Tag Archives: William Randolph Hearst

January 8th

On this day in 1941 William Randolph Hearst took very much agin Orson Welles and refused to allow any adverts for Citizen Kane in any of his publications.

William Randolph "I'm bog-eyed" Hearst.

Hearst was 70 at the time and probably the most powerful publishing magnate in the US. A bit like Rupert Murdoch, but probably a bit less friendly. Most people are aware that Hearst was not happy about CK and most people know that it’s because the character of Kane was based on Hearst himself. According to those how knew him, the thing about the film that enraged him the most was the depiction of his screen second wife as a drunk and a talentless singer. Welles himself admitted that this part of the storyline was a “dirty trick”. However, other insiders claim that while he was pissed off by the depiction of the second wife – who was a close model of his long term mistress Marion Davies – the thing that enraged him most was Kane’s sledge, the name of which led to his last word on his deathbed: “Rosebud”.

It seems a particularly innocuous word, but if rumours are true, then

Rosebud or "is that a clitoris I see before me?!

rosebud was Hearst’s pet name for Marion Davies’s clitoris. Oh and yes, Marion Davies was an alcoholic, mostly because the life she ended up living with Hearst was so difficult. She was a talented comedienne, but less talented when it came to dramatic roles. Hearst, like Kane, insisted that she be given dramatic roles that were beyond her skill, hence she looked like an idiot and drank more and …art really was reflecting life. Welles was right, this was a dirty trick, more so to Davies than Hearst who was old enough and ugly enough to take that and a whole lot more.

However, the enmity went further than banning adverts. Hearst newspapers printed articles about Welles claiming he was a communist and unpatriotic, dangerous and sick. He also threatened Hollywood studios and made a lot of noises about Hollywood being full of immigrants and refugees. In other words,  Mr Hearst, as well as being a great big crybaby, was also more than a bit anti-Semitic.  Luckily for Hearst, Welles was not very popular in Hollywood, mostly because he was young (only 24 at the time) and didn’t play the game. Louis B. Mayer offered to pay RKO $842,000 to destroy the negatives of the film. The then studio owner, George Schaefer, refused and then threatened to sue Fox, Paramount and Loewes theatre chains when they said they would refuse to show the film. All in all, things were not pretty.

They got less pretty at the Oscar ceremony the following year. CK was nominated for nine Oscars but only got one (screenplay, which went to Welles and Mankiewicz). Some might say that was fair enough, but was it fair to boo Welles and his film at the ceremony? Because that’s what happened.

A man never knowingly more than a couple of feet from a pie

Immediately after this, George Schaefer was pushed out of RKO and so was Welles. Citizen Kane was then put in the RKO archives and forgotten for about 15 years. It was seen as a piece of shit that no one should bother themselves with. Of course, now the film is seen as one of the best movies ever made. To a lot of people it’s still pretty dull, but for any cineastes, there is so much in it that is new and has gone on to influence decades of film makers, that it’s not even a case of “liking” it. It just is a truly great film.

And finally, we know that Welles went on to live his life like a show business Benjamin Button, having all his success as a young man and ending his life in adverts for sherry. Not that that is exactly what Benjamin Button did, but, blah. It’s the whole backward life type thing. Just about all of Welles later problems can be seen to be the work of Hearst. Not that Welles was without faults, he was a bit of an arrogant twat when he felt like it, but his talent, or our chance to enjoy it, was nipped in the bud by William Randolph Hearst. Rupert Murdoch probably learned everything he knows from him.

 

Today is the birthday of …65 today, 65 today, he’s got the key to the … well to his OAP bus pass. He’ll probably be seen at the Post Office a lot, queuing up for his pension and shaking a stick at young people who get in his way and threatening them with his scary false teeth.

Yes, the sublime David Bowie is 65 today, which seems truly mental and

Oh no love, you're not alone

makes me feel old myself. Of course given that I’m only 25 or something, it should have no such effect on me, but I guess I feel the Bowie running in my veins.

What plaudits can I pay him that haven’t already been paid? The man is a genius. He went through a well dodgy stage in the late seventies, when too much coke made him think that giving a Hitler salute was a good idea, which should have been what the government used in anti-drug adverts rather than those ones where attractive skinny people who looked like models with a cold were supposed to put us off heroin. D’oh! Thousands of girls were all like “Fuck me, all I have to do is snort smack off of some tinfoil and I too will look like Kate Moss!” A photo of Bowie doing the Nazi Salute with the caption “Drugs make you think it’s cool to be a Nazi twat” would have been much more powerful. Except of course to people who thought it was cool to be a Nazi, but frankly the thought of them all dying of smack AIDS really doesn’t bother me at all.

