William Randolph Hearst was a figure of Shakespearean proportions, a man of huge ambition, inflexible will, and inexhaustible energy. He revolutionized the newspaper industry in America, becoming the most powerful media mogul the world had ever seen, and in the process earned himself the title of "most hated man in America" on four different occasions.
Now in the second volume of this sweeping biography, Ben Procter gives readers a vivid portrait of the final 40 years of Hearst's life. Drawing on previously unavailable letters and manuscripts, and quoting generously from Hearst's own editorials, Procter covers all aspects of Hearst's career: his journalistic innovations, his impassioned patriotism, his fierce belief in "Government by Newspaper," his frustrated political aspirations, profligate spending and voracious art collecting, the building of his castle at San Simeon, and his tumultuous Hollywood years. The book offers new insight into Hearst's bitter and highly public quarrels with Al Smith (who referred to Hearst papers as "Mudgutter Gazettes") and FDR (whose New Deal Hearst dubbed the "Raw Deal"); his 30-year affair with the actress Marion Davies (and her own affairs with others); his political evolution from a progressive trust-buster and "America first" isolationist to an increasingly conservative and at times hysterical anti-communist. Procter also explores Hearst's ill-considered meeting with Hitler, his attempts to suppress "Citizen Kane," and his relationships with Joseph Kennedy, Charles Lindbergh, Louis B. Meyer, and many other major figures of his time.
As Life magazine noted, Hearst newspapers were a "one-man fireworks display"--sensational, controversial, informative, and always entertaining. In Ben Procter's fascinating biography, Hearst shines forth in all his eccentric and egocentric glory.
In the second and final installment of Hearst's biography, Procter (Not Without Honor: The Life of John H. Reagan) attempts to humanize the reigning avatar of American media tycoonism. This is no easy task. Hearst's lavish and exotic tastes, his romantic juggling acts, his voracious appetite for anything that cost money and his ruthless pursuit of political office easily congeal into cartoonish self-parody. Procter, a history professor at Texas Christian University, proves that Hearst's intentions were pure he genuinely wanted to improve the lives of all Americans. The focal point of the mogul's last 40 years is an unshakable political curse. Never internalizing the art of compromise, Hearst failed again and again to parlay his national newspaper puissance into political capital. He had a great knack for making, embellishing and fabricating the news, but no talent for anticipating it, as he continually dug his heels into the historically wrong side of all the big issues from U.S. involvement in WWI and WWII to Roosevelt's New Deal. Revelatory research into the finer points of Hearst's protean political alliances is rich in detail, as is his infamous meeting with Hitler, but the author delivers the same summaries over and over again.