Herman Mankiewicz: You cannot capture a man's entire life in two hours. All you can hope is to leave the impression of one.
Louis B. Mayer: This is a business where the buyer gets nothing for his money but a memory. What he bought still belongs to the man who sold it. That's the real magic of the movies. And don't let anybody tell you different.
Herman Mankiewicz: Irving, you are a literate man. You know the difference between communism and socialism. In socialism, everyone shares the wealth. In communism, everyone shares the poverty.
[a drunken Herman Mankiewicz sits at the corner of a large dinner table at an elaborate costume party, hosted by William Randolph Hearst and Louis B. Mayer. Instead of tinking on a glass to get the guests' attention, he slashes his glass with a knife. Gasps fill the room as he rises from his seat]
Herman Mankiewicz: I've got a great idea for a picture, Louis. A picture I just know you're gonna love. It's a modern day version of Quixote!
[Mank realizes his voice echoes through the room, but he continues, circling the table full of silent guests]
Herman Mankiewicz: Now I know none of you read, but you know what it's about. A deluded old nobleman, who tilts at windmills. So how might we update this story?
Butler: [whispers to Hearst] Do you want me to get someone?
Herman Mankiewicz: How about we make our Quixote... a newspaperman? Who else could make a living tilting at windmills? But that's not enough... no, he wants more than readership. He wants more than adulation, he wants love. So, he runs for public office, and because he's notably rich, he wins... no, w-w-w-wait a minute. Notably rich and powerful, can't win over an audience unless notably rich and powerful sees the error of his ways in the final reel. Notably rich and powerful and making no goddamn excuses for it is only admirable in real life. Isn't that right, Louis?
[Mayer glares at Mank as he drunkenly attempts to light his cigarette with the massive fireplace at the end of the room, unsuccessfully. Marion Davies takes a swig of her drink]
Herman Mankiewicz: So what do we do? Anybody? We give him ideals! Ideals that any dirt-poor, depression-weary audience can identify with. Our Quixote is against crooked trusts, he's for the eight-hour workday, fair income tax, better schools. Why, he's even for government ownership of railroads. And you know what we call those people?
Male Guest: Communists!
Female Guest: Anarchists!
Herman Mankiewicz: No, our Quixote, he's a two-fisted muckraker. In fact, someone predicts that he will one day win the presidency and bring about, get this...
Herman Mankiewicz: ... a socialist revolution!
Louis B. Mayer: What a bunch of bullshit.
Herman Mankiewicz: Is it? Tell him, Willie. Tell him.
Herman Mankiewicz: Upton Sinclair used exactly those words to describe a young William Randolph Hearst.
Louis B. Mayer: [leaping from his seat] You miserable bastard!
Herman Mankiewicz: [bowing] How do you do?
[Some guests begin to leave the room, but Hearst's and Mayer's eyes stay on Mank]
Herman Mankiewicz: Our Quixote, he hungers, he thirsts, he lusts for the voters to love him, love him enough to make him president, but they won't. And they don't. How do you suppose that could happen? Could it be because, in their hearts, they know he values power over people?
[More guests leave as Mank approaches Hearst, still seated]
Herman Mankiewicz: Disillusioned in Congress, he authors not one single piece of legislation in two terms. Can you believe that? That'll take some writing. Placed in nomination for president... it's too radical for the boys in the back, his bid goes nowhere! But we're doing something. We're building sympathy!
[Even more guests leave]
Herman Mankiewicz: Rejected, he flees to lotus land, where his faithful troll, Sancho, has prepared a mythical kingdom for...
[Mank eyes Davies, stopping himself totally]
Herman Mankiewicz: Wait a minute. I forgot the love interest! Her name: Dulcinea.
[Every remaining head in the room turns to Davies]
Herman Mankiewicz: Funny, adventurous, smarter than she acts. Ah, she's a... she's a showgirl! Beneath his social stratum, but that's okay because true love on the big screens, we all know is blind. And she... well, she loves him, too. So he takes her away to his m-mythical kingdom,
Herman Mankiewicz: can I get a bicarb?
[back to the guests]
Herman Mankiewicz: Now, along comes nemesis, that's Greek for any guy in a black hat, nemesis runs for governor, and he's a shoo-in to win. Why?
[points to Hearst]
Herman Mankiewicz: Because he's EXACTLY what our Don used to be! An idealist, ya get it? And not only that, nemesis is the same guy who once predicted that our Quixote would one day preside over a socialist revolution. Our Quixote looks into the mirror of his youth and decides to break this glass, a maddening reminder of who he once was. Assisted by his faithful Sancho
[pointing to Mayer]
Herman Mankiewicz: and armed w-with all the black magic at his command, he does just this. Destroying, in the process, not one man... but two.
[Hearst is clearly furious, but maintains his composure]
Herman Mankiewicz: Well, what do ya think, Louis? Hm? Do ya think it'll play?
[Mank finally belches onto the floor. Any guest who hasn't already left does so]
Herman Mankiewicz: Don't worry, folks. The white wine came up with the fish!
Herman Mankiewicz: [about Louis B. Mayer] If I ever go to the electric chair, I'd like him to be sitting in my lap.
Marion Davies: Nobody but NOBODY makes a monkey outta William Randolph Hearst!
Title Card: In 1940, at the tender age of 24, Orson Wells was lured to Hollywood by a struggling RKO Pictures with a contract befitting his formidable storytelling talents. He was given absolute creative autonomy, would suffer no oversight, and could make any movie, about any subject, with any collaborator he wished...
Charles Lederer: Sorry. Somebody told me Mankiewicz was in here.
Joe Mankiewicz: He is. I'm the promising brother, Joe.
Charles Lederer: I didn't know Herman had a brother.
Joe Mankiewicz: Neither does anyone else. Let me guess. "There are millions to be made, and your only competition is idiots," stop.
Charles Lederer: How did you know?
Joe Mankiewicz: I hate to tell you, anyone who can rub three words together and make a sentence gets one.
Louis B. Mayer: People think MGM stands for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It does not. It stands for Mayer's gantze mishpokhe, Mayer's whole family. Never forget that. You got a problem, come to papa.
Herman Mankiewicz: Irving, you are the shrewdest executive in this town. Why are you acting like some dumb ward heeler? You don't need my donation. You don't need anybody's. You have everything it takes right here.
Irving Thalberg: Meaning?
Herman Mankiewicz: [sighs] Meaning you can make the world swear King Kong is ten stories tall and Mary Pickford a virgin at 40. Yet you can't convince starving voters that a turncoat socialist is a menace to everything Californians hold dear? You're barely trying.
Herman Mankiewicz: That, my friend, is the magic of the movies.
Orson Welles: I'm toiling with you in spirit.