Weekend Trailer Roundup: Citizen Hearst

A movie trailer will occasionally disguise itself in the trappings of another, more popular film or genre to fool unsuspecting filmgoers into buying a ticket. Glacially-paced crime thrillers frequently sell themselves to the action-movie crowd using that sole two-minute sequence where the characters actually draw their guns. The Bling Ring may be a moving and thoughtful character study in reality, but its trailer pitches it as the filmic version of The Jersey Shore. But while misleading trailers may be fairly common, rarely do they tack on an extra minute at the end that gleefully reveals all the misinformation the first two minutes were trying so hard to sell.

Enter Citizen Hearst. From the title, one would imagine the film has something to do with the life of William Randolph Hearst, and the early parts of the trailer convey just that- a fairly boilerplate documentary on the life of the media magnate. But at roughly the two-minute mark, things take a turn for the bizarre. What started out as a documentary about a newspaper man quickly transitions into an infomercial about all the wonderful products sold under the Hearst name. This often has frighteningly little to do with the topic at hand- the point at which someone discusses the appeal of Burt Reynolds’ nude body in a film about William Randolph Hearst is the point at which we’ve jumped completely and totally off the rails. What follows is a blend of cheerily uplifting music and sparkling corporate logos that is so blatantly commercial that by the end I half-expected an energetic, middle-aged spokesperson with a headset mic to climb up on stage and give a presentation on all the wonderful things Hearst Corporation has in store for us in the coming year.

And the more legitimate elements of the trailer are by no means flawless. Platitudes like “a legacy of integrity” drift across the screen as those who protested the Hearst Corporation in the sixties are shown alongside the murder of a non-union employee. Thus, every protestor is neatly placed into the same category as a crazed gunman. Those who oppose the Hearst Corporation- protestors, governments, filmmakers like Orson Welles- are all portrayed in a universally negative light, while any legitimate criticisms of Hearst are wishy-washy at best (the worst complaints leveled at him are that poor people were jealous of his immense wealth, or that his having a mistress was sometimes seen as “astonishing”).

The final frame of Citizen Hearst’s trailer provides a neat summary of its flawed attempt to sell the film. After a full three minutes of pandering to the Hearst name, the title is presented in stark black and white that is a clear homage to the logo of Citizen Kane. Yet Hearst is the polar opposite of Kane in its examination of the life of William Randolph Hearst, and in trying to draw comparison between the two, this trailer proudly displays how misguided it really is.

3 responses to “Weekend Trailer Roundup: Citizen Hearst

  1. This is interesting. Obviously any clip is designed to capture attention and reel (pardon the pun) people in, but it should be true to the story or surely it is false advertising.

    I’d far rather have fewer people in (in my case, to buy my book, not a film) who love my work, than many who come away disappointed because they thought it was something else. Honesty matters.

  2. I immediately thought of William Randolph Hearst when I saw the title. But I haven’t even seen Citizen Kane yet [sheepish smile], but Hearst is a fascinating man, I went to the Hearst castle last year and was blown away!

    • Hearst castle does sound like a fascinating trip. And between you and me… I haven’t seen Casablanca. I’m sure everybody’s got that one film they should really have seen by now.

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