Citizen Hearst: More Context Needed


Hearst the man dies a half hour into Citizen Hearst the film, a biographic doc true to the letter of its title if not the spirit: The citizen here is the company, whose past and present is toasted in an energetic, star-aided bustle. Oprah, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, and Heidi Klum are the ringers, with William H. Macy narrating and Leonard Maltin trying to sprinkle some pop-historical gravitas into the hagiographic mix. The only things the movie isn’t upbeat about: Orson Welles, the Depression, and newspaper strikes. (Some management types mope about hard it is to deal with unions; labor reps are not invited to point out how tough it has been to survive working at newspapers.) The half hour on Hearst himself is a brisk, informative pleasure, chockablock with well-chosen archival footage, and the man’s peccadilloes are not treated shyly. A dishy celebration of Helen Gurley Brown is unfortunately curtailed, but excitable interviews with the current muckety-mucks running Town & Country, Esquire, and Harpers Bazaar should prove inspirational for anyone hoping for the survival of glossy, aspirational magazines. The relentless positivity works against director Leslie Iwerks as the film’s purview expands to Hearst’s broader holdings, especially when A&E’s invention of Growing Up Gotti is presented as a triumph on par with Hearst the man’s earlier ginning up of the Spanish-American War. Sometimes Citizen Hearst feels as breezy and electric as the newsreels Hearst pioneered; other times it feels like the video they’ll make you watch during orientation on your first day at 300 West 57th. Bit that could use a little more context if this is being shown in the workplace: the clip of Hearst the man railing against “the international bankers.”