Funny how one mere word can inspire volumes of discussion. And so is the case with "Rosebud," the last word uttered by media plutocrat Charles Foster Kane before he dies, a word that starts people scrambling to discover just what it means in Orson Welles' 1941 masterpiece "Citizen Kane."
To fully appreciate "Kane" and its impact, you have to understand just how revolutionary it was, how Welles broke so many cinematic conventions (and, in the process, established many of his own). Watch the things "Kane" does, from camera angles to editing to story pacing: Few films that had come before it had attempted many of these innovations, and certainly no movie had ever attempted something of such totality. It's why "Kane" is one of the few films that can withstand repeated screenings -- there's always something new in it to see.
But what about "Rosebud," the catalyst for the action in "Kane"? Just in case you're one of the few folks who has never seen the movie, we won't tell you what it is, but we can tell you that at least one person believes Carole Lombard had something to do with it.
No, Lombard was not "Rosebud" herself; legend has it that the term was a pet name publisher William Randolph Hearst (one of the people on whom the character of Charles Foster Kane was based, although not the only one) had for a, well, intimate part of the anatomy of his mistress, film star (and close Lombard friend) Marion Davies:
Lombard also knew Welles from her time at RKO (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/53545.html). According to Josh R. at the site "Edward Copeland on Film,"
The actress’ most significant contribution to history of motion pictures came by virtue of a film in which she never even appeared, nor was in any way directly involved with; it was she who spilled the beans to Orson Welles about William Randolph Hearst’s pet name for a certain part of his lady love Marion Davies’ anatomy – “Rosebud.”
I've heard the Davies "Rosebud" reference before, but this is the first I've heard of any Lombard connection. It certainly could be the origin.
The truth behind "Rosebud" for the film is as much a mystery as "Rosebud" in the film. But it's interesting to note that in January 1941, several months before "Kane" was released, Welles issued a press statement on what "Kane" (and "Rosebud") was about, trying to dissuade the belief that the movie was a Hearst roman a clef. His statement -- plus a magazine statement that came out with fabricated Welles quotes -- can be found at http://www.wellesnet.com/?p=187. (As the press release does contain a spoiler of sorts, don't read it if you've never seen "Kane." Better yet, view "Kane," then read it.)