Meanwhile! Back in David Bowie land. I have heard nice stories about him from people who sort of knew him. I also like his songs a lot, although less so in the late 80s, but I figure if Mozart had lived to a proper age he might have put out a shit symphony or two, so I don’t really hold that against the lovely Mr B. I spent last night trying to think of a favourite and there really isn’t just one. Depending on my mood, it can be several, but there is something about Rock and Roll Suicide that makes me tingle, so right now, at this moment in time, that’s what I’d like to thank Mr B for as I wish him a very happy birthday.

Leave a comment

Filed under Almanac

March 31st

On this day in 1930 the Motion Picture Production code was instituted. It was more commonly known as the Hays Code after Will H. Hays, the prick who thought it all  up. The code set down rules about what could and could not be shown on screen. I could be fair to him and say it wasn’t all down to him – because it really wasn’t – but he was a weasle-faced little shitehawk who became very rich from his 30-year foray into film censorship.

 

The Broadway Melody (1929). This was not acceptable after the implementation of the Code

I guess you’d like a bit of background, so here goes. Hollywood was generally thought of as a den of vice and by and large this perception wasn’t far off the mark, but as the film industry got bigger and the scandals multiplied, the rest of America became quite vocal about how disgusted they were and something had to be done. There were quite a number of scandals. Some of you will have read about Roscoe Arbuckle or learned of him in an earlier post. His “scandal” was seen as the straw that broke the camel’s back, but it wasn’t the only one and was far from the worst. There were the drug scandals: Olive Thomas was a star of silent movies who was a noted coke-fiend and who died in Paris after a night of booze and gak. What actually killed her was drinking mercury bichloride. Her husband (Jack Pickford, younger brother of Mary) was using it for his syphilis and she mistook it for a sleeping draught and died. This shocked the good folk of middle America as did the fact that Clara Bow put it about, Charlie Chaplin kept getting off with very young girls and the murder of director and actor William Desmond Taylor. Possibly worse than the murder was the fact that in the aftermath, one of the suspects, a 19-year old actress called Mary Miles Minter was discovered to  have been his lover.  The scandal killed her career.

 

There were other scandals that the public didn’t know about (the probable murder of businessman Thomas Ince by William Randolph

A rudy nudy of gakhead Olive Thomas.

Hearst for one and boys doing boys and girls doing girls and everyone snorting or injecting anything they could get their hands on), but what they knew was enough to make them think that those dirty boys and girls should clean up their collective act. Now of course, this had nothing to do with what was on the screen, but it made people hypersensitive to any notion of rudery. Contrary to popular belief there was a bit of filth and hows-your-father in movies prior to the late 60s, but throughout the twenties there were efforts to get rid of it and the 1930 Code which stayed a bit lax for four years but hit home like a big old puritanical hammer in 1934 was the death knell for things that hinted at s-e-x. The rules were too many to go into here, but basically words like “prostitute” were verboten, hinting at homosexuality was out, nudity, well what on earth do  you think? Sex was bad and if anyone had it outside of marriage they were not allowed to be happy. Ever. All bad deeds were to be seen to be punished and there was to be no miscegenation (ugly word, but kissing or love between people of different colours or races).

 

Now, in some ways the code meant that film makers had to be really clever at putting in content that could be ever so slightly risqué but still get past the Code. With each decade that passed they seemed to be able to get away with more, but they often had to pay for it. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” was only allowed after the studio paid a fine for being all sweary (this blog would cost me a fucking fortune. Oops, there’s another one) and some careers were pretty much ended by the Code. Hello Mae West.

The sixties saw the Code becoming more difficult to enforce and more at odds with societal mores.  Finally it was dropped completely – in favour of the age rating system – in 1968. Now people were free to fuck or say fuck to their hearts contents. This was mostly a good thing, although those of us who’ve had to sit through Porkies would probably have been happy for the Code to stay in place for just a decade or so more.

 

Today is the birthday of wonderfully strange-faced actor, Christopher Walken.

For many years I feared Walken because of his face and the way he played Russian roulette in The Deer Hunter. However, then I saw the SNL skit with Blue Oyster Cult and the cowbell and the Fat Boy Slim video and I realised that he is not scary at all. He is great.

 

A rare not-so-scary photo of The Walken

Christopher was born Ronald Walken but changed his name in 1964 because Ronnie’s a bit of a duff name (Unless you’re Ronnie O’Sullivan and I have the lust for you).  He started out as a dancer but got into acting proper and not prancing around in the mid-60s. He came to real prominence with the aforementioned Deer Hunter and won an Oscar for that role. Since then he’s been putting that face on the screen and making some people afeard regularly and extremely well.

 

Mostly I just love him. He’s so still and contained, his voice is instantly recognisable and full of a certain je ne sais quoi. In short Walken is bloody wonderful and as such should have a birthday all full of joy, cake and dancing. And some booze and whores if he likes that sort of thing.

Happy birthday scary face! I’m not scared of you these days, but sometimes I like to pretend that I am!

 

 

Twinkle Toes!



 

Leave a comment

Filed under Almanac