What if William Randolph Hearst Could Hack?

For a short time, it looked like hackers (initially reported to be from North Korea) might prevent Sony from releasing the movie The Interview in theaters. According to early reports, out of fear, Sony was going to pull the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy from distribution. Meanwhile, commentators debated the possibility of censoring the movie out of fear. But ultimately, freedom prevailed and Sony released the movie both in theaters and online.

The controversy surrounding The Interview reminds me of William Randolph Hearst’s attempts to prevent the release of Citizen Kane (1941). Hearst did not like the way Orson Welles re-imagined Hearst’s career and relationship with Marion Davies (who in real life was a talented actress), so he took a number of measures to try to prevent the release of the film. Fortunately for us, he was unsuccessful, and one of the greatest movies of all time sits in a DVD case on my shelf.

One good version of the story behind Citizen Kane is from The American Experience series on PBS. Below is part one of the episode The Battle Over Citizen Kane, and then the video can take you to other parts of the episode.

If you prefer something much shorter and funnier, below is a short excerpt from Drunk History‘s retelling of the Citizen Kane story featuring Jack Black as Welles. Check it out.

Unfortunately, technology has given censors a new avenue of attack, which is sad. But I suspect that humor and satire will find a way to survive.

What do you think of Sony’s decision? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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