Invitations to Hearst Castle were highly coveted during its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s. The Hollywood and political elite often visited, usually flying into the estate’s airfield or taking a private Hearst-owned train car from Los Angeles. Among Hearst’s guests were Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, the Marx Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, James Stewart, Bob Hope, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Roosevelt, Dolores del Río, and Winston Churchill.
While guests were expected to attend the formal dinners each evening, they were normally left to their own dwellings during the day while Hearst directed his business affairs. Since “the Ranch” had so many facilities, guests were rarely at a loss for things to do. The estate’s theater usually screened films from Hearst’s own movie studio, Cosmopolitan Productions.
Hearst Castle was the inspiration for the “Xanadu” mansion of the 1941 Orson Welles film Citizen Kane, a fictionalization of William Randolph Hearst’s career. Hearst Castle was not used as a location for the film, which instead used Oheka Castle in Huntington, New York, as well as buildings in San Diego’s Balboa Park.
Commercial filming is rare at Hearst Castle and most requests are turned down. Since the property was donated to the state of California only two projects have been granted permission: Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, which used the castle to stand in as Crassus’ villa; and Lady Gaga’s music video for “G.U.Y.”
Hearst Castle joined the National Register of Historic Places on June 22, 1972 and became a United States National Historic Landmark on May 11, 1976.