♪ ♪ NARRATOR: On May 1, 1941, a dense crowd of movie moguls, photographers, and celebrity-seekers jostled outside the premiere of one of the most talked-about films of the year.
They had come to see the director, Orson Welles, star in a thinly veiled portrait of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst.
VICTORIA KASTNER: "Citizen Kane" was, in a way, the perfect irony.
It was definitely based on Hearst's life but played up certain things, ignored other things, and fabricated many things.
And in a way that's not an unfair description of Hearst's journalism as well.
NARRATOR: The film would become a classic of modern cinema, but at the time, Hearst was the most powerful media mogul the country had ever seen, and he was determined that his private life would not be ridiculed in public.
Not a single one of his 25 newspapers even acknowledged "Citizen Kane's" existence.
It was a vivid demonstration of Hearst's ability to control what Americans saw, and heard, and believed.
JEET HEER: For Hearst, news was not reporting the facts.
News was creating history-- making history.
You don't report history, you're a participant in history.
ANDIE TUCHER: Hearst made it almost impossible not to pay attention to journalism, not to think about journalism, not to, quite possibly, be drawn into journalism-- either in support of him or against him.
GREG KAMIYA: He would force presidents and heads of state to deal with him as if he was, like, a secretary of state, or had that kind of level of power, and it makes him into this god-like figure.
DAVID NASAW: Everybody has an opinion on Hearst, and no one is neutral.
He is vilified, he's idolized, but he's on everybody's mind.
NARRATOR: Hearst built his corporate colossus with the help of his family's vast fortune and his unerring sense of what the working man wanted from the news.
His appetite for power was limitless.
So were his arrogance and his hubris.
But the scale of Hearst's empire, and the increasingly strident nature of his politics, would lead Americans to question just how much influence one man should rightfully command.
(applause) ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ (birds squawking, waves crashing) (birds chirping, waves crashing) NARRATOR: In early April of 1919, two people were wandering around on the top of a hillside in an isolated section of the California coast.
One of them was the publisher William Randolph Hearst; the other, his architect, Julia Morgan.
They made an unlikely pair, but they were a powerful combination.
He was used to getting exactly what he wanted, no matter the cost.
She was used to solving almost any design challenge, no matter how daunting.
Hearst had once suggested that he wanted to build a "bungalow" right where they were standing.
They had both laughed at that.
Now, as they looked around at the extraordinary vista, they knew he had something entirely different in mind.
♪ ♪ NASAW: Only a madman would have ever dreamed of building a castle on the hilltop.
They chose together a spot that was on this enormous slope, a spot that had to be cleared, roads had to be built.
And not just little roads, but big roads.
Everything had to be imported.
The lumber had to be imported.
The stone had to be imported.
The topsoil, the shrubbery, everything.
A port had to be created so barges could bring the building materials.
Only a man who didn't estimate costs in advance would have dreamed of building on this hillside.
But they worked brilliantly together.
He never raised his voice to her.
He never shouted or yelled or gesticulated.
He knew that she would fulfill his dreams.
NARRATOR: Fulfilling Hearst's dreams was a full-time job.
It had been that way for decades.
Through his relentless drive, Hearst had become the undisputed king of American journalism-- known within his empire simply as "The Chief."
Beginning in 1887 with the lowly "San Francisco Examiner," his newspapers and magazines now reached millions of Americans every day, in cities all across the country.
♪ ♪ His still-growing empire had been built by a willingness to spend whatever it took to crush his competitors.
And spend he could.
His father George had struck it rich in the Gold Rush and left the equivalent of half a billion dollars to his mother, Phoebe.
Now, in 1919, she too had passed away, and at the age of 56, Hearst was finally in control of the family fortune, and one of America's richest men.
George Hearst took the very first money he made in the Comstock Lode, and with that money he bought land at San Simeon in 1865 when Willie Hearst was only two years old.
So it was very important to the entire Hearst family.
And George went through several financial reversals but they never sold San Simeon.
He always hung onto it.
One of the things that George Hearst said was, "I'm saving it for the boy."
NARRATOR: It was a working cattle ranch, 97,000 acres, along a stunning stretch of the California coast 230 miles north of Los Angeles.
Hearst and his father could hunt and ride horses through the canyons.
At night the family stayed in fully furnished tents pitched by the ranch hands on a place they called "Camp Hill."
Meals were delicious affairs, prepared by a team of cooks.
The view was spectacular.
♪ ♪ Now, "Camp Hill" was to be the site of a monument to Hearst's boundless ambition.
He was building a castle because he, literally, had a castle's worth of treasures with which to fill it.
(bangs gavel) NASAW: Limits, boundaries, restraint-- these were not words in the Hearst vocabulary.
He was possessed by a collecting demon.
The people he commissioned to buy things were told, "the Chief wants this."
And they would say, "But the bidding's gone too high."
And they were told, "Well, get it, the boss wants it."
He was like... a two year old, who sees something and wants it and grabs it and won't let go.
NARRATOR: Only months after Phoebe died, Hearst's desire to acquire things went into overdrive.
He could have easily furnished all the planned rooms at San Simeon from his own and his mother's collections, but instead, he bought new art, furnishings, and antiques before the foundation had even been laid at the top of the hill.
The nations of Europe were on their knees following World War I, and Hearst and other wealthy Americans happily preyed on impoverished nobles in one of the great fire sales in history.
He snatched up suits of armor... (gavel bangs) paintings... (gavel bangs) tapestries... (gavel bangs) a large 15th-century Italian sideboard, (gavel bangs) matched doors with Renaissance panels, (gavel bangs) and Moorish columns from the 12th century.
(gavel banging) He needed a complex of warehouses just to hold it all.
♪ ♪ Hearst told a story about a man who had to call a dollar "William" because he was never gonna know it long enough to call it "Bill."
And that was pretty typical of how he felt, I think, about himself.
He understood that he overspent-- well, especially when it came to collecting.
He said, "I'm like a dipsomaniac, "a drunkard with a bottle.
And when these art dealers show me things, I have to buy."
NARRATOR: Hearst's wife delighted in her husband's compulsive acquisitions.
Millicent Willson had been a 16-year-old Broadway chorus girl when she met the 33-year-old Hearst in 1896.
She was the latest in a string of lovers that had horrified Hearst's Presbyterian mother.
And by the time Millicent came along, Phoebe had despaired of ever controlling her son's love life.
KAMIYA: Hearst acted as he always had, out of his untrammeled love of beautiful young women, and what state in society they were from did not matter.
In fact it seems, au contraire, it was almost better if they were chorus girls.
NARRATOR: To Phoebe's surprise, Millicent proved adept at playing the respectable wife, giving birth to five sons, and standing by Hearst during his unsuccessful campaigns for mayor and governor of New York and his time serving in Congress.
NASAW: From the moment she marries W.R., Millicent sheds her show business background, her chorus girl friends, to become a New York society matron.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: As skilled as Millicent was at filling the public role of Mrs. Hearst, it was her private place, at the center of her large family, that she seemed to really care about.
In the summer of 1920, she played a beautiful damsel in distress in an elaborate home movie orchestrated by her husband, called "The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter."
The hour-long silent film was a spoof of the popular Western serials and featured, among other escapades, a mounted Hearst, waving his lasso and saving Millicent from marauding bandits.
Two of the Hearst boys used sulfur flares for special effects, almost asphyxiating themselves in the process.
By the end, W.R. and Millicent were embracing on screen, followed by lines that Hearst had written himself.
♪ ♪ The make-believe silent picture at San Simeon was a charming diversion, but it was the real movie business that fascinated Hearst.
And just like in the newspaper world, the real action was back in New York City.
♪ ♪ (indistinct chatter, horse hooves clomping) At the turn of the century, Hearst had won a bare-knuckled New York newspaper war against the powerful publisher Joseph Pulitzer by hiring away his rival's most talented writers and editors and winning over the loyalty of his working-class readers.
Hearst's papers had boasted something for almost everyone-- sensational reporting, vivid writing, innovative comics, arts, and sports stories, bold use of color, and revolutionary layouts.
As a publisher, he had been a crusading progressive, railing against the corrupt bosses and monopolies that dominated big cities and kept the masses living in poverty.
There were villains and victims in a good Hearst story, and he hated the villains.
(indistinct chatter) The millions of immigrants who crowded into America's cities and bought his papers for a penny were his core audience, but he wanted more, always more.
NASAW: Hearst went from newspapers into magazines.
He became the largest holder of magazines as he did of newspapers.
All his editors said, "You're nuts."
His business advisors said, "You can't do it."
But he did it.
♪ ♪ Hearst was, all his life, in search of the next big thing.
And very early on was taken with moving pictures.
♪ ♪ It is hard to overestimate how revolutionary the moving picture was.
