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The 'outsider' who never got in: Imagining a President Hearst



Carole Lombard was a frequent visitor to Hearst Castle, such as at this circus-themed 75th birthday party for William Randolph Hearst that she and Clark Gable attended in April 1938. Here's another, lesser-seen pic of Carole and Clark with the media magnate:



Why are we running these pics? In less than 24 hours, America's executive branch will be making a switch, from Barack Obama to Donald Trump:



And while many are comparing the unlikely rise of Trump to the fictional Lonesome Rhodes, portrayed so brilliantly by Andy Griffith in 1957's "A Face in the Crowd" (a film Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. is airing Friday)...



...one also could compare Trump to Hearst. Both were outsiders who sought the White House, but Hearst had to settle for two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and failed bids for New York City mayor and New York State governor. (Lombard briefly dated one of his sons in the mid-1920s.) What would a President Hearst have been like?



Of course, it largely would've depended upon when the publisher gained the presidency. The progressive Hearst of 1908 was a far cry from the conservative Hearst of 1932. It was this change that probably made Hearst such a tantalizing figure to Orson Welles, and is why the lord of San Simeon takes such a commanding role in the composite magnate that was Xanadu's fictional Charles Foster Kane.

I asked my Facebook friend Lara Gabrielle Fowler, who's been researching a planned Marion Davies biography, for her thoughts on Hearst vs. Trump. Here's what she had to say:

"I've gotten a lot of questions about this and I've always said they're not comparable but had trouble thinking of why. After some thought I've come to the conclusioh that Hearst had a real respect for sophistication and culture that Trump doesn't."

To some who view Hearst through the prism of "yellow journalism," screaming headlines and all-caps editorials, that may not make much sense. But she elaborates:

"Trump is low and crass. Hearst was highly cultured and sophisticated. Trump's cabinet is the epitome of incompetence, where I think Hearst's would have been on the verge of being too experienced. He respected people who were knowledgeable and could teach him things. He was a major proponent of education, while Trump has a disdain for education and knowledge."

The University of California Berkeley campus had a major benefactor in Hearst's mother Phoebe. And speaking of women...

"Also, Hearst's cabinet would be filled with competent women on an equal par with men. There wasn't a misogynistic bone in that man's body."



The most visible example in today's eyes is architect Julia Morgan, who designed many Hearst projects, including the old Los Angeles Herald-Examiner building on Broadway (it's being converted into residential space) and, of course, Hearst's truly palatial home between the Bay Area and LA, now a state-owned major tourist attraction -- a far cry from Trump Tower or the incoming president's Mar-A-Lago:



"The similarities are clear -- powerful men in the private sector. But I think they end there."

Of course, we don't know how a President Hearst would have handled having Marion Davies in his life (although she didn't become a major part of it until about 1917), if he couldn't have married her. (His wife Millicent refused to grant him a divorce for sundry reasons.) But both as an actress and as a person, Davies -- a talented and beloved Hollywood figure whose charity extended to many, even Hearst himself when his corporation hit hard times -- certainly was in a far higher league than any of Trump's women.



It's going to be a fascinating four years, at the very least.
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