With Your Dying Breath…

The shot goes dutch for "Charles Foster Kane's" (Orson Welles) campaign rally for the New York governership in this scene from the classic "Citizen Kane".

With any luck, I will wake up in the morning. Hopefully, everyone I know and care about will do the same.

Forgive me for beginning this entry on a darker note, but let us consider the possibility of being on our deathbeds. I can imagine several things that would be going through my head if I found myself dying tomorrow. “I never graduated college”, “I wonder what living in England would be like”, and the kicker: “Not going to get the girl now, am I?” So, considering the things I remember, or the things I never got to see or do, what would I say? If my last ounce of oxygen and strength allowed me one final word to sum it all up, what would that word be?

“Rosebud…”

Well, no, my dying word would not be “Rosebud”. This famous last word of a famous character of the cinema would mean absolutely nothing to me personally, but to him, “Rosebud” meant so much. The man I am referring to is Charles Foster Kane, the media mogul portrayed by the original triple threat, Orson Welles (a “triple threat” is a Hollywood term for a filmmaker who can write, produce, and direct one whole film). In the film “Citizen Kane”, generally considered to be the best motion picture of all time, reporter Jerry Thompson (William Alland) is sent on an assignment to uncover the story behind Kane’s mysterious dying word. The majority of the plot unfolds as flashbacks into Kane’s life as Thompson sifts through documents and interviews surviving acquaintances. Except for when he was a care-free child, Kane lived an unhappy life. Although he acquired vast amounts of money, power, and admiration, all the money in the world could never buy him the love or affection he craved ever since his mother (Agnes Moorehead) sent him away to live with a banker, Walter Thatcher (George Coulouris) . However, when Kane is troubled, he looks into a snow globe and whispers the word “Rosebud”. For some reason, it brings him comfort.

Unlike most people, who say a final farewell so that it is remembered by others who hear it, Kane utters his last word for himself. Hearing it gives the bitter, lonely billionaire a bit of relief. It sends him somewhere else, so to speak. The word means defiance towards a life that did not allow him to live the way he wanted to. Perhaps the word also symbolizes regret.

Although it is natural to regret the wrongs we do in our lives, it is important that we try to loosen the grip that regret has on our conscience. But, it is important that we do not completely forget our mistakes, for then we live in something equally terrible as regret: denial.

We all hope to leave the world with a word that means something great and satisfying about our lives. Death is evermore terrible if the dying cannot remember one good thing before it’s all over. It may sound silly that I care, but I hope that Charles Foster Kane died peacefully with “Rosebud” on his mind.

(Sorry, readers. You have to watch the movie yourselves to find out what “Rosebud” actually means.)  

“Citizen Kane” and all images from it are property of Mercury Theatre/RKO Pictures/The Estate of Orson Welles.

Used image from: guardian.co.uk

 

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3 Responses to “With Your Dying Breath…”

  1. Oh… up until i got to that last little bit at the end about having to watch the movie i thought you were saying that the meaning was never reavealed as more than just something that soothed him and you were telling the whole movie.. Obviously i should have known better than to think you’d gove the whole movie away.. Whoopsieeeee….

  2. Kate Glavin Says:

    I some devil-ish urge to announce to all of your readers what Rosebud means, but I won’t. 🙂 And nice post title!

  3. Another terrific entry John, I expected nothing less. I unfortunately had the meaning of Rosebud ruined for me before seeing the classic Citizen Kane, but it did not take away from my enjoyment of the film. In fact, I can honestly say I didn’t remember the ending was ruined for me until the ending started playing before my eyes. Such amazing cinematography, esp in the mansion.

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