It is as revolutionary as the internet.
It's as revolutionary as the railroad.
It's one of the most revolutionary technologies in world history.
NARRATOR: Hearst loved innovations.
Anything for a competitive edge.
Early in his publishing career, he had turned inventions like high-speed presses and color printing to his advantage.
Now, the new medium of film beckoned, and he quickly embraced something known as the newsreel.
These short factual films had been introduced to America by the pioneering French film company Pathé in 1911.
Hearst cut a distribution deal with Pathé, confident that his brand, known for snappy and accessible stories, would be a perfect fit for the new medium.
"The best trained newspapermen in the world, working hand in hand with a matchless producing company," proclaimed an early advertisement.
"No staging, no make-believe, "no play acting, just the actual drama "of life with its heroes; "their every look, every gesture, every movement "brought from the uttermost ends of the earth and flashed on your theater screen."
♪ ♪ (car engine putters) LOOMIS: Hearst understands the power of the moving film, and he begins to see it as a way to promote his own brand, but this really begins with the silent film.
(silent film music playing) NARRATOR: In 1914, Hearst pioneered yet another form of entertainment-- the serialized drama.
Audiences were transfixed by the adventures of Pauline.
More than just a damsel in distress, she was a new kind of heroine, and "The Perils of Pauline" became a sensation, with chapters like "Pirate Treasure," "Tragic Plunge," and "A Watery Doom."
LOOMIS: She's a young woman ready to be a modern woman, going out and having adventures on her own and having fun doing it.
And Hearst is simply promoting what young women want to see because the audience for this is young women.
NARRATOR: Very quickly, Hearst realized that if his serials could tell popular melodramas, they could advance his political goals as well.
His newspapers had whipped the country into a nationalist frenzy over American intervention in Cuba during the Spanish-American War in 1898, but when it came to foreign entanglements outside the Western Hemisphere, Hearst was a staunch isolationist.
As part of his crusade to keep America out of World War I, he argued that the real enemies of the United States lay elsewhere.
To make his point, in the fall of 1916, he produced an ambitious serial drama called "Patria," in which Japanese spies and their Mexican allies invade the United States.
KAMIYA: It's an absolutely ludicrous, totally racist, hyperbolically bad movie.
He combines all of his hatreds-- the evil and cunning Japanese and these marauding, radical Mexicans.
And, of course, our lovely hero defeats these emissaries of evil.
There's no question that Hearst was a master at appealing to people's baser emotions.
A picture's worth a thousand words, and I think that he realized that before a lot of people did.
NARRATOR: On the screen, as in his newspapers, Hearst never let the truth get in the way of telling a good story, and his wildly popular serials helped fuel an explosion of interest in the new film industry.
ROBERT CHILES: Moving pictures represented a new generation of what Hearst was trying to do in his working-class newspaper at the turn of the century.
The movies were now this wildly popular form of mass entertainment, and when people went into these picture palaces, these opulent buildings, you enter into this construction that looks like you're going into an opera hall and you sit in a cool theater, in an otherwise hot, crowded city, and these decadent curtains draw back and the screen lights up, and the organ begins to play, and suddenly you're transported away from the toils and concerns of the Lower East Side and into an adventure.
And it's entertainment.
It is fantasy, it's escape.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Hearst kept churning out hundreds more news reels and serials, and in March of 1919, he teamed up with the producer and distributor Adolph Zukor and created Cosmopolitan Productions.
He was determined to pay top dollar for only the best directors and stars, and he wanted 24 major films a year.
Hearst had a talent for telling stories and editing stories.
He knew what the public wanted.
But more than that, Hearst was a true revolutionary.
He'd get a story, he'd run it in the newspapers, he would embellish it in his magazines, he would tell it over the radio, and turn it into a moving picture.
I mean, this is the essence of synergy.
Hearst understood that once you got the message, you can move it from format to format to format to format.
You could create something called "media"-- which is the plural of a "medium."
And that's a Hearstian creation.
♪ ♪ LOOMIS: He understands that a multi-faceted media empire has enormous power, and so he, perhaps more than any other American, is able to shape the feelings, the ideas, the political thoughts of Americans because, frankly, he's bombarding them with media images.
He recognizes the power of the media in a way that comes to define the 20th century, and he is there to use that power.
♪ ♪ (swords clanging) ♪ ♪ NARRATOR: The New York film community had quite simply never seen anything like it.
It was the summer of 1922, and William Randolph Hearst's latest picture was called, "When Knighthood Was in Flower"-- a remake of the story of Mary Tudor.
The set designer, a Viennese emigré named Joseph Urban, conjured up entire city blocks of Paris, a gothic cathedral, and the Tower of London.
There were 3,000 extras.
The budget was an unheard of $1.5 million, making it, at the time, the most expensive film ever produced.
Adolph Zukor worried about the spiraling cost, but Hearst dismissed his concerns out of hand.
"Very good pictures, "like all very good products, cannot be made hastily, any more than they can be made cheaply," he said.
And he was just getting started.
His publicity campaign-- 650 billboards, brilliant electric signs that dominated Times Square, helped turn "When Knighthood Was in Flower" into one of the highest-grossing productions of 1922.
The film received rapturous reviews, especially its star.
Her name was Marion Davies, and her career was as much a creation of William Randolph Hearst as his "San Francisco Examiner" had been.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ SINGER: ♪ My head's in a dizzy whirl ♪ ♪ Since I met a certain girl ♪ ♪ There isn't... ♪ NARRATOR: Back in 1915, right after Millicent had given birth to twin boys, Hearst had found himself in his usual seat in the second row of the Globe Theater, watching the new Irving Berlin musical "Stop!
In one number, called "The Girl on the Magazine Cover," a huge reproduction of "Vogue" filled the stage.
Then a group of chorus girls stepped out of the tableau and joined an elaborate song and dance routine.
One of them was the 18-year-old Marion Davies.
Hearst, who was 52, was transfixed.
SINGER: ♪ On the cover of a magazine ♪ W.R. was always attracted to performers, outgoing, extroverted people, talented people, and that especially went for, you know, showgirls, actors.
So he always kind of had a crowd around him who were not the dry, sedate members of the drawing room set.
♪ ♪ LARA GABRIELLE: Marion Davies was born in Brooklyn in January of 1897.
The family was kind of lower middle class.
Her father was an alcoholic.
She was a very bright child, but she had a very noticeable stutter, and it...
It affected her school life to such a degree, she was bullied by the kids and by the teachers, and it contributed to her leaving school early.
But she loved to dance, and there weren't a whole lot of opportunities for women at that time.
So being a chorus girl around the turn of the century was an avenue to a higher class.
This was a way for women to marry well, and it was pushed by her mother, but Marion never felt that she was a star.
♪ ♪ (projector whirring) NARRATOR: Hearst was looking for the next Mary Pickford, the silent film star whose innocent but alluring screen presence had made her the reigning star of the new film industry.
"He sent me flowers and little gifts, like silver boxes or gloves or candy," Marion recalled.
"I wasn't the only one he sent gifts to, but all the girls thought he was particularly looking at me."
KAMIYA: The same impulses that led Hearst to choose Millicent, you know, led him to then choose another extremely young woman.
And it's a little bit like, "Well, you went "for the beautiful, young, trophy wife "from the chorus line, and here's another one."
NARRATOR: Hearst wasn't immediately sold on Marion as a film star, but he went to a screening of her first feature, produced by her brother-in-law.
She played a rich man's daughter kidnapped by gypsies.
GABRIELLE: She has a glow to her.
That charm, that... beauty.
Not even just physical beauty, but this sort of emotional sense of giving to the camera.
And I think that, in combination with this kind of beautiful angel that he was seeing on the screen, was something very attractive to him.
And so he went to Marion and he said to her, "I would like to make you a star."
NARRATOR: In 1917, Hearst gave Marion her own production company and a generous contract.
He controlled almost every aspect of her films: the script, the casting-- even the hairstyles.
He loved to watch Marion work and was always at the studio.
KASTNER: Marion Davies was the first screwball comedienne, before Carole Lombard.
She was a natural mimic, and, you know, absolutely hilarious impersonations, impressions.
She was always irreverent and was always the scapegrace, the little troublemaker.
I mean, she was a beautiful woman who was hilarious, and that is a, you know, a tremendous combination.
NARRATOR: When Hearst wasn't with Marion on the set, he was with her out on the town.
NASAW: For years, he carried on an affair and a marriage.
Marion he saw at his apartments overlooking Bryant Park in New York City, while on the West Side, his wife lived at the Clarendon Hotel.
Whether Millicent knew or asked, we don't know, but his double life went on.
NARRATOR: Then, in 1921, Millicent noticed a particularly expansive piece of publicity about "a Miss Marion Davies," the star of an upcoming Hearst feature.
