Mank. The man who wrote “Citizen Kane.”

Tell me you’ve never seen “Citizen Kane.” Of course you have. Turner Classics runs it almost monthly.

You’ve seen the young Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane rip up a bedroom in one long take, clutter up Hearst Castle with art from all Europe, run for public office and be smashed to the ground.

And, of course, the most famous scene is the last one, with the glass ball slipping from Orson’s hands as he mutters, “Rosebud.”

And what or who was “Rosebud?” Can’t say, but it’s reported that Steven Spielberg knows.

And then there was Herman J. Mankiewicz or Mank, as he was known, who died at 56 years of age. But in the years before he became one of old Hollywood’s greatest screen writers, best known for “Citizen Kane,” that most see as the greatest picture of all time. Their words, not mine. His brother Joe Mankiewicz became more successful and is best known as the writer of “All About Eve” that won six academy awards.


Still today, “Citizen Kane” stays in the top five best pictures. Fans of that film will flock to this story and gobble up all the swept away facts and rumors about its creation. My advice to viewers would be to watch the original movie.

In the meantime, go at once and check out David Fincher’s “Mank” written by David from a screen play by his father Jack.

“Mank” as Mankiewicz was known to his many friends and enablers, is brought to life by one of the most talented and prolific actors on the screen: Gary Oldman, a King Midas actor who turns every role he touches into Oscar gold.

David Fincher (“Fight Club,” “Gone Girl”) directs in a glorious black and white that keeps the story and players locked in a world before color.

Film students know all about the battle between its star Orson Welles, (Tom Burke, who played Princess Margaret’s friend in “The Crown” and is the best Orson Welles ever) and Mank. Mank, always broke and thirsty, signed an agreement that would list Orson as the author. In turn Mank would collect a huge cash payment.

Some fine actors are here to play the historic names, like Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies, Hearst’s live-in girlfriend.


Also here are Charles Dance (Mountbatten in “The Crown”) as William Randolph Hearst, the kingmaker emperor and Lord of the Hearst newspaper chain that could topple presidents and kings with one paragraph. (He owned Hedda Hopper.)

We meet Ferdinand Kingsley (Ben Kingsley’s son) as the boy genius Irving Thalberg.

Arliss Howard plays Louis B. Mayer, the most powerful studio head in movie history.

Tuppence Middleton from “Downton Abbey” is Sara, Herman’s long suffering wife.

Lily Collins, (Phil Collins’ daughter and the star of the “Emily in Paris” series) plays his secretary.

The black and white cinematography by Erik Messerschmidt, and Trent Rezno and Atticus Ross’s music were wise choses by Fincher.

“Mank” streams now on Netflix.


J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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