Friday, July 20, 2018

A Tale of 3-Towers - the lord of all things.

Credit: Unknown
Citizen Kane, 1941

When a rosebud legend and an all-conquering media baron are just not enough.

It's late winter and it's Citizen Kane that brings me here, just south of Columbus Circle, NYC; to a castle of a place built in 1928 for William Randolph Hearst’s publishing empire. Hearst was a powerful man – with a thing about castles it seems – his newspapers read by 1 in 4 Americans and at the time already owning a twin-towered Mediterranean castle in California.

The young director Orson Welles was about tearing castles down, producing the film Citizen Kane in 1941; a thinly veiled biography of Hearst.

It’s 4pm, already dark, and with head down I push through sheets of rain. Shoppers rush this way and that, water thrown up from passing streams of New York cabs; yellow flashes on wet roads dappled with reflexions of car and city lights. Irate drivers sound their horns.

This castle entrance is flanked by columns; statues of Comedy and Tragedy on the left, Music and Art on the right. There’re other figures outside too; Sport and Industry, Printing and the Sciences. It had always been Hearst's intention to add a tower here, with formal plans filed in 1946 but never acted upon.

Throwing myself into the warmth of enclosed revolving doors, I pull my hood away from my face. I squint. The interior is bright and I’m greeted by a trim man in a dark suit, mobile at his ear; my eyes drawn to the lipstick-red rosebud pinned to his lapel. He looks up briefly as I motion to him; "No Sir, you definitely cannot go up the escalators!" Taking off my wet jacket I try to shake the cold from my blue fingers; feeling small on the spacious lobby floor of polished flagstones, the original building gutted to leave the castle shell only. I’m stunned as I look up, Hearst’s longed-for tower rising way above me.

From the floor, three escalators climb amidst a sculptured waterfall extending across the width of the building; 50tonne of glass panels. Above that, a 21m high vertical fresco of Hudson River mud.

Would this have satisfied Hearst? He was certainly not impressed with Citizen Kane, having tried to stop the film’s release and offering to pay for the destruction of all prints. Orson Welles refused, with Citizen Kane praised for its narrative, innovative cinematography and music score; and subsequently voted one of the world’s greatest films. I’ve slept through the middle twice, but still wonder about the `rosebud’ finish.

Looking outside, the rain has stopped. I’ve been in here for an hour and leave through the same revolving door. Things are not as frenetic now – for 8th Avenue that is – with me standing in the centre of the footpath and leaning back.

I crick my neck, taking in the new 46-storeys; this 182m, diagrid framed, all glass and steel; a dramatic vision for the modern headquarters of the now global Hearst Corporation. I’m not too sure what William Randolph Hearst would have made of all this, but I’m thinking it may have helped the film.

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iancochrane is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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2 comments on A Tale of 3-Towers - the lord of all things.

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By Credo on March 20, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Reads like a novel, very interesting plot. The idea of owning a castles, now thats the inspiration that dreams are forged from. But most folks are not able to dream so vividly. To be bold enough to consider life on a grander scale is to dream big and to take chances or opportunities to see them through. Very few people have this ability.


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By iancochrane on March 21, 2013 at 04:04 am

Much appreciated Credo. Thank you.

Yes, I guess Hearst must have been quite a dreamer in his own right; although I suspect that in his mind it was no dream. He seems to have had total confidence, sometimes @ the expence of others.

Cheers, ic

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