"Socialist Revisionist History"
What You Need To Know:
MANK has some great dialogue and acting. Gary Oldman is superb as Herman Mankiewicz, and Amanda Seyfried is brilliant as Marion Davies. However, the movie’s bogged down by a convoluted structure involving multiple flashbacks. Also, MANK doesn’t just attack Orson Welles’ involvement in CITIZEN KANE’s script. It also uses this attack to promote a socialist, politically correct attack on Republicans and Hollywood. In reality, Welles worked with Mankiewicz on developing the script before Mankiewicz wrote his first draft. They both worked on the script before shooting began. MANK is left-wing propaganda.
MANK is a left-wing historical drama falsely claiming that Herman Mankiewicz, the co-writer of Writer/Director Orson Welles’ acclaimed movie CITIZEN KANE was the sole creator behind the movie’s script and wrote the movie because he was upset about the corrupt 1930s Republican politics of a famous newspaper magnate. MANK has some great dialogue and acting, but it’s bogged down by a convoluted structure involving multiple flashbacks, leftist revisionist history and a politically correct, socialist worldview.
In the story, Orson Welles hires Herman Mankiewicz to write the screenplay of CITIZEN KANE. Since Herman is an alcoholic, Welles places Herman in an isolated resort in the Mojave Desert to write the first draft. Welles also places his collaborator, John Houseman, at a nearby hotel to make sure Herman produces a script in 60 days.
As this process plays out, the movie cuts back and forth to Herman’s work for Louis B. Mayer of MGM from the late 1920s to 1935. It also tells the story of Herman’s friendship with William Randolph Hearst, the controversial muckraking newspaper magnate, and Hearst’s mistress, Marion Davies, a Hollywood actress known for playing comedies. Herman’s relationship with Hearst and Mayer reaches a boiling point when they support the GOP candidate for California governor in 1934 instead of Herman’s favored candidate, the socialist rabble rouser Upton Sinclair. They use MGM’s movie facilities to smear Sinclair. Herman’s anger toward Hearst for this fuels his script for KANE, which partly involves a corrupt newspaper magnate’s affair with a young singer.
MANK has some nuggets of truth. For example, it’s true that Herman Mankiewicz developed a personal hatred toward Hearst and that Orson Welles put Herman at an isolated Mojave resort under the care and supervision of John Houseman. However, before this, Orson and Herman had already developed an outline for the script, with 300 pages of notes for Herman to use. Also, Houseman wasn’t ensconced at another hotel nearby but was actually on site at the resort with Herman and may have contributed some of Herman’s script. There’s also a photo of Welles, Mankiewicz and Houseman going over the script one day at the resort. Furthermore, it’s an historical fact that Welles worked on the final shooting script for CITIZEN KANE and even made some changes during the shooting. Also, Welles developed a close relationship with his brilliant cinematographer, Gregg Toland, who had a big hand in helping Welles realize his personal vision for CITIZEN KANE, which used state-of-the-art special effects that added a lot to the movie’s unique look and storytelling techniques. Finally, the subplot in MANK involving the California gubernatorial campaign is a total fiction. Though Hearst and Hollywood bigshots, including Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg of MGM, did wage a smear campaign against the socialist Sinclair, there’s no record that Herman Mankiewicz cared about this one way or another. In fact, his political views tended to be more conservative, though tinged with a heavy dose of cynicism.
MANK has some great dialogue and acting. However, the movie’s bogged down by a convoluted structure involving multiple flashbacks. Also, though the photography is striking in black and white, it’s much more murky than the sparkling black and white cinematography Toland provided in CITIZEN KANE. MANK also has lots of strong foul language mixed with other light obscenities.