She got in touch with Hearst's editors and demanded that "all advertising be distinctly on picture, not on star."
It was clear that she suspected her husband was having an affair, and Hearst's double life was running on borrowed time.
(waves churning) NARRATOR: By 1922, three years after Hearst and Julia Morgan first wandered around the barren hillside at San Simeon, the outlines of the planned castle had come into shape.
It was a typical Hearst undertaking, a reimagining of a Spanish village, with the main structure capped by two soaring towers and guest houses arrayed to maximize the astounding views.
♪ ♪ (construction equipment running) The scale, and of course the cost, were enormous, but nothing Hearst wanted seemed to faze Julia Morgan.
NASAW: She studied at the Beaux Arts in Paris and was not only a remarkable visionary and an architect, but was fearless, dauntless, and never said to Hearst, "That's impossible, it can't be done."
NARRATOR: While the massive undertaking was the subject of Hearst's intense focus, New York remained the epicenter of his empire.
And Millicent wanted to be there, too.
She craved acceptance from the city's elite and wanted her boys to be raised as proper gentlemen.
Her husband couldn't be bothered.
KASTNER: Will was always an outsider, and I think that came in part from being from California.
His father was a definite outsider, a, you know, a gold miner bonanza king.
So he was always very scornful of East Coast society, which he felt was modeled on European aristocracy and was an utter waste of time.
He was much more interested in what you did than in who you were in terms of pedigree.
NASAW: He's a New Yorker who grew up in the West.
He's a San Franciscan who went to school at Harvard.
And instead of gravitating towards respectable society, holds it at arm's length.
He says, "This is who I am."
You know, "Take it or leave it."
NARRATOR: He didn't want to settle down and play the society game, and even if he had, there wasn't time.
While Millicent was doting on the five boys, he was with Marion, or constantly traveling from one part of his empire to the next.
And he knew that his relationship with Marion would stay out of the news, even if it was hardly a secret.
The press barons of the day were happy to trade in salacious exposés to sell their papers, but they had an unspoken deal that their personal lives were off-limits.
Eventually, the affair infected the atmosphere of the elegantly furnished rooms of the Clarendon.
Over the Christmas holidays in 1922, Hearst and Millicent had a rare scene.
One of their sons, Bill Hearst, Jr., remembered his mother throwing her wedding ring on the floor.
"If this is all you think of our marriage, keep it!"
KASTNER: In spite of Hearst newspapers being these lightning rods of political controversy, in person, Hearst deplored controversy.
He didn't like arguments.
He didn't like scenes.
He didn't raise his voice.
He had a courtly kind of Victorian way of talking.
He never made demands.
He would ask requests, you know, so it distressed him very much that Millicent was, rightfully, upset.
But he said, "I've tried, as a matter of fact, "to do everything I can for Mrs. Hearst.
"I want her to be happy, "and I can't imagine that she's happy in this situation any more than I am."
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Once, when Hearst left San Simeon for Los Angeles, he returned to find his wife had packed up and headed for New York.
"When I arrive, he's always sweet and charming, but never stays more than a few hours," Millicent later told the film star Charlie Chaplin.
"And it's always the same routine.
"Some urgent business matter needs his immediate attention "in Los Angeles, and we all pretend to believe him.
And, of course, we all know he returns to join Marion."
WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST III: She was referred to as M.D.
when I was a kid, and I thought maybe there was somebody in the family who was a doctor-- I didn't know who M.D.
And I wasn't going to ask my parents about it.
It was just, it was just something... (chuckles): Something in the closet.
His sons felt tremendous loyalty to their mother.
And they, you know, were embarrassed at this relationship, about which Hearst was so open, as he always was about his behavior.
KAMIYA: It's hard to think of another major American popular figure who essentially lived apart from his wife and with his mistress.
Hearst was, like, "Hey, screw you.
You don't like it?
I'm going to do it anyway."
You know, he lived his whole life like this, in effect.
NARRATOR: Like his business empire, Hearst organized his personal life around his own needs and desires, and rarely acknowledged the fallout that he left in his wake.
♪ ♪ NASAW: Eventually, Millicent decided that she was going to be Mrs. Hearst.
They decided to keep the marriage together by keeping a continent between them.
They moved into a pattern, where Millicent would stay in the East.
Hearst would buy her her own estate in Sands Point, one of the grandest estates on Long Island.
Marion would move into San Simeon.
Except September-- in September, Hearst and Marion would go east, Millicent would come west and entertain her friends during September, and then they'd switch sides of the continent again.
GREG YOUNG: Part of me, my instinct is to pity Millicent in this situation, because you see Hearst, and you're, like, "Well, "he's just going to do what he's going to do, because that's what he's been doing his whole life."
But for Millicent, there actually were some benefits to remaining in this marriage with Hearst.
Millicent forged a path of her own here, and realizing that this is what she needed to deal with, she decided to build something on top of it for herself and for her sons.
NARRATOR: During World War I, Millicent had embarked on a series of programs to help the troops overseas and bolster the care for them when they returned home as wounded veterans.
Her reputation as a philanthropist was such that she often eclipsed her husband, and her name was put forward as a candidate for Congress.
But as Millicent reinvented herself as Mrs. Hearst, her husband continued to live his life on his terms and by his own rules.
(flashbulbs popping) NASAW: By the 1920s, a new innovation in the newspaper world was being born, and that was the tabloid.
♪ ♪ TUCHER: Tabloids really focus on photographs.
That defines what they are.
The front page almost always has some big photograph on it.
The stories are short, they're brisk, they're often sensational.
They often talk about celebrity or crime.
It's the Jazz Age.
And the tabloids kind of reflect that.
The first one is the "Daily News."
And then along comes the "Evening Graphic," whose nickname is the "Pornographic," because it is so out there.
And Hearst, who is incapable of not competing with anything that comes along, establishes the "Daily Mirror" in competition with the other two.
So in New York City, you've got three major tabloids all competing with each other in the 1920s.
Just, you know, fighting it, fighting it out with very sharp elbows.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Ironically, Hearst despised the tabloids.
They were smaller-sized papers, popular with commuters, and focused solely on the need to entertain.
They were also cheaply printed and offended Hearst's aesthetic standards.
KAMIYA: The tabloid is explicitly aiming at the lower chakras that the Hearst papers always appealed to, but the Hearst papers were like a shotgun.
They were, like, aiming to hit every part of the human psyche.
Hearst had to respond to this attack that in many ways was taking one of the most successful things about his business model, and then using it against him.
NARRATOR: The tabloids were stealing away Hearst's working-class readers, and he did almost anything to lure them back.
His "New York Daily Mirror" resorted to outlandish stunts to boost his circulation.
It resurrected cold murder cases with lurid, baseless new charges, printed what it called "pictures of freaks," including the "Dog-Faced Man," and sent a 400-pound clown around town handing out $100 prizes.
"Time" magazine proclaimed that "the terrible tabloids have out-Hearsted Hearst."
NASAW: Hearst was the great innovator, but even an innovator grows old.
And his newspapers were getting a little bit stodgy, a little bit old-fashioned.
Hearst was no longer the progressive reformer screaming against urban corruption anymore.
He had become an establishment type.
NARRATOR: The critic H.L.
Mencken yearned for the younger publisher.
"The American daily press, with Hearst leading it "in a devil's dance, was loud, vulgar, inordinate, and preposterous," he wrote, "but it was not slimy and it was not dull.
Today, it is both."
Compounding his troubles with the tabloids was the fact that Hearst had gone on a spending spree in the early '20s and added 12 new papers to his arsenal.
His empire could not have been on shakier ground.
For decades, he had turned to his mother again and again for huge loans, most of which she had eventually forgiven.
Now he needed banks to further leverage his constant spending, and by late in 1922, his compulsion to expand at any cost had driven his corporation to the brink of bankruptcy.
NASAW: Hearst had always been in debt.
Always, always, always, always.
He was one of the richest men on Earth, but he always spent more than he could.
And he borrowed the difference.
And then he borrowed more to repay his earlier debts.
And as long as his circulation held up and as his advertising held up, the banks were willing to lend to him.
NARRATOR: In December, his corporate treasurer wrote him that, "We are absolutely at the end of our string in manipulating finances."
A few months later, Chase National Bank dropped him as a customer.
In desperation, Hearst agreed to sell small-denomination corporate bonds, much like the government had done during World War I.
He was betting that his readers would see his brand as a safe investment, and he turned out to be right.
By 1924, he had sold $12 million worth, and with the help of the booming postwar economy, clawed his way off the financial precipice.
Hearst never looked back.
One in four Americans-- over seven million families-- opened one of his papers every day.
Millions more read his syndicated features.
