I finally visited Hearst Castle on the southern California coast. Something that I've wanted to do for years. The structure was never finished, even after 30 years of construction. (Please click to enlarge!) There are several tours to choose from, and we took the basic tour which included two gigantic pools, one inside and one outside, both of olympic proportions. This tour also included one of three guest houses, William Randolph's favorite - the one he chose to spend time in toward the end of his life at age 88, despite a lavish master bedroom in the main structure. He had homes all over the world, but "The Ranch," as he referred to it, was special. It continues to be a working cattle ranch. Hearst's parents bought the property in 1865 and it includes 50 miles of coastline. The castle is now a museum, but the property and houses on the ranch remain with the Hearst Corporation.
What we found interesting was the people who surrounded Mr. Hearst. He began building this incredible structure when he was 56 years old! After completing the first guest house, he began a 30-year affair with Marion Davies, a 21-year-old starlet, 37 years his junior. He never married her, and while she was his constant companion, his wife, and mother of his five sons, would sometimes act as hostess to important guests at the castle. Winston Churchill, Amanda Earhardt, Charles Lindbergh, David Niven, Howard Hughes, Myrna Loy, Bob Hope, Cary Grant, to name just a few.
The story goes that while on his deathbed Davies became upset with the loud chatter and activity surrounding him. We can only guess that she felt he was not being afforded proper respect. At which point she was given a sedative by her niece and her niece's husband. When she awoke she was surprised to find that he had died during the night and his body, and all personal effects, had been removed. His funeral took place in San Francisco without her in attendance. It was only after the death of her niece did it become publicly known that she was actually the love child between herself and Hearst. One wonders if the "niece" ever knew who her real parents were, since it did not become public until after her death. Hearst was not known to have many children as guests at the ranch.
The movie The Cat's Meow is based on Marion Davies and William Randolph Hearst, and will be on my Netflix queue, since my current obsession is all things William Randolph. Of course there are other interesting stories, such as the supposed fatal shooting of Thomas Ince on Hearst's yacht. The story goes he caught Davies and Charlie Chaplin in bed, chasing him to the deck where he accidently shot Ince while trying to kill Chaplin. (Charlie was quite handsome!)
Many more stories surround the life of William Randolph Hearst, but you'll have to wait until my next tour of the castle. We hope to make annual trips to the beautiful coast of California each spring.