Hearst Documentary Highlights Life, Legacy of California’s Greatest Media Baron

This weekend, the “H” in William H. Macy will stand for not just “Hall” but also “Hearst.” That’s because the Oscar-nominated actor does a very capable job as narrator of the feature documentary Citizen Hearst, opening Thursday at Laemmle movie theaters in Beverly Hills (Music Hall), Pasadena (Playhouse 7), Encino (Town Center) and Claremont (Claremont 5).

After highlighting the life exploits of William Randolph Hearst, the movie really hits its stride once it gets to the post-World War II era and success of magazines like Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar and Cosmopolitan. It’s fun to hear interview subjects recall how Helen Gurley Brown‘s stewardship hit town “like a thunder clap.” Here for example is a recollection in the film from Kate White, Cosmo editor-in-chief from 1998 to 2012:

“Helen’s first cover is still an inspiration to me, it’s so sexy. The woman, a blonde, buxom. The little hint of Brigitte Bardot… One of my favorite all-time [first cover] lines is, ‘THE NEW PILL THAT PROMISES TO MAKE WOMEN MORE RESPONSIVE.'”

“Helen told me what she wanted to say was, ‘THE PILL THAT MAKES WOMEN MORE RESPONSIVE IN BED.’ But management told her she couldn’t. I’m so glad those people aren’t still here, because I get away with a lot more wacky cover lines than that.”

There’s also a great segment about the earliest days of ESPN, which Hearst helped launch and retains 20% ownership. All told, the Leslie Iwerks-directed doc does a great job of spanning the vast subject matter, from the Herald-Examiner and O magazine to everything in between.

Citizen Hearst debuted on Monday at the Palm Theatre in San Luis Obispo, the location closest to founder Hearst’s beloved San Simeon. It also opens tomorrow in San Francisco, Berkeley, Sacramento and other select cities.

[Photo of Brown courtesy Citizen Hearst]

Previously on FishbowlLA:
Hearst Documentary Screens in San Francisco
Citizen Kane Finally Cracks the Hearst Castle