NASAW: In the 1920s, Hearst is probably as powerful politically as any individual who does not hold office, and much more powerful than many individuals who did hold office.
Every major city, with the exception of Philadelphia, has a Hearst newspaper.
And because they are all controlled by William Randolph Hearst, because the editorial content-- which permeates the news pages, as well as the editorial pages-- is decided by Hearst, his power is extreme.
NARRATOR: And he wasn't just interested in working-class readers anymore.
Hearst coveted the kind of upscale audience that bought his magazines-- subscribers of such genteel publications as "Town and Country," "Harper's Bazaar," and his flagship, "Cosmopolitan."
In 1928, he began commissioning essays from prominent political figures in Europe, and, a few years later, added space opposite the editorials for regular contributors, including writers like Edith Wharton, Will Rogers, and George Bernard Shaw.
Hearst had invented the op-ed page.
(radio tuning) SINGER: ♪ Got a stove for Christmas from a gal named Anne ♪ ♪ I had to take it back and change it for an electric fan ♪ ♪ When I hotsy-totsy 'round ♪ ♪ They call me Red Hot Henry Brown ♪ (music continues) NARRATOR: He also realized that the monopoly over cheap news that newspapers had enjoyed for so long would not last forever.
He began acquiring new radio stations in California, and by 1928, boasted a statewide network that often promoted his political views.
And in 1929, he debuted Hearst Metrotone News: newsreels that talked, with an authoritative narrator that magnified the power of the flickering images a hundredfold.
NEWSREEL NARRATOR: Another great planned epic adventure is about to begin as the world's biggest balloon, which is to carry two brave men into the uncharted heavens, is inflated.
NARRATOR: In his usual style, Hearst doubled down on the promotion of his new service, creating an all-newsreel theater in New York City.
"Every important event will be shown on the screen within a few hours after it takes place," Hearst's P.R.
"Similarly, every big event in the world "will be rushed to the Newsreel Theater with all possible speed."
Of course, Hearst considered whatever he did as news, as well.
♪ ♪ NASAW: Hearst's self-confidence is unbreachable.
There were very few politicians, whether they're governor, mayor, congressman, or senator, who were going to dare to contradict him.
And on any number of issues, Hearst has his way because of the reach of his empire.
Not only through the newspapers, but through his magazine complex, radio stations that he controls, and through his newsreels.
He was unstoppable.
NARRATOR: Somehow, year in and year out, Hearst had managed to stay one step ahead of his competition and just out of reach of his creditors.
He had never been more powerful or more of a fixture on the American media landscape.
And he just kept spending.
He felt as though the Beverly Hills house he bought for Marion was too small, so he gave her a three-story Georgian Colonial mansion overlooking the beach in Santa Monica that cost upwards of seven million.
♪ ♪ In the autumn of 1927, Hearst bought Millicent the home of the former Alva Vanderbilt, a medieval castle on Long Island Sound known as Beacon Towers.
A few years before, F. Scott Fitzgerald had used it as the inspiration for Jay Gatsby's home.
Then, as if the castle he was building in San Simeon wasn't enough, he bought a real one, St. Donat's, in Wales.
And Hearst used the corporate bank accounts to pay for almost everything.
STEPHEN HEARST: It was his.
I mean, it, it seems, it seems like, you know, isn't W.R. raiding the, the cookie jar?
Well, the cookie jar is his.
The cookie jar is in his house.
So it obviously, it doesn't, it doesn't mesh with today's corporate environment, with your audit committees and your chair of the board and your secretaries and so forth.
But it was, remember, it was, it was all his.
So he did what he pleased... as he pleased.
He's a figure of appetite.
You know, he wants to consume the world.
Someone like that, I feel like, is almost by necessity empty.
There's something in him where he has this hunger for approval, for acclaim, for the love of women.
You know, like, he really needs something to soothe his ego.
KAMIYA: He's always, needs more.
He needs more circulation.
He needs more money.
He needs more statuary.
He needs more houses.
He needs to make the houses he has bigger.
You know, he's like this incredibly acquisitive sort of shark moving through the world, just devouring things.
(train whistle blowing) NARRATOR: In the late 1920s, a first-time guest would travel overnight by train from Los Angeles, arriving at San Simeon in the early hours of the morning.
Chauffeurs would then pick them up for the 90-minute drive over rough dirt roads to the castle.
As they wound their way towards the top of the hill, the bleary-eyed passengers would be jolted by the sight of a group of kangaroos loping along the side of the road.
They would see a line of camels, a herd of American bison, ostriches, emus, reindeer, and antelope.
A weekend at the most extraordinary house in America had begun.
Casa Grande, with its soaring twin Spanish bell towers, had been completed in 1925.
Three guest houses-- Casa del Mar, Casa del Sol, and Casa del Monte-- surrounded the main structure.
Hearst referred to them as cottages, but they were anything but.
The smallest had ten rooms, the largest 18.
He was meticulously focused on every inch of them.
Even with such a massive set of buildings, Hearst had new construction projects constantly underway.
NASAW: Hearst was a compulsive, obsessive builder and rebuilder.
There never came a moment in which he would look at a room and say, "This is it, this is perfect."
This eternal restlessness and ambition to get it right pervaded his private life and his design of his living quarters, as well.
As he was building guest houses that surrounded the castle, he'd put a fireplace on the north end.
And then the room would be built around it, and he'd come and take a look and say, "No, no, no, no, let's move it to the south end."
And they would redesign the entire room because that's the way he wanted.
I think collectors are born, not made.
I think it's a psychological tendency that you either have or you don't.
He was much more interested in the decorative arts than he was in the fine arts.
He was interested in tapestries, in hand-hewn silver, in, really, fabric of every type: phenomenal Persian carpets, silk hangings, that sort of thing.
And pottery: exceptional Spanish lusterware from the Middle Ages, exceptional Greek pots from the ancient world.
Hearst had an antique shoe collection.
He had a collection of locks and keys.
He had a collection of German sleighs.
It's difficult to come up with things which he did not collect.
(car horns honking) NARRATOR: San Simeon was becoming a theatrical backdrop for Hearst's most prized possessions and the ideal setting for his new life with Marion on the West Coast.
The flashy Hollywood scene suited his and Marion's relationship.
It was a town that lived on gossip, and everyone had a past.
Hearst's days in the tawdry world of the New York scandal sheets, or Marion's life as a chorus girl, were nothing unseemly by Los Angeles standards, and with San Simeon as the alluring centerpiece, the couple quickly assumed their place as the city's center of gravity.
Marion had become one of the country's biggest silent film stars, and Hearst continued to exert an iron grip over her career.
Hearst wanted Marion built up.
He wanted Marion to have the best.
He wanted her to be seen by others the way he saw her.
And he saw her as this saintly angel.
He thought that comedy was beneath her.
He didn't want her hit in the face with a custard pie or a bottle of seltzer water, you know.
He actually wanted her to be another Mary Pickford and, you know, in a field picking daffodils or something.
NARRATOR: Marion did her best to carve out her independence.
When she was on her own in Hollywood, she often entertained the likes of Pickford, and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, Rudy Valentino, and Charlie Chaplin.
Chaplin seemed particularly smitten with Davies' glamour and wry sense of humor.
And while the mainstream press tended to keep Hearst's private life with Millicent out of the news, there was no such restraint in the gossipy L.A. papers.
Hearst couldn't help but notice these goings-on, and was intensely jealous, often hiring spies to follow Davies and report back to him on her whereabouts.
But Marion's flirtations weren't the only thing Hearst should have been worrying about-- her entire career was suddenly on the brink.
♪ Climb up on my knee, Sonny Boy ♪ ♪ Though you're only three, Sonny Boy ♪ GABRIELLE: Marion goes to see this movie called "The Singing Fool" with Al Jolson, and she starts to cry.
And her friend who's with her gently pats her leg, you know, thinking that she is moved by the movie, and she leans over to him and whispers in his ear: "I'm ruined, I'm ruined."
She couldn't speak two sentences without getting stuck, and she was absolutely convinced her career was over.
As the movies began to talk, Hearst hired the best speech therapists and voice coaches to help with her stutter.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: "As long as I live, I will remember when she was trying to learn to talk!"
her friend Adela Rogers St. Johns remembered.
After a morning with her speech coaches, Marion would storm downstairs and say, "I'm not going to go any farther with this."
Hearst wouldn't hear of it.
He was convinced she could make it in the talkies.
When the day came for her audition, Irving Thalberg at MGM gave her a screen test.
GABRIELLE: She went home very depressed.
She thought it was a disaster, but she gets a call that says, "Your screen test was brilliant."
NARRATOR: When Hearst played the test in their theater at San Simeon, she remembered that he started to cry.
"He said, 'My God, it's marvelous.'"
