The definitive and “utterly absorbing” biography of America’s first news media baron based on newly released private and business documents (Vanity Fair).
William Randolph Hearst, known to his staff as the Chief, was a brilliant business strategist and a man of prodigious appetites. By the 1930s, he controlled the largest publishing empire in the United States, including twenty-eight newspapers, the Cosmopolitan Picture Studio, radio stations, and thirteen magazines. He quickly learned how to use this media stronghold to achieve unprecedented political power.
The son of a gold miner, Hearst underwent a public metamorphosis from Harvard dropout to political kingmaker; from outspoken populist to opponent of the New Deal; and from citizen to congressman. In The Chief, David Nasaw presents an intimate portrait of the man famously characterized in the classic film Citizen Kane.
With unprecedented access to Hearst’s personal and business papers, Nasaw details Heart’s relationship with his wife Millicent and his romance with Marion Davies; his interactions with Hitler, Mussolini, Churchill, and every American president from Grover Cleveland to Franklin Roosevelt; and his acquaintance with movie giants such as Louis B. Mayer, Jack Warner, and Irving Thalberg. An “absorbing, sympathetic portrait of an American original,” The Chief sheds light on the private life of a very public man (Chicago Tribune).
It has been 40 years since the last major Hearst biography--thus this new volume has inherent value in portraying anew the great forerunner of Rupert Murdoch and other modern-day media moguls. This long-winded tome, however, often bogs down in trivial details of Hearst's tangled personal and professional life. Nasaw (Going Out: The Rise and Fall of Public Amusements) is the first to have had access to the formerly closed Hearst archives, but he doesn't really offer any surprises. On the big questions, the author only confirms what we already knew: that it was a lack of academic diligence that lay behind Hearst's failure at Harvard; that, like countless other well-heeled young men of his generation, he kept a mistress before marriage; that he was na ve in his dealings with Hitler. Neither is it a revelation that Hearst's financial collapse in the late 1930s was the result of spendthrift habits combined with the dour economic climate of the times. But the Hearst whom Nasaw portrays in such extraordinary (and excessive) detail is still the fascinating figure we've known for years: the self-absorbed genius equally addicted to power and possessions, the press baron interested not just in reporting news but in making and manipulating it. Photos not seen by PW. BOMC alternate selection.