recipe with her daughter. A friend tells you a secret.

While we’re on to soliloquies, we can suggest that perhaps Shakespeare’s Sonnets were one hundred fifty-three soliloquies. After all, each of the sonnets makes a very fine monologue.

So there you are. Enough of my soliloquying. Now back to the show.

Mom’s Skool

Well, it’s another Mother’s Day. Uncle Bardie wants to send out his Happy to all you mothers. You done good.

Being the guy I am, I want to reveal a secret to all you mothers out there. I am just telling you, not your children. So let’s keep this on the q.t.

Since way back to Eve raising Cain, there is a motherly ritual every first time mother goes through. I know. You don’t remember it. Within twenty-four hours of the birth of your first born, the hospital staff hypnotize you and take you don’t to the hospital basement.

Now, I can hear many of you objecting. There wasn’t a hospital in Eve’s time. I just have one question for you. Were you there? Of course, you were not. So how would you know?

Anyway they push you down to the hospital basement. They put a set of headphones on you. Then you are instructed that you were brung here to equip you for what’s ahead when Junior goes amuck or daughter sticks out her tongue at you and yells and screams.

You will need some armor. Since words are the strongest armor, you are given words that will curl any kid’s hair when coming from Mom: They’ve worked since the beginning of time and they will work till the Big Bang takes us out.

Memorize these. You will need them.

1. When the kid misbehaves, just say, “Wait till your father comes home.”

2. When the kid won’t eat his veggies, it’s okay to say, “Think of all those kids starving in Ethiopia.”

3. If the kid comes back with send his share of the food to Ethiopia, don’t whack him. Just give him one of those drop dead looks and say, “Eat your vegetables. You’re going to need them where I am sending you.”

4. When your teenage daughter is smart mouthing, just comment, “Wait till you have a daughter of your own.”

5. It may not change her behavior, but later she will realize the curse that has been placed on her head. When she comes to you to beg it be removed, you will smile and say, “That’s nice, hon.”

6. Just when the kid says “I didn’t do anything”, answer, “This is for all the stuff I missed.”

7. To keep them on their toes, say, “Always wear clean underwear in case you get in an accident. You wouldn’t want to embarrass me with the funeral director, now would you?”

8. “You’re the oldest. You should know better.” Just because they should.

9. Another useful saying: “You won’t be happy until you break that, will you?”

10. If all else fails, say in a very quite voice, “I brought you into this world. I can take you out.”

These are the most useful sayings. But there are more. Lots more.

They gave you a manual you had to learn in the next six or seven hours. Then they take you back upstairs. You wake up and wonder what happened.

Mom’s Skool, that’s what.

Enter Hamlet

A little touch of Harry in the night. Henry V Act 4 Prologue.

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Act 1. Scene 2. On one side of the stage, there is a party going on. King Claudius and Queen Gertrude and a roomful of courtiers, dancing, boogeying to the music of The Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Five. It’s a bit James Brown, Rick James and ABBA, thrown into one big stew. The crowd is really getting down as Rosencrantz sings their signature hit, “By the Time I Get To Wittenberg”.

Out on the dance floor, Claudius and Gertrude are so happy. Maybe they are like Ronald and Nancy Reagan. They love each other to an extreme, even above the children, and always singing, “I only have goo-goo eyes for you.” One thing is for sure. They are one happy couple. Of all the couples in Shakespeare, they may be the happiest. Happier than Romeo and Juliet or Anthony and Cleopatra anyway. And they put the Macbeths to shame.

The folks on their side of the stage are really with it. The booze is good. So is the food. And the comradery is the comraderyest. Folks are lining up to shake hands with the king and get a good gander at the queen’s new dress.

Alone on the other side of the stage sits a man in black. I would call him the Man in Black but Johnny Cash already laid a claim to that one. He has such a gloom on his face that it would make one think he invented melancholy. His name is Hamlet. He is the son Gertrude and the Daddy Hamlet, a Prince and heir to the throne, nephew to the current king. He is also the star of the show. He is the reason the play is called “Hamlet”. Otherwise it would have been called “Laertes” or “Ophelia” or “Claudius and Gertrude Make Whoopee Big Time” or “All’s Not Well That Ends With All The Main Characters Dead”.

Claudius glares over at Hamlet. He is thinking, “That young snot of an s.o.b. Who does he think he is? Sitting over there in the corner and taking the spotlight off Claudius.”

