“Citizen Hearst” — a documentary set for a red-carpet showing March 8 in Hearst Castle’s hilltop theater during the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival — may not be the Hearst Corp. answer to Orson Welles’ iconic 1941 “Citizen Kane” film. But it’s probably as close as the company or the family of the late media mogul William Randolph Hearst will ever get.
As the film’s black, white and yellow poster proclaims, “Now you’ll know everything.”
The showing of the 84-minute documentary in the 144-seat theater is almost exclusively by invitation only, with invitees ranging from Hearst Corp. executives and Hearst family members to state parks brass, film industry notables and other dignitaries. The evening event is hosted by the Hearst Corp., which commissioned the documentary.
Only 15 tickets are to be sold to the public, said Wendy Eidson, festival director, at $400 per seat. Proceeds will benefit Friends of Hearst Castle and the film festival.
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Also on the itinerary for the evening are a reception by the Roman Pool, screening of a silent Hearst film and presentation of the film festival Spotlight Award to “Citizen Hearst” director Leslie Iwerks, a granddaughter of Disney animator Ub Iwerks, who invented Mickey Mouse.
A national theatrical run of “Citizen Hearst” starts March 11. It’s expected to show at the Palm Theatre in San Luis Obispo for a week; dates have yet to be set.
The man and the movie
Paul Luthringer, Hearst Corp. vice president, said the film “promises to give the real story of William Randolph Hearst and his empire.” That would contrast with Welles’ thinly veiled portrayal in “Citizen Kane” of W.R. Hearst as an enigmatic, troubled magnate.
“Citizen Hearst” appears to be part biography of a legend, part peek behind the curtains and part corporate anniversary card. (While the documentary shares a title with W.A. Swanberg’s “Citizen Hearst,” a Pulitzer-nominated Hearst biography published in 1961, besides the title, subject and playing off the title of Welles’ movie, the book and the documentary are not related.)
A synopsis on www.citizenhearst.com says the feature-length documentary traces the 125-year history of Hearst’s media empire — from yellow journalism and headline-grabbing through Hearst’s rise to fame and his rivalry with Joseph Pulitzer, to today’s news, magazine, television and digital brands around the world.
The film was launched at a private screening in September at the Hearst Corp. skyscraper headquarters in New York City, followed by the public world premiere at the Hamptons International Film Festival on Oct. 5. It debuted on the West Coast at a private showing and lavish 125th anniversary party for the corporation Oct. 15 at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, complete with performances by Tony Bennett and Jennifer Hudson.
The western premiere comes just a day shy of exactly a year after “Citizen Kane” was shown for the first time at Hearst’s famed San Simeon estate.
Some interviews for “Citizen Hearst” were filmed that same day in 2012 on Hearst ranches in San Luis Obispo County. Among those interviewed were George R. Hearst (W.R. Hearst’s grandson, then chairman of the Hearst Corp. board) and his son, Stephen Hearst, vice president/general manager of the corporation’s western properties. George Hearst died about three months later and never saw the movie.
“Citizen Hearst,” narrated by Academy Award nominee William H. Macy, includes historical footage and interviews with such notables as Oprah Winfrey, former CBS news anchor Dan Rather, movie reviewer Leonard Maltin, surgeon/author/TV host Dr. Mehmet Oz, model-TV host Heidi Klum, producer Mark Burnett, Disney chairman/CEO Bob Iger, designers Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan and others.
The documentary also includes glimpses into the personal lives of Hearst and Marion Davies and behind-the-scenes looks at the worlds of top magazine and fashion editors.
WCVB-TV, a Hearst Corp. station in Boston, called the film “a never-before-told history of one of the great American business success stories” that traces W.R. Hearst “from his early influence on modern journalism to the controversies that swirled in his professional and personal lives."
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a Hearst paper, the film “details the life and times of Hearst, the building of Hearst Castle at San Simeon” and Hearst’s “zeal for plunging into the new technologies of the day, including the first animated cartoons in 1915.”
Hearst Castle, formally known as Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, is supervised by Nick Franco. He sees the showing of “Citizen Hearst” there as a good fit.
“It’s a film about history,” he said, “shown in the place where the history was made it seems appropriate to show a film here about him and 125 years of the Hearst Corp having the movie shown in the place where it all essentially started.”
A few tickets to “Citizen Hearst,” to be shown at Hearst Castle on March 8, went on sale Wednesday for $400 each at www.slofilmfest.org.
The documentary is scheduled to close out the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival at 6:30 p.m. March 10 at the Fremont theater in San Luis Obispo. Those tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for students and SLOIFF Film Society members.