Davies, Marion. "The Times We Had : Life with William Randolph Hearst." Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merril, 1975.
In 1951 after W.R. Hearst’s death, his mistress, Marion Davies began to record her memoirs on magnetic tapes in the privacy of her Beverly Hills home. She was Hearst’s close companion for 32 years and some say she was the inspiration for the character Suzan Alexander Kane in Orson Welles’s 1941 classic, Citizen Kane. This article is the forward written by Orson Welles to a book of her recorded thoughts, published posthumously in 1975.
Orson Welles tries to clearly and efficiently explain all of his reasons why his character Charles Foster Kane and Susan Alexander Kane are not actual personas of William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies. He does this by describing differences of Kane vs. Hearst and Davies vs. Susan Alexander. Welles writes that there are many parallels between his characters and the Hearst couple and that these parallels could have been confusing to the audience; however upon closer inspection, one sees that they are quite different. He begins by claiming that San Simeon – even if it hadn’t existed in real life – would have had to be invented for the purposes of the script. “Everything was invented.” He then writes that W.R. Hearst was born wealthy to pampering parents while Kane was born into poverty and raised by a bank. Marion Davies, a well known beautiful actress could have had anyone she wanted, whereas Susan Alexander felt that she belonged on the streets – and this is indeed where Kane found her. Also, Susan was a lonely wife trapped in an empty castle whereas Marion was a mistress and busy hostess of all the social events in Hearst’s estates. Lastly, he claims that Marion and Hearst is a love story while Citizen Kane is not. Welles concludes his passage by making one last reference to his film. Susan Alexander was a terrible singer and forced to perform by Kane. On the contrary, he claims that Marion was a very talented actress and would have been a star even without Hearst’s interference.
Central to general discourse of Citizen Kane, is the similarity of the movie characters to that of Hearst and his mistress. It might seem amusing that Welles, writing this forward 34 years after the movie’s release, claims that the characters in the film are absolutely not based on Mr. Hearst. So many allusions are made in the film to the Hearst Empire – the fact that Kane runs a newspaper, Xanadu, financially sponsoring and forcing Susan Alexander to perform – that it seems preposterous to claim otherwise. Welles ends the forward by writing, “As one who shares much of the blame for casting another shadow – the shadow of Susan Alexander Kane – I rejoice in the opportunity to record something which today is all but forgotten expect for those lucky enough to have seen some of her pictures… She would have been a star if Hearst had never happened.” It seems that in his older age, Welles regrets his cheeky comparison of this woman and wants her to be remembered for her own contributions to cinematic history.