The epic scope of historian David Nasaw's biography matches the titanic personality and achievements of William Randolph Hearst (1862-1951), who built "the nation's first media conglomerate" from a single San Francisco newspaper. Based on previously unavailable sources, including Hearst's personal papers, Nasaw's long but absorbing narrative gives a full-bodied account of the often contradictory mogul: "a huge man with a tiny voice; a shy man who was most comfortable in crowds ... an autocratic boss who could not fire people; a devoted husband who lived with his mistress." Wife Millicent Hearst and actress-inamorata Marion Davies also emerge with more complexity than in previous portraits like Orson Welles's Citizen Kane
, whose factual inaccuracies Nasaw dissects. The author tempers the usual simplistic account of Hearst's political evolution from fire-breathing leftist to red-baiting conservative, calling him "a classic liberal" who believed in less-is-more government and deplored fascism as much as communism. Fresh insights and elegantly turned phrases abound in Nasaw's depiction of Hearst's activities as newspaper publisher, movie producer, and politician, but what's even more intriguing is the poignant personal drama of a man born "in the city of great expectations on the edge of the continent" who was buried 89 years later in San Francisco, "the place he used to know." --Wendy Smith
From Publishers Weekly
It has been 40 years since the last major Hearst biographyAthus 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. (June)
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