Hollywood Flashback: In 1975, Patty Hearst's Crime Spree Ended

Patricia Hearst Crime Spree Ended - P 2015
AP Images

Patricia Hearst Crime Spree Ended - P 2015

The 19-year-old daughter of William Randolph Hearst was kidnapped by radicals in 1974, joined them and drove a getaway car in a bank heist that led to a woman's death. Nineteen months later she was captured. Now, she's a Republican mother of two worth $45 million.

This story first appeared in the Sept. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

When Patty Hearst premiered at Cannes, The Hollywood Reporter said the Paul Schrader drama starring Natasha Richardson had "the ideal screen material in the 1988 market: Beautiful heiress is kidnapped, terrorized, sexually abused, brainwashed and eventually turned into an urban guerrilla who helps rob banks while on the lam." That in a nutshell was Patty Hearst's life. Except now she's a 61-year-old Republican mother of two who Forbes says is worth $45 million.

On Feb. 4, 1974, the 19-year-old granddaughter of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst (he of Citizen Kane fame) was in her Berkeley, Calif., apartment doing her homework when she was kidnapped by a radical group calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army. The SLA planned to ransom her. But after two months of torture and deprivation while blindfolded in a closet, the teenager joined the group. Taking the name "Tania," Hearst later drove the getaway car in a bank heist that resulted in one woman's death. It would be 19 months before Hearst was captured (Sept. 18 is the 40th anniversary of her arrest) and convicted.

President Carter commuted her seven-year sentence to the 22 months served; President Clinton granted her a full pardon. In retrospect, Schrader says doing a film about Hearst "isn't the right format. There's too much material and time span. Like with O.J., you do it in a 10-hour miniseries." As for the effect of the kidnapping on Hearst (who in 2013 suffered the loss of husband Bernard Shaw, her bodyguard during the '70s), friend John Waters, who's put her in his movies, says: "It's over, and she's completely moved on. … I wish I could get her to start working again. She's a funny actress."