John W. Thomason visits Hearst Castle


Front Row (Left to Right): Adolphe Menjou, William Randolph Hearst, John W. Thomason, Lawrence Stallings , Dick Powell
Bottom Row: Marion Davies, Henry Roosevelt, Joan Blondell Ruth Gordon

From 1934 to 1936, John W. Thomason served as a junior Marine aide to Assistant Secretary of the Navy Henry L. Roosevelt (of the Oyster Bay Roosevelts). Thomason joined Roosevelt at parties in Washington, family getaways to Oyster Bay, and on his trips to review US Navy installations.

In May and June of 1935, they visited the navy installations on the West Coast and in Honolulu. It was during their time in California that Roosevelt and his entourage (which included Thomason) were guests at the Hearst Ranch in San Simeon, California. Hearst Ranch was the large extravagant home of American newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. In its heyday, invitations to the castle were prized. Entertainers such as Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, and Clark Gable as well as politicians like Winston Churchill and Calvin Coolidge were just some of the famous guests at Hearst Castle.

While on their visit, Roosevelt and Thomason toured the grounds and enjoyed the hospitality of their hosts Mr. Hearst and his famed mistress Marion Davies. The Sunday evening of their visit, Hearst threw a party with Roosevelt and his entourage as guests. The party was going to occur on Mother’s Day, a fact which had slipped Thomason’s mind. In a message to his mother, he wrote that Ms. Davies had reminded him, but unfortunately Thomason did not write his Mother’s Day message until late June.
The party was one of Hearst’s Hollywood affairs. The guests at the party included actor Adolphe Menjou (A Woman in Paris, The Front Page), playwright Lawrence Stallings (What Price Glory), actor Dick Powell (Footlight Parade), actress Joan Blondell (The Public Enemy, The Blue Veil) and Broadway actress Ruth Gordon (Rosemary’s Baby, Harold and Maude) and many others. You can see Thomason (top row, middle) along with Roosevelt (bottom row, second from the left) in the large group photo.

After leaving Hearst Castle, Roosevelt and Thomason continued their tour of Navy installations before returning to Washington because of Roosevelt’s poor health. Thomason remained an aide to Henry Roosevelt until Roosevelt’s death in 1936.