In Mank (2020), Director Orson asks writer Mank to guess who phoned with an offer to buy out RKO's investment and shelve "Citizen Kane" picture permanently:

Mank: Not Hearst?

Orson: Mank, I'm surprised. Would Othello snoop on Desdemona when he has Iago?

Mank: Ah, Mayer.

How did Mank guess correctly from Shakespeare reference?

1 Answer 1


Some said Mayer had a lot in common with newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Hearst had financed multiple MGM pictures, while MGM benefited by having film reviews included nationwide in the Hearst newspapers1.

Iago is the play's main antagonist, and Othello's standard-bearer. Iago is a soldier who has fought beside Othello for several years, and has become his trusted advisor. Iago is one of Shakespeare's most sinister villains, often considered such because of the unique trust that Othello places in him.2

In the Army, the standard-bearer acted as an indicator of where the position of a military unit was, with the bright, colorful standard or flag acting as a strong visual beacon to surrounding soldiers. Soldiers were typically ordered to follow and stay close to the standard or flag in order to maintain unit cohesion.

In this case, if WRH isn't the one making directly the offer, it's his flag-bearer, LBM that does. It's quite obvious that such a powerful tycoon, as a commander in chief, would first send his men to fight the ennemy, and a one with enough power to stop the movie before it does harm to WRH. Because LBM has also big interest in helping WRH (newspapers and reviews that he needs praising his movies). It says: "surrender while it's time, my army is walking to you." He's acting like Don Vito Corleone sending Luca Brasi to make him an offer he shouldn't refuse.

  1. Louis B. Mayer
  2. Iago

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