Hamlet glares back. To understand what Hamlet is going through, imagine that your daddy suddenly dies. In two shakes, your uncle moves in and marries his wife, then the Board of Directors votes him Honcho-in-Chief to run the family business.

Hamlet (mimicking the crowd): Blah. Blah. Blah.

Hamlet (speaking to the audience): So why am I sitting my ass over here in this downright uncomfortable chair? And with a big frown on my face? They are saying that I look so unhappy Bergman could make an entire film of my sulking. It would show the Swedes a thing or two about melancholy.

Gertrude (to the audience): Gertrude here. But you can just call me Gertie. Everybody does.

Gertie’s thinking a Jack Nicholson kind of thinking when he played the President of the United States in “Mars Attacks” and said to the Maritans, “Why can’t we just get along?” Could be that she is a Libra on the cusp of Scorpio.

Gertie (To Ham): Why are you always spoiling the party? You’d think somebody went and died around here. Don’t you know that this is the very reason your dad and I gave you to poor Yorick to raise. Thinking you would cheer up some. But, no. Your sulk did even him in.

Hamlet: Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Gertie (to Ham): Sure, your father is deceased. But he paid no never mind to me. And to you neither. We were just fodder in his crown. A trophy wife and a trophy son. Do you know how many dumb blondes that man slept with? I don’t know either. I do know it was a lot. He kept a slew of lawyers settling paternity suits. And now you mourn for him.

Gertie (To the audience): Hamlet was a hard birth, you know. Took eighteen hours, and finally there he was. The doctors told me I couldn’t have any more children. I considered it a fair exchange for this one. (Points to Ham.) He was a handsome baby boy. He has his father’s red hair and my eyes and the cutest little dimple.

Hamlet: If I was such a favored son, why did you give me to a clown to raise?

Gertie: It was not my choice but your daddy’s. You were such a sulker he wanted to do something to cheer you up. I can see that it didn’t work. Maybe it’s all that thinking you do.

Gertrude (to the audience): That clown, Yorick, almost cured him of the sulks. Almost but almost only works in horseshoes. Unfortunately Yorick had to get a hold of some bad stew and die from food poisoning. Something called salmonella. That is English for bad stew. Hamlet was seven.

Claudius (to the audience): Claudius here. (To Gertrude) What Hamlet needs is a girl friend. A little whoopee never hurt no one.

Gertie: He had one. Ophelia. Polonius put a nix on that.

Claudius: I am going to have to talk to that Polonius about that.

Ham (again): Blah. Blah. Blah.

Gertie: That’s no way to talk your new daddy.

Ham: He ain’t nuttin’ but a hound dog. Cryin’ all the time. He ain’t never caught a rabbit and he ain’t no friend of mine.

Gertie: What’d I tell you about that sass.

Claudius: Now Ham, Gertie, can we not reason together?

Ham: Isn’t that what LBJ said when he got the USA into that Vietnam? “Can we not reason together?”

Claudius: There’s reasoning together, and then there’s reasoning together.

Ham: Go away. I have a soliloquy to do. I don’t need you listening in. It’s for the audience only.

Claudius (pouts): How come you get to hog all the soliloquies?

Ham: ‘Cause I am the main dude.

Claudius and Gert (together): Well, be that way.

Claudius (to Ham): We’ll leave only if you promise to stay in town. Your mother has missed you a lots and I want to teach you the king business.

Ham looks at his mother. There is a pretty please in her face.

Ham: I’ll stay just to please Mom. But I won’t like it.

Gertie: That’s a good boy.

Claudius and Gertie head for the door.

Claudius: Maybe I can arrange for you to have a soliloquy in “The Murder of Gonzaga”, Dollface.

Gertie: You would do that for me, Sugar Pops?

Claudius: I would even go downtown with you.

Gertie (giggles): Oh, that’s great. I love shopping.

A Bad Case of Sonnetosis

What can I say I was feeling unwell
With a fever of a hundred and three.
I called the doctor. He examined me,
My ups and downs, my valleys and my dales,
My hearing, my touch, my taste and my smell
And all the ins and outs of my body.
It hurts like hell, my eyes cried with a plea.
He laughed and said, “Wait till you get my bill.
I’m afraid you have something atrocious.
Those iambic pentameters, you see,
Are showing up in my diagnosis.
There’s only one thing I know it can be.
You have a bad case of sonnetosis.
There’s but one cure. A sonnetectomy.”