I might escort you around the building.
Show you the points of interest.
For instance, that elevator will take you to the highest roof in the world.
From where, on a clear day, you can see... You can see... From the Battery to the Bronx.
NARRATOR: She had made the leap into the talkies, a jump that had proven impossible for most of the big silent screen stars.
Her future as Hollywood royalty seemed secure.
NASAW: Marion was probably one of the most popular people in Hollywood.
And Hearst wanted to make his young love happy.
So in order to get her out of Los Angeles, out of Hollywood, to San Simeon, he made San Simeon the greatest resort that anyone had ever been to.
♪ ♪ FILM NARRATOR: San Simeon is the gathering place of the Hollywood immortals, with guests like Marie Dressler, seen here clowning with the host, William Randolph Hearst.
♪ ♪ That pretty blonde over there with the short bobbed hair is Marion Davies.
Although she typifies glamour on the screen, at San Simeon, she joins in the fun.
♪ ♪ Nothing pleased the host more than when everybody got out of doors in the afternoon to take part in some group activity.
He was proud of San Simeon and eager for his guests to enjoy it to the full.
KASTNER: Hearst loved to lead the guests on long trail rides through the country.
But he had to lead-- you didn't ride ahead of him.
And he would ride the guests right into the ground.
NARRATOR: Douglas Fairbanks avoided the rides entirely.
"It was like a military parade, and I wasn't of the temperament that would take that," he recalled.
KASTNER: There were very few rules at San Simeon, but one was, guests were expected to drink alcohol in extreme moderation.
David Niven said the wine flowed like glue at dinner.
But Hearst wasn't a drinker.
Marion drank more than he wished she would, and he wanted not to tempt her unduly and also to keep guests at their best.
The other thing is, he really frowned on conjugal relations between unmarried guests.
NASAW: That was one of the rules that you didn't break.
Hearst, as he aged, became more and more prudish, but it was a small price to pay for the luxuries of San Simeon.
♪ ♪ They would feast.
They would go on hikes, they would visit the zoo.
It was glorious, it was a, a fantasy world.
KASTNER: Everybody gathered for the evening's activities.
It wasn't a hotel.
You know, the whole point was that you were there with people, and the interaction was what was to be fun.
Cocktails began at 7:30 or 8:00 at night in the assembly room.
Hearst arrived in a way that surprised people if they weren't expecting it.
The seats against the walls, which came from 16th-century Italian churches, actually, one of them was hinged as a door.
That hinged door led into the elevator that went straight up to Hearst's apartment.
So, he wouldn't be there, and then, the next thing you know, he would-- he would've emerged from this panel in the door, from his elevator.
Then you'd follow him and Marion into the refectory at 9:00, and then the meal was served.
♪ ♪ NASAW: The mixture of people there, there were intellectuals, politicians, industrialists, businessmen, and more Hollywood stars than you could find assembled on any lot at any time.
Hearst was in his element.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Although San Simeon was hundreds of miles away from any major city, let alone a decent-sized town, Hearst kept himself connected to his empire.
Phone lines and telegraph cables that fed into a state-of-the-art switchboard, manned 24 hours a day, allowed him the kind of constant communication he demanded.
NASAW: Hearst never rests.
He wants to make sure his New York papers are okay.
The time difference keeps him up all night, because the evening papers are going to come out at 8:00, 9:00, the morning edition is going to be put to bed at 2:00, which means he's got to be up at 5:00, 6:00 in the morning.
KASTNER: Hearst ended up with a secretary who could match his pace, a retired colonel named Joe Willikom.
But before that, it was a hard go for the secretaries, one of whom, poor man, actually had a heart attack, because Hearst had a level of energy that exhausted most people around him.
It was few people who could actually keep up.
HEARST III: He wanted his children to work.
I sort of got that from my father and from his father.
The idea of being an "idle rich person," I think, was something he didn't feel any affinity for, didn't like those people.
My grandfather sent telegrams from the castle to his empire.
The operator made carbon copies of everything that left the castle and came in.
So you're kind of reading the nearest equivalent to emails.
And if you look at that correspondence, you see this mixture of minutia.
You know, "The white flowers near the bee house look a bit tired-- can we do something about that?"
And then a note from Winston Churchill and then a directive to write an editorial.
So you get this sense of a tremendously active imagination, creativity, drive, interest.
He worked like a dog, and then, one of the most admirable things about this guy, he was a newspaperman, and he was a newspaperman to the day he died.
There's something kind of honorable about that.
NARRATOR: Late one evening in October of 1929, the glasses clinked, the laughter echoed in the soaring assembly room, and upstairs in his private library, William Randolph Hearst pored over drafts of the next day's morning papers.
Holed up in his castle, he was in his element, the most dominant media mogul the country had ever seen.
It seemed as though his next act would be governed only by the scale of his ambition.
(bell clanging, people clamoring) On October 29, 1929, the American stock market lost $14 billion in value, triggering a depression unlike anything the world had ever seen.
Hearst wasn't particularly concerned.
Most of his assets were in real estate, and he believed it was just a long-overdue correction.
That winter, he started a $2 million renovation of his mother's estate, called Wyntoon, on the California-Oregon border.
Although his editors received a cable that read, "Chief would like all papers to avoid use of the word 'depression' as much as possible," over time, he could hardly deny the impact of the downturn on his business.
Although circulation remained steady, his advertising revenues plunged-- down 15% in 1930, 24% in 1931.
CHILES: These were, of course, incredibly dark days all around the country.
By 1932, the army of the unemployed in New York City was over a million people.
Statewide, unemployment was over 30%.
Nationally, it was over 25%.
There were dozens of bread lines around New York City by 1932, a couple of them sponsored by Hearst himself.
NARRATOR: Finally, even Hearst began to scale back, unable to pay interest on his loans or find the cash to publish his papers.
He was forced to cut his nationwide payroll by $7 million, and issue more stock in his holding company, Hearst Consolidated.
He cabled his representative in London.
"We have all just been run over by a steamroller "here in America, and feel pretty much flattened out."
When President Herbert Hoover failed to respond to the crisis, Hearst delivered a speech in June of 1931 on the CBS radio network's 82 stations.
Then he ran the text in every one of his morning editions.
He advocated spending an unprecedented $5 billion to provide jobs for the unemployed and "increase the purchasing power of the masses."
NASAW: Strikingly, even before there is any sense of a New Deal, Hearst comes up with his own policy to cure the Depression.
And it involves tremendous public works projects, a sort of Keynesian infusion of dollars into the economy to put people back to work.
It is more New Deal than the New Deal.
NARRATOR: In 1932, Hearst threw the full support of his media empire behind Franklin D. Roosevelt, backing the most gifted politician of his age, a man with an uncanny knack for reaching the ordinary men and women that were the core audience of Hearst's empire.
When FDR crushed Herbert Hoover and gained the White House, Hearst ordered up a newsreel that celebrated the event.
(crowd cheering) In his distinctive, high-pitched, patrician voice, he also argued that Americans could help their own cause by choosing how to spend their hard-earned dollars.
♪ ♪ My friends, the policy, the sustained policy, of buying goods of American manufacture, rather than materials of foreign manufacture, is not only a patriotic policy for the general good of the nation, but a policy which will surely inure to our own benefit.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: As the Depression ground on, however, Hearst and Roosevelt were increasingly at odds.
When Roosevelt created the National Recovery Administration in 1933, which strengthened labor protections and sought to further regulate the publishing industry, Hearst was apoplectic.
"Please tell the president," Hearst told one of his editors, "that I consider his proposal to license the press under the NRA "in direct violation of the Bill of Rights, "and I will fight his proposal with every means at my command, even if it costs me every nickel I possess."
Hearst had built his empire on support for the rights of the working man, but when it came to the unionization of his own industry, it had always been another story.
Back in 1899, he had joined Joseph Pulitzer in a failed attempt to crush a strike by the boys who distributed newspapers around New York City.
His opposition to labor movements within his own ranks had hardly lessened in the ensuing decades.
LOOMIS: In the 1930s, newspapers began to organize, particularly reporters.
Hearst sees his media empire as his and nobody else's.
He was firing newspaper editors that maybe were a little bit too far left.
And the newspaper guild begins to organize.
They want the journalistic independence that they need to do a real newspaper.
To Hearst, this is the destruction of America.
That if you have a third-party entity telling a newspaper editor that he can't fire somebody at will, what has happened to America?
(crowd cheering and applauding) NARRATOR: Hearst felt that he had been instrumental in getting FDR into the White House.
Now he turned on the president with a vengeance.
The Chief insisted that his editors call the New Deal the Raw Deal, and wrote that NRA stood for "No Recovery Allowed."
