Am I allowed to say I find Hearst Castle to be an oppressive nightmare?
Really, the main house takes the term “baronial” to new heights and there’s some truly odd stuff there pinched from all over Europe. It gives me the creeps. (I should say that the guest houses are bright and sunny and happily devoid of walls torn out of Norman churches, and the swimming pool: oh là là!) There is one room there that doesn’t make me squeamish, and that’s the library, and yes, my angels, this is about as bright as it gets inside the castle.
Hearst and Marion Davies had a suite atop the castle—with a bedroom, a bath, and a dressing room for each, divided by a sitting room. It’s a weird mix, (sorry Julia Morgan) of art deco amenities and truly frightening medieval architectural detail.
There’s a wonderfully evocative and atmospheric novel by Olaf Olafsson that anyone interested in the era, repressive impulses, high maintenance secrets, and the goings on in Hearst Castle should read, told from the viewpoint of Mr. Hearst’s butler: Walking Into the Night.
And if you want the Orson Welles version, check out Citizen Kane, actually a more sympathetic character than you-know-who—showing in Downtown Los Angeles this summer at a wonderful old picture palace, The Orpheum.