Final paragraph from essay by Orson Welles biographer Joseph McBride, posted on 11.28: “The critical acclaim Mank has been receiving (though hardly unanimous, since some reviewers and feature writers are aware of its dramatic fabrications) shows that our culture has not progressed much beyond Hollywood’s benighted 1939 view of the still-troubling wunderkind, Orson Welles.

“Perhaps most Americans prefer to cling to their anti-intellectual view of artists as sinister people who should be ostracized. We still view maverick artists not as valiant figures but as egomaniacal monsters who mistreat hapless underlings and demand credit they don’t deserve.

“When [Gary Oldman‘s] Herman J. Mankiewicz is shown at the end giving his Oscar speech for the Kane screenplay to a newsreel camera, he says it was written ‘in the absence of Orson Welles,’ and an unseen man’s voice is heard asking, ‘How come he shares credit?’ Mank says in the film’s last line, ‘Well, that, my friend, is the magic of the movies.’

“If [Mank director] David Fincher wants us to believe that kind of nonsense, he would need a better script. Mankiewicz himself would probably scoff at Mank. He was too smart and self-aware and generous at heart to do otherwise. But the mythology of Kael and Mank will likely endure, for it is a tale our belittling culture needs to cling to. As Welles prophetically told Peter Bogdanovich, ‘Cleaning up after Miss Kael is going to take a lot of scrubbing.'”

Author, film professor and Orson Welles biographer Joseph McBride posing with Welles sometime in the early to mid ’70s.