Davies in 1920s
|Born||Marion Cecilia Douras
January 3, 1897
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||September 22, 1961
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Hollywood Forever Cemetery|
|Occupation||Actress, film producer, screenwriter, philanthropist|
|Spouse(s)||Horace G. Brown (m. 1951–61)|
|Partner(s)||William Randolph Hearst
(1917–1951; his death)
|Relatives||Rosemary Davies (sister)
Reine Davies (sister)
Marion Davies (January 3, 1897 – September 22, 1961) was an American film actress, producer, screenwriter, and philanthropist.
Davies was already building a solid reputation as a film comedienne when newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, with whom she had begun a romantic relationship, took over management of her career. Hearst financed Davies' pictures, promoted her heavily through his newspapers and Hearst Newsreels, and pressured studios to cast her in historical dramas for which she was ill-suited. For this reason, Davies is better remembered today as Hearst's mistress and the hostess of many lavish events for the Hollywood elite. In particular, her name is linked with the 1924 scandal aboard Hearst's yacht where one of his guests, film producer Thomas Ince, died.
In the film Citizen Kane (1941), the title character's wife—an untalented singer whom he tries to promote—was widely assumed to be based on Davies. But many commentators, including Citizen Kane writer/director Orson Welles himself, have defended Davies' record as a gifted actress, to whom Hearst's patronage did more harm than good. She retired from the screen in 1937, choosing to devote herself to Hearst and charitable work.
In Hearst's declining years, Davies provided financial as well as emotional support until his death in 1951. She married for the first time eleven weeks after his death, a marriage which lasted until Davies died of stomach cancer in 1961 at the age of 64.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Career
- 3 Later years
- 4 Personal life
- 5 Death
- 6 In popular culture
- 7 Filmography
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Davies was born Marion Cecilia Douras on January 3, 1897, in Brooklyn, the youngest of five children born to Bernard J. Douras (1857–1935), a lawyer and judge in New York City; and Rose Reilly (1867–1928). Her father performed the civil marriage of Gloria Gould Bishop. Her elder siblings included Rose, Reine, and Ethel. A brother, Charles, drowned at the age of 15 in 1906. His name was subsequently given to Davies' favorite nephew, screenwriter Charles Lederer, the son of Davies' sister Reine Davies.
The Douras family lived near Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The sisters changed their surname to Davies, which one of them spotted on a real-estate agent's sign in the neighborhood. Even at a time when New York was the melting pot for new immigrants, having a British surname greatly helped one's prospects – the name Davies has Welsh origins.
Educated in a New York convent, Davies left school to pursue a career. She worked as a model and posed for illustrators Harrison Fisher and Howard Chandler Christy. In 1916, Davies was signed on as a Ziegfeld girl in the Ziegfeld Follies.
After making her screen debut in 1916, modelling gowns by Lady Duff-Gordon in a fashion newsreel, she appeared in her first feature film in the 1917 Runaway Romany. Davies wrote the film, which was directed by her brother-in-law, prominent Broadway producer George W. Lederer. The following year she starred in three films – The Burden of Proof, Beatrice Fairfax, and Cecilia of the Pink Roses. Playing mainly light comic roles, she quickly became a film personality appearing with major male stars, making a small fortune, which enabled her to provide financial assistance for her family and friends.
In 1918, Hearst started the movie studio Cosmopolitan Productions to promote Davies' career and also moved her with her mother and sisters into an elegant Manhattan townhouse at the corner of Riverside Drive and W. 105th Street. Cecilia of the Pink Roses in 1918 was her first film backed by Hearst. She was on her way to being the most infamously advertised actress in the world. During the next ten years she appeared in 29 films, an average of almost three films a year.
Hearst and Cosmopolitan Pictures
By the mid-1920s, however, Davies' career was often overshadowed by her relationship with William Randolph Hearst and their social life at San Simeon and Ocean House in Santa Monica; the latter dubbed by Colleen Moore "the biggest house on the beach – the beach between San Diego and Vancouver".
According to her own audio diaries, she met Hearst long before she had started working in films. Hearst later formed Cosmopolitan Pictures, which would produce most of her starring vehicles. Hearst's relentless efforts to promote her career had a detrimental effect, but he persisted, making Cosmopolitan's distribution deals first with Paramount, then Goldwyn, and then Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Davies herself was more inclined to develop her comic talents alongside her friends at United Artists, but Hearst pointedly discouraged this. Davies, in her published memoirs The Times We Had, concluded that Hearst's over-the-top promotion of her career, in fact, had a negative result. Example: in 1929 Mr. Hearst purchased the Cameo Theatre, 934 Market Street, San Francisco. He then lavishly remodeled both the exterior and interior decor in a rosebud-hued Art Moderne motif, and renamed it The Marion Davies Theatre. From Hearst's office windows further up Market Street, he could see pink neon letters constantly spelling out her name above the marquee. Hearst Metrotone Newsreels were included on the program, and these newsreels regularly touted Miss Davies' social activities.
