Hearst's involvement in the movie industry has been the subject of much recent scholarship. In a way it was bad luck for Orson Welles that the man he wound up attacking in his masterpiece CITIZEN KANE was one of the very few men with the power to avenge himself so thoroughly. For Hearst's tentacles were everywhere. John Evangelist Walsh, a veteran of history's noirish back alleys, has written interesting books before on the treason of Major Andre and the sex life of Emily Dickinson. Hearst apparently saw Welles as a kind of Major Andre and CITIZEN KANE as an attack on everything America holds dear. Incidentally, it was a slanderous, even misogynistic portrait of the talented soubrette Marion Davies, Hearst's girlfriend of many years' standing and practically his "other wife."
Almost a "third wife" was Hearst's hatchet woman--the columnist Louella Parsons who had a contract with Hearst's newspapers and a mission to destroy Orson Welles. Quickly RKO lost faith in their erstwhile "wonder boy" Welles and managed to sabotage his projects THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS and IT'S ALL TRUE, along with several others he had planned, including the thriller SMILER WITH THE KNIFE and a proposed movie version of the Joseph Conrad novella HEART OF DARKNESS. Walsh is the kind of writer who will do just about anything to advance his own thesis, but here he writes crisply and cleanly about the battle between two men who were both, in different ways, quite megalomaniacal. Though the verdict is still out about who was right and who was wrong, CITIZEN KANE still remains one of the towering pinnacles of world cinema; however, the reputation of the slandered Marion Davies has emerged from the Stygian gloom into which KANE had plunged it, and she has rebounded cheerfully into the light of critical regard.