Fictionalized Roles — From 'Citizen Kane' to 'Psycho,' a look at films based on real people

By Peter Gerstenzang
Updated April 26, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

All the King's Men (Movie - 1949)

  • Movie

A sexy woman persuades a love-struck teen to kill her husband. Sound familiar? It should. That’s the true story of Pamela Smart, a teacher convicted of such a crime in 1991. Alter the name, a few details, and — voilà! — it’s To Die For, which debuts this week in the top 10 rental chart. Indeed, video stores are full of movies about folks who’ve crossed over from fact to fiction.

CITIZEN KANE (1941, Turner)
Fictionalized story of: William Randolph Hearst, newspaper magnate of the first half of the century.
Movie name: Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles).
Conceivably did say: ”If the headline is big enough, it makes the news big enough.”
Probably didn’t say: ”Rosebud!”

ALL THE KING’S MEN (1949, Columbia TriStar)
Fictionalized story of: Southern demagogue Huey Long, who from 1930 to 1932 served as Louisiana’s governor and senator — simultaneously.
Movie name: Willy Stark (Broderick Crawford).
Conceivably did say: ”I’m gonna run. You’re not gonna stop me. I’m gonna run even if I don’t get a single vote!”
Probably didn’t say: ”You want to know what my platform is? I’m gonna soak the fat boys. And I’m gonna spread it out thin.”

Fictionalized story of: Tyrannical gossip columnist Walter Winchell.
Movie name: J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster).
Conceivably did say: ”The day I can’t get along without press agents’ handouts, I close up shop and move to Alaska, lock, stock, and barrel.”
Probably didn’t say: ”I’d hate to take a bite out of you. You’re a cookie full of arsenic.”

PSYCHO (1960, MCA/Universal)
Fictionalized story of: 1950s Wisconsin killer Ed Gein, who was obsessed with his mother.
Movie name: Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins).
Conceivably did say: ”My mother — what is the phrase? — isn’t quite herself today.”
Probably didn’t say: ”Mother, please. It’s just for a few days … ”

TALK RADIO (1988, MCA/Universal)
Fictionalized story of: Abrasive Denver talk-show host Alan Berg, who was murdered by white supremacists.
Movie name: Barry Champlain (Eric Bogosian).
Conceivably did say: ”This country’s rotten to the core. And somebody better do something about it.”
Probably didn’t say: ”I’m a hypocrite. I denounce the system as I embrace it. I want money and power. And I don’t give a damn about you or the world.”

Fictionalized story of: Director John Huston and his quest for big game while making 1951’s The African Queen.
Movie name: John Wilson (Clint Eastwood).
Conceivably did say: ”We’ll finish the script, then go on safari, and we’ll start the film after we’ve shot our elephants.”
Probably didn’t say: ”My role as a great white hunter is strictly my own business. It’s a sacred subject. Much like the sex life of my mother.”

All the King's Men (Movie - 1949)

  • Movie
  • 109 minutes
  • Robert Rossen