Thanks for posting that 1958 Cahiers list. Many American critics consider MR. ARKADIN to be a second-rate rehash of CITIZEN KANE, and it's fascinating that European critics thought so highly of it. Were they just trying to help Welles out, or did they know something about the film that we don't know? Like the man (or men) that Arkadin was based on?
On the other Arkadin thread, "Welles Fan" made an interesting post about the similarities between Gregory Arkadin and Stalin (wiping out his past), which is something that Welles himself confirmed. James Naremore wrote about Arkadin as a fictionalization of the Austrian arms merchant Fritz Mandl. Bogdanovich mentioned such European power figures as Lowenstein, Kruger, and Zaharov, but Welles denied they were part of the character. There is another figure, though, who was never mentioned, except in the Arkadin book: Aristotle Onassis, the Greek shipping tycoon best known (to Americans, anyway) for marrying Jackie Kennedy. In the book, Van Stratton, while investigating Arkadin's past, poses as a journalist from Time magazine to get an interview with Sir Joseph, a rival financier of Arkadin's. Sir Joseph dismisses Arkadin as a "barbarian who might have sacked Rome in another age", but seems eager to levy all kinds of abuse against Onassis. It made me think of the projection room scene in KANE, where Thompson's boss says of Kane, "How is he any different from Ford? Or Hearst for that matter?". My curiosity piqued, I did some superficial research into Onassis and found some intriguing connections.
For one thing, Onassis' rise to power is shrouded in mystery. Originally from Turkey, he fled when the Turks began to oppress their Greek minorities. He moved, supposedly penniless, to Argentina at the age of 21 to try and revive the family's tobacco business there, and two years later was a millionaire, rumors are, from selling opium on the side. Fritz Mandl was also making a fortune in Argentina, as were one of the premiere banking dynasties in Europe, the Rothschilds (sometimes referred to as "The Magnificent Rothschilds", but that's another story). After WWII, many top Nazis reportedly fled to Argentina, and Hitler's main banker reportedly helped Onassis establish a dominant Greek trust in the post-war Atlantic shipping trade. In 1947, Eva Peron had an affair with Onassis, to help raise money for her populist charity in Argentina, a democratic smokescreen that helped her and her husband to maintain a fascist regime there. I don't know how much of a presence Stalin was on both sides of the Atlantic, but Onassis, like Arkadin, certainly was.
Another interesting coincidence is that Arkadin's luxury yacht was named "The Raina", after his daughter, while Onassis named his yacht "The Christina", after his daughter. There was also an interesting story from around the time Mr. Arkadin was written about how Onassis tried desperately to charter an immediate trans-Atlantic flight by offering huge amounts of money to anyone, but was unsuccessful (sounds a bit like the climax of Arkadin).
Welles wrote Mr. Arkadin right after doing the Harry Lime radio series. Two episodes from that series, which he wrote himself, seem to stand out from the rest. One is DEAD CANDIDATE, based on his novel UNE GROSSE LEGUME, about a fictional country (obviously based on Argentina) where a corrupt dicatorship steals elections while pretending to be a democracy (with the help of U.S. corporations, Welles adds). There's even a bit character of the dictator's wife, obviously based on Evita. The other episode is, of course, MAN OF MYSTERY, which is a simplified version of the Arkadin plot, with Harry Lime in place of Van Stratton. Interestingly, this episode is also known as GREEK MEETS GREEK.
I think there may also be a dash of Harry Lime in Gregory Arkadin too - the Lime of the movie, that is. The difference between the charming, roguish, petty adventurer Lime of the radio series and the cold-blooded Machiavellian Lime of the Third Man movie seems similar to the difference between Van Stratten and Arkadin. Maybe I'm just reaching for shit with all this, but I can't help it...it's my character. And it's fun.