(crowd cheering, bell clanging) CHILES: From the outset of the New Deal, the Hearst press-- the business community in general-- are willing to perhaps work with the Roosevelt administration.
They're afraid that if somebody doesn't do something to ameliorate the suffering, there really is going to be a revolution.
There are people talking that way.
And so the business community would love nothing better than for Roosevelt to take a moderate approach in a way that saves capitalism in America.
But once Roosevelt's policies had helped to transform the public's sense of despair and hopelessness, then not only does Hearst deride the New Deal as communistic, he refers to the president as Stalin Delano Roosevelt.
LOOMIS: Working-class Americans loved Franklin Roosevelt.
They loved the New Deal.
Somebody was finally speaking their language.
The fatal flaw of William Randolph Hearst, like many wealthy capitalists who see themselves as able to change the nation, is that they could not imagine anyone acting against them.
That their interests were paramount.
And so if somebody acted against their interests, they must be an enemy.
KAMIYA: Hearst's founding political ideology and myth, if you will, was that he was speaking up for the average American, the working man.
In his early career, especially, I think that Hearst genuinely seized upon that.
Yes, it was convenient.
It was, it was pragmatic for him to do that for growing the circulation of his Democratic papers, but he also believed it.
Interestingly, as time went on, it was never that deeply rooted in him.
At a certain point, some of it, you have to say, is that he began to kind of act like his class.
He didn't live and breathe the needs of the people, but he knew how to market to them and sell to them really well.
And so I think that that's the key difference, that when the chips were down, and when actions and policies were being proposed that actually were helping millions and millions of working men and women across the country, he was unable ideologically to make that shift.
A lot of his actions and his behaviors later in his life, he was classically defending his prerogatives as a very wealthy person.
NARRATOR: In the 1930s, Hearst and Marion were becoming the reigning monarchs of Hollywood.
But trouble in the castle was brewing.
Everyone knew that the queen's drinking problem was getting worse, and the king was powerless to stop it.
"When the drinking had got bad," a close friend remembered, "he used to have to watch her pretty closely.
"She would go along quietly for some time, and then suddenly, this would all break loose."
NASAW: Hearst tried every way possible to limit Marion's drinking.
There were strict rules at San Simeon that nobody could have more than two cocktails, that the waiters were to make sure that wine glasses weren't refilled, and yet Marion's girlfriends would, when they packed their suitcases, have a hidden compartment in which they'd bring in a bottle for Marion.
Marion's liquor was hidden in the ladies' rooms, where Hearst would not go.
Marion bribed various waiters and the grounds staff to look the other way when the liquor came out.
Hearst tried everything.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: The most powerful publisher in the world was helpless.
Marion had started drinking as a chorus girl and never stopped.
The stress of her failing career didn't help.
By the early 1930s, seven of her previous nine films had lost an average of $175,000 each.
Hearst didn't even blink at the box office numbers.
He remained Marion's steadfast champion, still fixated on every aspect of her career, but he was incapable of giving her what she most wanted.
NASAW: Marion knew that Hearst would never marry her.
For a variety of reasons, including laws that would've given Millicent half of the estate.
But she made her choice.
She wanted W.R. NARRATOR: "I started out a gold digger," Marion told a close friend, "and I ended up in love."
Hearst's plate-spinning had worked in the 1920s, but as his affair with Marion entered its second decade, Millicent's tolerance began to reach its limits.
In a letter to his attorney, Hearst wrote: "Whenever I do see her, something that I do "or do not say throws her into a fury which results "in the most distressing scenes imaginable.
"In fact, distressing does not describe "the painfulness of these furies, "and there is nothing to be done "in the face of these tempestuous scenes but to flee from them as fast and as far as possible."
GABRIELLE: Hearst talks about how he really wants to get a divorce.
There is nothing to the relationship with Millicent anymore.
But Millicent valued very much her position as Mrs. Hearst.
KASTNER: Hearst didn't want to create a situation where Millicent received the social opprobrium of being a divorcee.
A divorcee was unacceptable, especially in society, where Millicent was.
Furthermore, she was Catholic, and that made, made it doubly unacceptable.
So they lived on in this compromise way, but it was an awkward thing for her to remain Mrs. Hearst with people knowing about Marion Davies, and Marion, though she tried to act like she didn't care... Matter of fact, she said, "Why should I run after a streetcar "when I'm already on board?
"What difference does it make if he's married to someone else?
He's with me," you know, but she did care.
I think Hearst thought that it would work out fine for everyone, but really, in a way, it didn't work out fine for anyone.
(gulls crying) (whistle blowing) NARRATOR: In May of 1934, after five years of the Great Depression, San Francisco longshoremen went out on strike.
The movement spread to every port on the West Coast, and suddenly, America was in the throes of its greatest worker revolt in decades.
From his lofty perch at San Simeon, Hearst was worried.
Here was another example of dangerous labor activism that challenged the very foundation on which his empire was built.
The leader of this movement is named Harry Bridges.
He's an Australian immigrant, and he's radical, and he's willing to engage in direct action.
Hearst sees Bridges as a communist, he sees him as overthrowing democracy in America if he gets his way, and he sees bringing that kind of radical unionism into San Francisco as an unacceptable transformation of his hometown.
And he fights it with all he can.
(crowd clamoring) NARRATOR: Hearst blamed Roosevelt for fomenting the left-wing agitators.
"The people approved the well-considered proposals "of the Democratic platform, not the theories of Karl Marx and the policies of Stalin," he wrote.
NASAW: As Hearst gets older, his self-confidence turns into an overwhelming dictatorial arrogance.
There is only one side to any question, and that's his side.
He's right and everybody else is wrong.
If you in any way support New Deal measures that he's against, then you're a communist, and he's going to destroy you.
KAMIYA: Hearst becomes so worried about communism that he dispatches a bunch of undercover reporters to go out and interview professors and intellectuals under false pretenses, and basically trying to get these professors to say something that's going to expose them as sympathetic to communism.
This is full-on witch hunt territory.
NARRATOR: Hearst had always prided himself on the crusading activism of his reporters.
Now he was ordering them to start attacking ordinary people.
NASAW: Hearst is the most virulent, vicious anti-communist until McCarthy.
The exuberance, the joy-- he almost celebrates these attacks on people who aren't and have never been communists, but who have crossed a Hearstian line in the sand.
NARRATOR: But this time, Hearst's arrogance and his zeal would come back to haunt him.
The Communist Party staged a boycott of his newspapers and films.
New Dealers, socialists, and labor leaders were happy to sign on.
Soon, Hearst's circulation numbers were taking a hit.
So many audiences hissed at the screen when his newsreels appeared that "Hearst Metrotone News" changed its name to "News of the Day."
And his enemies had no compunction about exposing his affair with Marion.
One labor activist published a book entitled "Hearst: Labor's Enemy No.
1," claiming that Hearst was, among other things, "a liar, a thief, a blackmailer, a receiver of bribes, and a swindler."
Hearst was vilified and lampooned, mocked and pilloried, but he seemed immune to criticism and willing to take any position, no matter how contentious, as long as it furthered his ends.
TUCHER: In the early '30s, Hearst is really trying to make his name as an important player in world affairs, and one way he can do that is publishing columns by people who are even more important players in world affairs.
So Hearst asks for columns from Adolf Hitler, he asks for columns from Benito Mussolini.
NARRATOR: In the fall of 1934, while on an extended vacation in Europe, Hearst arranged to see Hitler, who had recently risen to power in Germany.
Hearst knew the meeting would be intensely controversial.
The year before, the new German chancellor's reign of terror against Jews had escalated, and Hearst's own papers had covered the mounting violence, editorializing that "if Hitlerism means pillage, "cruelty, and oppression, "as well as tyranny, it is doomed-- and Germany perhaps with it."
But Hearst would not be deterred.
KAMIYA: Hearst was seeing Hitler as a statesman, and he had this blinkered, blind vision that everything was going to be okay as long as Hitler didn't go too far.
But at this point, Hitler had proven himself to be essentially a murderous thug.
You know, the, the terms of this interview were, were, should have been much more confrontational, much more aggressive about all of that.
NASAW: We don't know what went on at that meeting, but he doesn't come away with the sense that Hitler is a dangerous man.
And more importantly, after this visit, he doesn't editorialize ever against the danger that Hitler poses to the peace of the world.
And when we look back on the Hearst legacy today, I mean, that stands out.
NARRATOR: With Hearst's anti-communist crusade, his hostility to union movements, and his fraternization with Hitler, the rupture of his relationship with his old progressive allies was complete.
CHENJERAI KUMANYIKA: Hearst seems to have gained momentum because of his ability to put his finger on the pulse of American populism, right?
Like, where the common people are at, what kind of journalism is gonna appeal to them, what kinds of issues.
