Citizen Hearst

“Citizen Hearst” is the wild ride of Randolph Hearst, the media mogul who rewrote the rules of journalism with flair and scandal.

The doc covers his controversial beginnings and opulent Hearst Castle parties to his dramatic influence on the Spanish-American War

It’s a rollercoaster portrait of ambition, power plays, and a legacy that still echoes today.

This is the best doc on Randolph Hearst I’ve found. However, the man was involved in so many major events (and scandals) that I’m hoping to find another doc.

Trailer for “Citizen Hearst”

Watch “Citizen Hearst”

I streamed “Ciitzen Hearst” for free on Kanopy (with my library card) at

You can also watch it on PBS with their Passport:

I don’t see any other places to watch Citizen Hearst. But check back at to see if anything is added


  • My Rating: 95/100
  • IMDB Rating: 7.9/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Ratings: na

Review of “Citizen Hearst”

The documentary Citizen Hearst takes you on a ride through the life of Randolph Hearst, the media mogul who practically invented sensationalism. It’s a story packed with scandal, power plays, and a cast of characters that would make Hollywood blush.

Young Randolph Hearst, at the tender age of 16, meets and marries a showgirl.

Yep, you heard that right. This early encounter with the theatrical world set the stage for his future flair for the dramatic. But Hearst’s life wasn’t all glitz and glamour.

He had a notorious streak as a “race-baiter” and a “red-baiter,” often targeting Asian immigrants and those he deemed communist. Not exactly the makings of a hero, but it certainly adds layers to his complex persona.

Hearst’s academic journey was no less colorful. He got expelled from Harvard for failing to take his final exams, needing only a 50 out of 100 to pass. Imagine having the finish line in sight and just strolling off the track.

Classic Hearst, always making headlines, even in his school days.

Fast forward to the opulence of Hearst Castle, a.k.a. the “West Coast Versailles.” Designed by the trailblazing Julia Morgan, this architectural marvel became the playground for the rich and famous.

From literary giant Aldous Huxley to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Hearst and his mistress, silent film star Marion Davies, entertained a who’s who of the era.

It was here that Hearst’s larger-than-life persona truly came to life, surrounded by decadence and high society.

Hearst’s media empire began when his father, George Hearst, bought the San Francisco Examiner to boost his Senate campaign. Spoiler alert: it worked.

George’s victory handed young Will the reins to the Examiner in March of 1887 when he was just 24. Will quickly made his mark, pushing the boundaries of journalism and public taste.

Hearst was a staunch Democrat with deeply troubling views on race. He even performed in blackface during his college years, a stark reminder of the era’s pervasive racism.

This backdrop set the stage for his future as a media mogul who wielded his influence with a mix of charisma and controversy.

Hearst’s ambition knew no bounds. He entered the fiercely competitive New York newspaper market by acquiring the New York Journal.

His target? The World, the top paper at the time.

Hearst’s strategy was pure guerrilla warfare: slashing prices, ramping up sensational content, and capturing the hearts of working-class readers.

It worked like a charm, and soon enough, the Journal was the city’s number one paper with a whopping 1,250,000 readers.

The Spanish-American War marked a pivotal moment for Hearst. His papers, particularly the Journal, were instrumental in drumming up public support for the conflict.

An accidental explosion of a U.S. warship in Cuba was all Hearst needed to declare a “war,” pushing the U.S. into a real conflict shortly after. His papers’ role in shaping public opinion was undeniable, showcasing the immense power of media in the hands of a master manipulator.

Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, widely considered one of the greatest films ever made, drew heavily from Hearst’s life. The mogul’s response? A total blackout on any mention of the film across his 25 newspapers. Hearst’s ability to shape narratives and suppress dissent was on full display.

Hearst’s personal life was no less dramatic. His affair with Marion Davies and his dual life, splitting time between his wife and his mistress, is also a significant part of the documentary, painting a vivid picture of his personal entanglements.

In the end, Citizen Hearst is a rollercoaster of ambition, controversy, and larger-than-life escapades. From his early days marrying a showgirl to his reign as a media titan, Hearst’s story is a testament to the power and pitfalls of influence.

It’s a saga that reminds us how one man’s vision—and vices—can shape the course of history.

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac, Daily Doc