Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Calif., was the model for Charles Foster Kane's palatial estate, Xanadu, in Citizen Kane (1941). The castle, owned by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, was also a gathering place for the old Hollywood elite in the 1920s and 1930s. Here's Clark Gable (far left), Carole Lombard, producer Mervyn LeRoy (standing) and Hearst (seated, far right) at the famous circus party in 1938.
One of the most memorable elements of Citizen Kane (1941) is Charles Foster Kane's palatial estate of Xanadu. The newsreel that opens the film (clip below) describes the mansion on the "deserts of the Gulf Coast" as the "costliest monument a man has built to himself" filled with priceless artwork stored in crates and a zoo filled with exotic animals. Xanadu is depicted as a lonely and forbidding place. Kane's second wife, Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore), feels imprisoned in Xanadu, calling it "49 thousand acres of nothing but scenery and statues" while she endlessly works on jigsaw puzzles to occupy her time.
Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Calif., built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, was the model for Xanadu. Director Orson Welles and screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz did accurately capture some parts of Xanadu -- the private zoo, crates of priceless artwork, jigsaw puzzles -- but Hearst Castle was filled with life and laughter and Hearst himself was a generous man who loved to throw lavish costume parties for hundreds of guests.
|Norma Shearer and her husband, producer Irving Thalberg at one of the lavish costume parties at Hearst Castle.|
link to some great archival footage of the party.
|Gloria Swanson, Marion Davies, Constance Bennett and Jean Harlow at a costume party in Hearst Castle.|