Dorothy Hart (1908 - 1998) MP

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About Dorothy Hart

Dorothy Hart Hirshon was a glamorous figure in New York society from the 1920's through the 40's who later became active in social, human rights and political causes.

Frequently photographed and written about during her glittering earlier marriages to John Randolph Hearst and William S. Paley, she married Walter Hirshon, a stockbroker, in 1953. After their divorce in 1961, she became increasingly involved in education and philanthropic endeavors.

Described as ''one of the most beautiful girls in Southern California'' by Irene Selznick, Dorothy Hart was 19 when she met her first husband, Mr. Hearst, the third of William Randolph Hearst's five sons, while sailing on a yacht off Santa Barbara.

Mr. Hearst had not yet entered his first year at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, but the couple were married in New York in December 1927.

The groom dropped out of college after his freshman year and joined the Hearst Corporation, and the young marrieds became regulars in the glamorous cafe society of the period, out on the town almost every night.

Mr. Hearst, who had difficulty working with his powerful father, began drinking heavily. Mrs. Hearst, hoping to set an example for her husband, who rarely showed up for work, took a job writing a column for Harper's Bazaar.

Mrs. Hearst met Mr. Paley, the dashing head of the Columbia Broadcasting System, in 1931. According to friends, it was immediately obvious that he was determined to marry her.

After some months, she went to Nevada and filed for a divorce. Mr. Hearst followed her; the couple reconciled and returned to New York. Five months later, Mrs. Hearst again traveled to Las Vegas and was granted a divorce. In May 1932, she married Mr. Paley in Kingman, Ariz.

Although seven years his junior, Dorothy was more worldly than he, Sally Bedell Smith wrote in In All His Glory, her 1990 biography of Mr. Paley. She knew her way around in sophisticated circles; friendships with men like Randolph Churchill counted a great deal to the ambitious Paley. In New York, she joined the Algonquin set -- the playwrights, journalists and other intellectuals whose luncheon ripostes during the 1920's became a literary legend.

Over the years, Mrs. Smith wrote, Mr. Paley's wife had an impact on him -- her political leanings, appetite for news, taste in art and sense of style. She supported Franklin D. Roosevelt and embraced his proposals for social welfare.

David Patrick Columbia wrote in Quest magazine in 1993: They were the golden couple on the town. She became his Pygmalion. His hunger to know satisfied her trenchant desire to teach. He had the instincts, but she, despite her youth, had the instincts and the knowledge. She began transforming his life. She got him to Savile Row tailors. She encouraged him to buy art and introduced him to dealers. In a short time they began to accumulate what is now known as the William Paley Collection. At her suggestion, they pursued the thoroughly modern path of psychoanalysis.

She was sketched by Matisse, photographed by Cecil Beaton and Horst, listed as one of the world's best-dressed women and featured in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. She decorated Kiluna Farm, their 85-acre estate in Manhasset, with a saltwater pool and an indoor tennis court, lining the walls with their growing collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. Twenty-two servants looked after the house, gardens and greenhouse.

The Paleys separated in 1945, shortly after Mr. Paley returned from wartime service in London. Mrs. Smith observed in her book that Mr. Paley's peccadillos weren't the only symptom of trouble ahead.

To those with a sharp eye, other hairline cracks were showing in the marriage, Mrs. Smith wrote. When Dorothy corrected him in public, she was brisk and impatient, not gentle.

They were divorced in 1947, and she received some paintings, furniture, silver and $1.5 million.

I never behaved as if the world revolved around him, Mrs. Hirshon once recalled about her marriage to Mr. Paley. Maybe that was a problem.

Dorothy Hart was born in Los Angeles on Feb. 25, 1908, the only child of Seth Hart, an insurance broker, and the former Dorothy Jones. While she was in elementary school, the family moved to Dayton, Ohio, for three years. Upon their return to Los Angeles, she attended Marlboro, an exclusive girls' school. She later spent a year at Bennett Junior College in Millbrook, N.Y., and furthered her lifelong interest in art by taking several art history courses.

Although she participated in a number of social projects throughout her life, raising money to build a nursery school in Harlem, for instance, and serving as a guidance counselor at the Downtown Community School in the 1940's, she became more involved in philanthropic and community activities in the last 40 years.

She worked with the Neighborhood Children's Center for more than two decades, was a member of the New York City Human Rights Commission, served on the Hospitality Committee of the United Nations in the 1960's, and became a board member of the Vivian Beaumont Theater, a board member of Lincoln Center in the 1980's and a trustee of Carnegie Hall. She was also on the board of Phoenix House and was a trustee of the New School for Social Research until her death.

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