So what's sort of amazing is that he, he takes this position against labor and against sort of social justice and New Deal policies, right at the time when those things are extremely popular.
Hearst simply becomes a man out of touch with the American working class.
If workers were his readers, they were his readers because he gave them something they wanted to read, but now Hearst dedicates the early and mid-1930s to fighting the kind of social change that maybe he once would have supported.
There's a cognitive dissonance there, because this is a guy that was fighting for the eight-hour workday and, and fighting for, you know, many, many things that the unions were supporting.
He starts to appear to be more like one of those guys with the top hats, with the bulging wallet and stepping over, you know, poor people on his way to his limousine.
He's, like, the most conspicuously wealthy person probably in the history of the country.
And all of this is a stick in the eye of the laboring classes.
He's almost said to his readers, working class and middle class: "You've got to choose.
It's me or Roosevelt, it's me or the New Deal."
And they choose Roosevelt and they choose the New Deal, and they stop buying his newspapers.
♪ ♪ In his early years, when he fulminated against the trusts and for the working man, he hit upon something that was truly American.
I salute that, and I think that represents the best in the American spirit.
But in the middle of his life, he grew more conservative and then reactionary, because he didn't want the world he had helped create to change one iota.
And he becomes more out of touch with the American qualities of right and wrong, of justice and injustice.
(waves churning) KASTNER: Hearst wrote to his sons one time, saying, "Success is a frame of mind, "an immutable posture, an unshakable sensibility.
"Circumstances have nothing to do with success.
You must decide to succeed before you can succeed."
And then he concluded by saying, "You must focus on the objectives, not the obstacles."
NARRATOR: After seven years of the Great Depression and his opposition to FDR and the New Deal, the effect on Hearst's empire was impossible to ignore.
By 1937, his newspapers and magazines across the country had lost tens of millions of readers.
His flagship paper, the "New York Journal and American," was being dismissed by his rivals as "the Vanishing American."
It was the same all across the country.
Hearst Consolidated was in freefall.
But as he huddled with his advisers over the next few months, trying to figure out a reorganization of the company, Hearst quietly spent $200,000 on antiques and another $200,000 on more real estate acquisitions.
KASTNER: The Depression forced Hearst, really, into a reckoning.
He had incorporated in the '30s to try to get out of the personal responsibility of the finances.
But things began to get quite cataclysmic.
NARRATOR: He owed Canadian paper mills $9 million, and they refused to ship him newsprint until he paid.
He owed $78 million, more than one-and-a-half billion in today's dollars, to banks, and dividends to stockholders that were overdue.
In May, Hearst, Marion, and a few others boarded a train east to meet with creditors.
En route, Hearst sent a wire to Julia Morgan that read: "Stop work entirely at San Simeon."
On the train, Hearst confessed to Marion, "I guess I'm through."
NASAW: He's called to New York and he's told, "The only way to keep the empire together "is for you to step aside and establish a trustee."
On the trip, Marion comes into his railcar, and pulls aside one of his chief advisers and said, "I've called my lawyers, and I can lend the Chief a million dollars."
And Hearst says, "No, never, won't do it."
By the time he gets to New York, he realizes he has no choice but to take Marion's money.
And he hands over control to a bank executive.
And he's stripped of all power.
And he's told that he has to begin to liquidate his assets to pay his debts.
He loses control of the empire he's, he's built.
And it's nobody's fault but his own.
NARRATOR: Much of the staff at San Simeon was let go.
The zoo animals were put up for sale.
The first on the auction block was the elephant, who lumbered off to the Los Angeles Zoo.
Hearst tried to remain upbeat, but he was, according to a cousin who visited, a "pathetic, broken man."
He was forced to sell off some of his papers, deed the Wyntoon property to the corporation, and begin paying rent and covering the maintenance at San Simeon.
And his art collection would have to be sold off, as well.
One of the advisers said that liquidating Hearst art at auction would be the equivalent of emptying an oil tanker with an eyedropper.
So what they did instead was take Gimbels department store-- the fifth floor, men and boys sportswear-- and they crammed it with Hearst art objects, everything from Egyptian statues to Renaissance tapestries, and had effectively, like, a fire sale.
♪ ♪ NEWSREEL NARRATOR: Sale director Dr. Armand Hammer, left, and merchant Frederick Gimbel look at the $25,000 Cellini cup.
And here's the original itself, as the $50 million Hearst art collection goes on sale.
Articles from 35 cents to $200,000.
15,000 objects in all, spread over 80,000 square feet of floor space-- the fruits of 50 years of search for art treasures.
NARRATOR: Watching the liquidation of his prized possessions out of a second-rate department store was a degrading humiliation.
It was a final indignity for a man of Hearst's pride and stature.
Throughout his ordeal, the one person he had been able to rely on was Marion.
Shortly after she had bailed him out with a million dollars, Hearst had proposed something radical.
It was time for them to get married, he said.
He was 74, she was almost 40, and it seemed as though the time had finally come.
GABRIELLE: In the late '30s, there is a divorce agreement from Millicent.
There was just no more to it.
Millicent was finally done.
So W.R. and Marion find a person down in Mexico who is willing to marry them.
They go down to Mexico and they're waiting for the divorce agreement to become official, come through.
♪ ♪ They get a call at the last minute that Millicent has thrown "Cosmopolitan" magazine into the divorce agreement.
Hearst cannot reconcile the fact that his business life and his personal life are now coming together.
And he makes the decision to not go through with the divorce.
Can you imagine what that did to Marion?
I mean, just the heartbreak, that she thought that this was going to happen for her.
And, and it didn't, um, because of a magazine.
Nobody knows where she is in those days that she's gone.
And finally, she shows back up again, and she had been on an alcoholic bender.
And from then on, she's never really the same.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ KANE: What are you doing?
(sighs) NARRATOR: Orson Welles' critically acclaimed 1941 film "Citizen Kane" wasn't an accurate portrait of Hearst, but it didn't need to be.
All the pieces were there-- the publishing revolutionary, the obsessive art collector, the fierce competitor, and the three women in his life.
Shows are just getting out.
People are going to nightclubs and restaurants.
'Course we're different, because we live in a palace.
You always said you wanted to live in a palace.
NASAW: The problem with "Citizen Kane" for Hearst was not the presentation of Hearst himself, because Orson Welles was not going to, at this stage in his life, play a villain.
And if he was playing Hearst, Hearst would be a charming, lovable character, at least in the beginning.
It'll make you all happy to learn that our circulation this morning was the greatest in New York-- 684,000.
NASAW: What made Hearst angry was that the three most important women in his life-- his mother, his wife, and Marion Davies-- were caricatured.
Especially his mother, who was played by Agnes Moorehead and who was just a witch.
And Marion Davies, who became Susan Alexander, a no-talent opera singer with the most irritating, grating voice in movie history.
(singing) WOMAN: Perfectly dreadful!
(laughing) (holding note) NARRATOR: Hearst's personality was so large, his career so long, his public persona so controversial and polarizing, that it was as if Orson Welles was tapping into not just the life of one man, but to a part of America itself.
Orson Welles was tilting at windmills.
And it's not a biography, but I think the thing it got right about Hearst was the joie de vivre of Charles Foster Kane, those early years when he's with the showgirls and when he's having the newspapers redone and the animation and kind of the fire.
(whistles) (drums roll, band plays) Are we going to declare war on Spain or are we not?
(band playing, guests cheering) KAMIYA: The portrait of "Citizen Kane" seems somewhat accurate, in the sense of this guy who's got everything, but he's kind of a lonely guy.
♪ ♪ It's almost like an archetypal myth.
He's got everything, but in some ways, what does he have?
He's a very, very isolated human being.
Most of what people think about my grandfather is really "Citizen Kane."
I, I told my kids it'll take another hundred years before my grandfather's really sort of fit into history properly.
NARRATOR: If Hearst and Marion's portrait in "Citizen Kane" was at odds with their comfortable life at San Simeon, it was accurate in one respect-- Marion was drinking herself to death.
Hearst urged her to take any kind of cure, and hired nurses and attendants to keep her away from alcohol, but she always found a way.
"Eventually, she would make an ass of herself at the table," a waiter from San Simeon remembered.
"Start acting up, making noises and things.
"It was not unusual for Mr. Hearst to ask for her to be taken from the table."
The fact that Hollywood no longer seemed to want her hadn't helped Marion's spirits, and by the mid-1930s, she had finally quit the film business.
In the end, she contented herself with taking care of her aging partner.
♪ ♪ "I thought the least I could do for a man who had been so wonderful was to be a companion to him," she recalled.
Despite his bucolic surroundings, Hearst's future remained clouded by financial troubles.
The trustee who ran his company was selling off assets to pay stock dividends.
Hearst was left clinging to editorial control of his shrinking empire.
