Monday, December 24, 2007

The movie versus the book

I recently saw Citizen Kane again, for the first time in quite a few years, to show it to my kids (one of them anyway).  When I then came across a William Randolph Hearst biography on a Christmas shopping foray to a Barnes & Noble, my interest was piqued.  The book is "The Chief," by David Nasaw, and I strongly recommend it if this sort of thing appeals to you.

I must say, the actual story is considerably more interesting and complex than the one in the screenplay, leaving aside those amazing deep focus shots and the jump cuts.  E.g., at 40 he married, not the President's niece, but a 21-year old chorus girl he had been seeing for five years.  And, as is somewhat better known, the "Susan Alexander" figure actually was the accomplished and independently successful Hollywood comic actress Marion Davies.

I've gotten to 1904, when Hearst, having conquered the newspaper markets in SF & NYC, was seeking the Democratic nomination for President.  Though running as a radical (decades before supporting Joe McCarthy), he differed from Charles Foster Kane in focusing on "trusts" (corporations accused of wielding monopoly power) and union issues, rather than on the likes of Boss Jim Gettys.

An amusing quote I want to share, from an anti-Hearst editorial alarmed by his candidacy:

"It is not a question of policies, but of character.  An agitator we can endure; an honest radical we can respect; a fanatic we can tolerate; but a low voluptuary trying to sting his jaded senses to a fresh thrill by turning from private to public corruption is a new horror in American politics."

Other than in the writing style, why do I almost feel this is about another NY-based Presidential candidate, 104 years later?

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