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It worked for the plot that that was what it meant and why no one in the movie could figure it out. But I sure wouldn't put it past Wells to have had another specific ulterior meaning in mind though.As you may recall, the scene of him dying in bed has him dropping a snow globe as he utters the famous line.It may have been what made him think back to his time of innocence in his youth with that sled, probably one of his most cherished possession at the time since his family was so poor.Orson Welles was only 25 when he wrote, directed and starred in "Citizen Kane".Like a typical 25 year-old he probably liked slipping a ribald reference past the censors and needling a big shot--and there weren't many shots bigger than Hearst.I believe "Rosebud" refers to a smaller, very sensitive part of the female anatomy.Hey, doesn't every guy have a pet name for his lady's you-know-what?Welles was the first "auteur" to be given creative control in the very regimented Hollywood of that era.
Tonight on TCM I learned what "Rosebud" meant in the movie "Citizen Kane", the thinly veiled biography of William Randolph Hearst.Orson Welles utters Kane's dying words "Rosebud" at the end of film.According to Gore Vidal, "Rosebud" was Hearst's supposedly secret pet name for a particular part of his mistress, Marion Davies', anatomy. Hearst was incensed when the film came out, when the private term was used in the film.He directed his newspapers to ignore the film in their usual movie reviews etc.Otherwise, "Rosebud" would be a complete non-sequitur.
For the purposes of the movie though, "Rosebud" was the brand name painted on the sled he had as a small child as seen fleetingly in the flashback of him as a kid and then in the final furnace scene.