It was hard not to agree with "Time" magazine when it wrote, "At age 75, the bad boy of U.S. journalism is just a hired editorial writer who has taken a salary cut."
While Hearst's business affairs were in crisis, events on the other side of the Atlantic were also spiraling out of control.
His old contributors Hitler and Mussolini seemed intent on war, but he remained a staunch isolationist.
NASAW: Hearst believes, "Let the damn Europeans fight, and leave Europe, the Old World, to destroy itself."
You know, "If Hitler takes over the continent, okay.
I certainly don't care, "and it's not a danger to America.
What's a danger to America is the Japanese."
And Hearst profoundly believes this, in large part because of his anti-Asian racism.
NARRATOR: After Pearl Harbor, Hearst and Marion retreated inland, to Wyntoon, and he quickly supported the war.
"We must come out victorious and with the largest V in the alphabet," he proclaimed.
And in the immediate aftermath of the attack, Hearst played to his readers' worst impulses.
For decades, Hearst had used his papers to vilify Asian immigrants.
Now his empire called for the forced internment of Japanese Americans.
"I am for the immediate removal "of every Japanese on the West Coast to a point deep in the interior," one Hearst syndicated columnist snarled.
"I don't mean a nice part of the interior, either.
"Herd 'em up, pack 'em off, "and give 'em the inside room in the Badlands.
"Let 'em be pinched, hurt, hungry, and dead up against it.
"Personally, I hate the Japanese.
And that goes for all of them."
KAMIYA: Hearst's position on the internment of Japanese Americans was consistent and an extension of the Yellow Peril that runs through Hearst's career.
He had a, you know, a pretty long history of, of perceiving Asians, and later, Japanese in particular, as being an other, an unknowable, alien sort of force.
And that, of course, that view is really what underpinned so many people's decisions to support the executive order that interned 110,000 Japanese Americans on the West Coast.
NARRATOR: In the early 1940s, Hearst's media machine still wielded enormous power, and he knew that demonizing the Japanese would be hugely popular with his audiences.
NASAW: Remarkably, it's the war that saves the Hearst empire.
Newsprint is rationed, so it is cheaper to produce the newspapers than it has ever been, because you can't have big newspapers anymore.
And people start buying the newspapers, every newspaper, to find out what's going on, and circulation increases.
Hearst has been put on a strict allowance, so he can't spend money anymore.
His losing newspapers have been sold off.
And by the end of the war, the Hearst financial prospects are better than they've been in decades.
(plane engine droning, wheel touches down) NARRATOR: By the time he and Marion returned from their exile at Wyntoon, the wartime economic boom had finally dug Hearst out of his financial hole, and he was back in command of a diminished but still formidable empire.
He had also been able to repay Marion her $1 million.
As if the preceding seven years had never happened, he immediately started renovations on one of his guest cottages.
And he doted on his dogs.
Hearst had always loved dachshunds, and in 1945, he and Marion still owned 73 of them.
When his favorite dog, Gandhi, died, he held a formal funeral in his honor, with the entire staff in attendance for the ceremony.
He and Marion remained near-constant companions, dressing for dinner each night in the refectory, and then watching the newest film in the theater.
There would be occasional visitors, but although his circle of friends and acquaintances was large, it was striking how few people, if anyone, really knew him.
KAMIYA: There's this kind of enigma.
Very few people got close to him.
It might be that it speaks to somebody who has never had to actually get down at the same level with another person and go, "Here I am, there you are, let's exchange face-to-face at exactly the same level."
Because nobody was on the same level with him, you know, and he didn't want to be on the same level with other people.
NARRATOR: After suffering what seemed like a mild heart attack in early 1947, Hearst and Marion made the excruciating decision to move to her house in Beverly Hills to be in closer proximity to a hospital.
On May 2, as they left the castle, Marion looked over to see tears streaming down the old man's face.
"We'll come back, W.R., you'll see," she said.
They never did.
KASTNER: I think San Simeon was the best part of Hearst's life.
I think he knew that.
It was the sight of a number of great romances, and by that, I mean the romance that Hearst had with the landscape of California.
The platonic romance of, of creativity that he had with Julia Morgan, and this passionate love that he had for Marion Davies.
NARRATOR: Near the end, Hearst was worried about Marion most of all.
She kept up a cordial relationship with his boys, but he worried that she would be cast aside after he was gone, so he secretly gave her a controlling interest-- 30,000 shares of preferred stock-- in the Hearst Corporation.
He also gave her the deed to the Beverly Hills house.
♪ ♪ NASAW: His first couple of years in Los Angeles, he's in his middle 80s.
He still reads all his newspapers cover-to-cover every day and writes to say, "This is not right, this is not right."
But age catches up.
He's watched over by nurses and attendants and Marion.
NARRATOR: On August 13, 1951, the Chief dictated his last letter of the day and went to sleep.
As he had grown increasingly frail, Marion had found it harder to retain her composure, and that night, she was especially distraught and was given a sedative.
While Marion slept, Hearst died at 9:50 a.m. on August 14.
He was 88.
Without waking her, his sons immediately had his body removed.
She awoke, and her house was empty.
"I was alone.
"I loved him for 32 years, and now he was gone," she remembered.
"I couldn't even say goodbye."
NASAW: Millicent flies out from New York.
The funeral is held in San Francisco.
The mayor attends, Louis B. Mayer is there, Hollywood royalty, political royalty.
The only one who's missing is Marion.
Marion probably could have gone if she wanted to, but she knew she wasn't welcome.
♪ ♪ KASTNER: So everybody had gotten along okay while Hearst was still around, but the alacrity with which the boys acted afterwards showed that they had not been fond of Marion.
He left her the voting rights of the Hearst Corporation, controlling stock, and it had become very prosperous.
It was well over $100 million worth, even though 14 years before, he'd been 80 million in the red.
So for a brief period, Marion actually was the chief employer of the Hearst Corporation.
But she sold it all back to Mrs. Hearst for one dollar legal tender.
And what she was saying is, I don't need the money.
And I think what Hearst was saying in giving her such a bequest was how incredibly important she had been in his life.
Hearst died on the 14th of August.
Marion sold it on the 30th of October.
And the very next day, she married for the first and only time.
NARRATOR: Her new husband was almost a decade younger than Marion, a captain in the Merchant Marine named Horace Brown.
He bore such a striking resemblance to Hearst-- a heavy-set man with the same sloping nose and close-set blue eyes-- that guests would look twice when the couple entered the room.
Hearst may have been gone, but Marion would still cling to his memory for the rest of her life.
NASAW: The Hearst Corporation then, for a period of years, bans the name Marion Davies.
It is not uttered, it is not spoken.
NARRATOR: In death, as in life, William Randolph Hearst remained a distinctly American invention.
In the colorful pages of his newspapers and the flickering frames of his motion pictures, he presented his own singular vision of America, manipulating his audience to see the world through his lens and on his terms.
In many ways, William Randolph Hearst is an American writ large.
He embodies everything good and bad about this, the essence of this country.
Its expansiveness, its ambition, its greed, its sentimentality, its showmanship, its, its ability to transform itself.
Hearst tells us a whole lot about ourselves as a democracy then and probably now.
♪ ♪ He shows us the power of money and the power of ambition.
He shows us the power of the media to shape opinion, to direct opinion.
He shows us the appeal, on occasion, of the crusader.
He also shows us, however, the danger of the demagogue.
William Randolph Hearst primarily stands for himself.
And I think that's the most important thing to understand about him, is that he takes positions that are admirable in many ways, and then later, he takes positions that are reprehensible.
But fundamentally, any discussion of William Randolph Hearst is about William Randolph Hearst.
Hearst was mostly loyal to himself and the project of building influence.
And at times, that project took the shape of standing in for working people.
But I think what we have to contend with in the end is, do we really want our most powerful institutions, media and otherwise, to be run by people who are not accountable to the masses of people, and are ultimately accountable to their own ideas of grandeur?
And I think that that's part of what Hearst forces us to reckon with.
TUCHER: You don't want to use history as a tarot deck to predict the future.
But there are cautions.
There are lessons.
And in an era when very powerful men are in a position to influence enormous chunks of American and world history, you need to question how a person that big operates.
Who enables him?
Who empowers him?
That's, I think, the lesson of Hearst.
YOUNG: He influenced our whole American way of life.
How we digest culture, how we engage with political views.
I think that that kind of fearlessness that was unique in him is actually kind of in the DNA of American media now.
That everything is always kind of pushing itself to the edge.
NASAW: The 20th century and the 21st century are the centuries of mass media.
Hearst was the first media mogul.
He invents the world that, for better or worse, we now inhabit.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ANNOUNCER: "American Experience: Citizen Hearst" is available on DVD.
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