King Vidor was a frequent guest at the castle, directed Marion Davies in three comedies, and said Hearst had a big lamblike face…

He wrote a marvelous book about his early days in Hollywood called, A Tree is a Tree, and while Marion was his friend, and at times Hearst was his boss, he tells some insightful anecdotes about the man:


On my first trip to San Simeon, I  entered the huge dining hall following Mr. Hearst and the woman architect in charge of this gigantic establishment. She was anxious to observe the “Chief’s” reaction to the newly installed paneling. A fireplace, so high that three or four persons could walk into without bending, stood at one end of the room. Placed around the walls were what appeared to be rows of magnificent church pews. The panels near the high ceilings were made up of almost life-sized carved wooden figures holding staffs and banners.

The Chief was quick to voice his disappointment. “No—no—no! This isn’t the one at all,” he stated.

Many such rooms were purchased by Mr. Hearst and his representatives in Europe, photographed in their original state and then crated and shipped to warehouses in London, New York, San Francisco, and San Simeon. The photographs were kept on file and whenever W.R. wanted to select a room he had only to tap a picture in the presence of the architect, and the project would begin moving. However, in this instance there had been a slight mistake. Perhaps someone had written down B-348, when it should have been B-349.

W.R. now turned to the architect and said, “Get the book, and I’ll show you.” When the large volume of photographs was brought, W.R. said, “Here it is,” pointing to and even more elaborately conceived dining hall. “This one,” he said, “not this one,” pointing to the picture of the baronial hall that had been so painstakingly installed. The little architect took the blow in her stride. Not to embarrass her further, Mr. Hearst and the group moved on into the great hall for an exciting game of ping-pong or jigsaw puzzles, before luncheon cocktails were served.

King Vidor, A Tree is a Tree



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  1. Heather in Arles
    May 16, 2014

    Hmm…I can’t help but wonder where those “other” rooms that he bought up are…?

    • May 16, 2014

      I think our friend Polarstr (see below), just gave us an answer, auctioned off! Probably when he gave the ranch to the state of California.

  2. May 16, 2014

    My grandfather knew King Vidor well, and WRH. I have a signed copy of that book. My grandfather handled ranch real estate sales for WRH, attended the parties at the castle, but sadly, was too discreet to spill any anecdotes of interest. Darn! I did, as a child, get to wander the warehouses stuffed to the gills with Hearst artifacts and treasures before they were auctioned. My family purchased several Native American items, some of which I still have.

    • May 16, 2014

      Just saw the photo you tweeted of the book! How COOL is that!

  3. George Kaplan
    May 16, 2014

    Polarstr, thank you for that fascinating comment. Wow!

    • May 16, 2014

      Polarstr is the happy possessor of that pool I posted about last weekend…Wow, indeed!

  4. May 16, 2014

    My goodness, what incredible glorious beauty. And thank you Polarstr for giving us a scoop!

    • May 17, 2014

      It’s is impressive, and a building that (for me at least) was indicative of its builder…

    • May 17, 2014

      It was designed to inspire awe…

  5. May 16, 2014

    And Oh My again over the amazing Julia Morgan.

    • May 17, 2014

      The “little architect” — what was King Vidor smokin’? She designed some of the most beautiful houses, campuses, offices, churches in California.
      Ms. G, is it okay if I re-post a portion of your crumble, kitchen, and Dad post? And link it back to your site?

      • May 17, 2014

        Of course, you may, Ms V. I trust your hands and creative instincts. Speaking of which….if you find out more about Green Dolphin Street and its connection to NZ, and, if I can figure out how guest posts work, would you like to do a guest post on the subject? There may be another early film with NZ connections too. I have no idea.

      • May 17, 2014

        Oh! That would be fun! Give me a little time to get to it. I seem to be flying in a million different directions at once right now.

        Thank you for the go ahead. I think I’ll have to place your post amidst some lovely recipes…

        And there’s a package heading to New Zealand for you with a signed copy of the book 😉 — should be there in about a week.

      • May 17, 2014

        Excellent, and I have a brand new mail box for its arrival. The bucket mail box had to go; it was drowning in all the rain we’ve had.
        No hurry with the Green Dolphin Street idea.

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