Suzanne Ruta
June 16, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst

Current Status
In Season
David Nasaw
Houghton Mifflin

We gave it a B

The bio The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst debunks some long-standing myths about America’s first media tycoon. Yes, Hearst sent painter Frederic Remington to Cuba with the instructions ”You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war,” but Hearst’s raucous press campaign was by no means the cause of an inevitable war with Spain. Nor was Hearst the vain proto-fascist Orson Welles suggested in Citizen Kane. Yes, he courted Mussolini and Hitler and launched the witchhunt for Communists in academia, but in his youth he was a genuine populist who shunned high society and spared his servants the indignity of fancy uniforms. His most endearing achievement: He promoted an authentic American art form, the comic strip, defending George Herriman’s beloved Krazy Kat against uncomprehending editors. But though Nasaw has dutifully marshaled the facts, the biography tends to plod — and some of the wonderful details get lost in its massive 598-page bulk. B

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