HEARST William Randolph - three Letters Signed 1932-34 one giving an account of a California earthquake
William Randolph HEARST (1863-1951)Two Typed Letters Signed (“WR”) and one Autograph Letter Signed (“WR”) to Pepi Lederer, niece of his lover Marion Davies, while she was living in Munich, one letter giving a vivid and lengthy account of a California earthquake.
1½ pages 4to on letterhead of the Los Angeles Examiner, Los Angeles, 28 October 1932; 6½ pages 4to on letterhead of the Los Angeles Examiner, Los Angeles, 15 March 1933; 1 page 4to on letterhead of Casa del Mar, San Simeon, n.d. [envelope postmarked 5 December 1934].
The typed letter dated 1932 and the autograph letter dated 1934 are relatively routine; the long, typed 1933 letter however, gives a lengthy and very dramatic account of a serious earthquake which hit Long Beach, California on 10 March of that year. Selected passages from his account are given below, together with part of the final paragraphs of his letter, in which Hearst expresses his very conservative views on public morality, and his hope that Hitler would “pull the good old country together”, only weeks after Hitler had come to power. He continues, “Mr. Roosevelt has made a good beginning over here.”
1932: “Please excuse dictation, but I have just been chopped up and put together again, like a jig saw puzzle . . . I do not remember much about old Munich, but I do remember the Frauenkirche. It is fine . . . and so entirely genuine that I would like to add it to my collection.
We will not be able to come abroad this winter . . . everybody over here these days has to watch his business like a hawk for fear he will not have any. . .
Marion says you need some duds. She will probably send you some, but I am going to send a little check too . . .”
1933: “. . . let me say that I am astounded at the fact that you have lost 46 pounds . . . I hope you are not doing anything that will undermine your health. . .
Of course the German papers were full of the Los Angeles earthquake. All that the foreign papers print about the United States are the calamities. . . . Long Beach . . . suffered the most. . . there was large loss of life, as a great many people were on the streets going home to dinner at 6 o’clock in the afternoon.
Steel buildings and concrete buildings however did not suffer at all, nor did well constructed frame buildings like the Beech House. . . . The worst loss was in the wine cellar where a lot of fine old vintages spread themselves over the floor in a way to do the least possible good to humanity. . . .
Marion and I were at the studio when the earthquake occurred. . . I imagine there must have been something like twenty-five separate shocks . . . The first shock . . . was the worst . . . I kept on going until I found the stage that Marion was working in.
She had been taking the concluding scenes to Peg O’My Heart, and in these scenes she was supposed to have been injured and in bed. . . She said she did not know how she got out of bed, but she remembered holding her hands over her head to ward off any lamps that might be falling in her direction, and running with the crowd . . . We all talked over the earthquake for an hour or so, and then went home.
When we got down to the Beach House there was another shock, and finally after dinner . . . went upstairs to bed. . . of a sudden came another heavy shock. I do not know how Marion got down so quickly. She must have slid down the banister . . .Before retiring Marion called up the Netchers to ask how Connie was. Their man told Marion that the Netchers had gone in town because the coast guard had predicted a tidal wave at 11 o’clock that evening. . . But the watchman was wrong. No tidal wave appeared. . . The next day was Saturday, but the earthquake did not take a holiday. . . . Sunday night we had quite a dinner party . . . another earthquake occurred. . . Monday and Tuesday there were more shocks, and this Wednesday morning . . . there was quite a prolonged shock . . . I never saw an earthquake before that did not know when to stop. . .
Marion’s picture, Peg O’ My Heart, I think will be a big success for her. . . It has no lewd moments however and I do not know how a picture will go which is not sophisticated, - that being another word for rotten. . .
You have not had an entirely quiet time in Germany. Mr. Hitler seems to be stamping around and disturbing things a good deal. However, I hope he pulls the good old country together and makes a success of his administration. Something has got to be done the world over, and somebody has got to do it. Mr. Roosevelt has made a good beginning over here. . .
I hope you are having a good time but if things get too dull in Germany, come back home. They are not very dull here.”
1934: “How about another big assignment. I am enclosing several lists of architectural books. Will you kindly buy the books and have them sent to me care of the Los Angeles Examiner. . .”
The recipient of these letters, Pepi Lederer, was a rather unsuccessful actress with a difficult past. Marion Davies rescued her niece from an alcoholic mother and took responsibility for her upbringing, and Lederer moved into Hearst Castle along with her aunt. Her erratic behavior caused some consternation in the household, both for her pranks and for her openly lesbian liaisons. Lederer moved to New York, travelled in Germany and eventually returned to California in 1935. Addicted to both drugs and alcohol, Hearst and Davies placed her in a mental institution where Lederer committed suicide at the age of only 25.
Rusty paperclip mark to the first page of the 1933 letter.
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