Who Wrote ‘Citizen Kane’? It’s a Mystery Even If You Know the Answer (Column)

For all the piles of research and miles of column inches that have been devoted to it, the controversy over the creative authorship of “Citizen Kane” — a kerfuffle that’s now 50 years old, and one that’s been given new heat by the release of David Fincher’s “Mank” — would seem to revolve around a relatively simple question: Who wrote “Citizen Kane”? Was it Herman J.

Mankiewicz, the brilliant, witty, slumming, past-his-prime, usually sloshed screenwriter played with dissolute droll charisma by Gary Oldman in “Mank”? Or did Orson Welles, the velvet-voiced boy-wonder genius-egomaniac who wound up splitting the screenplay credit with Mankiewicz, fully earn the right to that co-credit? Did Welles contribute enough of the structuring, editing, and — yes — writing of “Citizen Kane,” and did enough of the film’s animating ideas descend from him, to make the suggestion that Mankiewicz was the hidden engine of the movie a canard?

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