Hearst loved seeing her in expensive costume pictures, but she also appeared in contemporary comedies like Tillie the Toiler, The Fair Co-Ed (both 1927), and especially three directed by King Vidor, Not So Dumb (1930), The Patsy and the backstage-in-Hollywood saga Show People (both 1928). The Patsy contains her imitations which she usually did for friends, of silent stars Lillian Gish, Mae Murray and Pola Negri. King Vidor saw Davies as a comedic actress instead of the dramatic actress that Hearst wanted her to be. He noticed she was the life of parties and incorporated that into his films.
After seeing photographs of St Donat's Castle in Country Life magazine, the Welsh Vale of Glamorgan property was bought and revitalized by Hearst in 1925 as a gift to Davies. Hearst and Davies spent much of their time entertaining, holding lavish parties with guests at their Beverly Hills estate. Frequent guests included, among others, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and a young John F. Kennedy. Upon visiting St Donat's, George Bernard Shaw was quoted as saying: "This is what God would have built if he had had the money."
The coming of sound made Davies nervous because she had never completely overcome a childhood stutter. Her career continued, however, and she made several comedies and musicals during the 1930s, including Marianne (1929), Not So Dumb (1930), The Florodora Girl (1930), The Bachelor Father (1931), Five and Ten (1931) with Leslie Howard, Polly of the Circus (1932) with Clark Gable, Blondie of the Follies (1932), Peg o' My Heart (1933), Going Hollywood (1933) with Bing Crosby, and Operator 13 (1934) with Gary Cooper. She was involved with many aspects of her films and was considered an astute businesswoman. Her career, however, was hampered by Hearst's insistence that she play distinguished, dramatic parts as opposed to the comic roles that were her forte.
Hearst reportedly had tried to push Irving Thalberg to cast Davies in the title role in Marie Antoinette, but Thalberg gave the part to his wife, Norma Shearer. This rejection came on the heels of Davies having been also denied the female lead in The Barretts of Wimpole Street; Norma Shearer got that role too. Despite Davies' friendship with the Thalbergs, Hearst reacted by pulling his newspaper support for MGM and moved Cosmopolitan Pictures to Warner Brothers. Davies' films there included Page Miss Glory (1935), Hearts Divided, Cain and Mabel (both 1936), and Ever Since Eve (1937), her last film.
When Cosmopolitan Pictures folded, Davies left the film business and retreated to San Simeon. Davies would later state in her autobiography that after many years of work she had had enough and decided to devote herself to being Hearst's "companion and confidante". In truth, she was intensely ambitious, but faced the harsh reality that at the age of forty, after twenty years of effort, she had not won over the public, nor critics who were not under Hearst's control. Decades after Davies' retirement and death, however, the consensus among some critics is more appreciative of her efforts, particularly in the field of comedy.
In her later years, Davies was involved with charity work. In 1952, she donated $1.9 million to establish a children's clinic at UCLA, which was changed to The Mattel Children's Hospital in 1998. She also fought childhood diseases through the Marion Davies Foundation. Part of the Medical Center at UCLA is named the Marion Davies Clinic.
She suffered a minor stroke in 1956, and later underwent surgery on her jawbone for osteomyelitis. Twelve days after the operation, Davies fell in her hospital room and broke her leg. Davies made her last public appearance on January 10, 1960, on an NBC television special called Hedda Hopper's Hollywood. Joseph P. Kennedy rented Davies' mansion and worked from behind the scenes to secure his son John F. Kennedy's nomination during the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. It was not long after that she was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
Relationship with William Randolph Hearst
Publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst and Davies lived as a couple for decades but were never married, as Hearst's wife refused to give him a divorce. At one point, he reportedly came close to marrying Davies, but decided his wife's settlement demands were too high. Hearst was extremely jealous and possessive of her, even though he was married throughout their relationship. Lita Grey, the second wife of Charlie Chaplin, wrote four decades later that Davies confided with her about the relationship with Hearst. Grey quoted Davies saying:
God, I'd give everything I have to marry that silly old man. Not for the money and security—he's given me more than I'll ever need. Not because he's such cozy company, either. Most times, when he starts jawing, he bores me stiff. And certainly not because he's so wonderful behind the barn. Why, I could find a million better lays any Wednesday. No, you know what he gives me, sugar? He gives me the feeling I'm worth something to him. A whole lot of what we have, or don't have, I don't like. He's got a wife who'll never give him a divorce. She knows about me, but it's still understood that when she decides to go to the ranch for a week or a weekend, I've got to vamoose. And he snores, and he can be petty, and has sons about as old as me. But he's kind and he's good to me, and I'd never walk out on him.
The California State Parks staff at Hearst Castle report at the time of Hearst's death, 51% of his fortune had been bequeathed to Davies.
Since the early 1920s, there has been speculation that Davies and Hearst had a child together some time between 1920 and 1923. The child was rumored to be Patricia Lake (née Van Cleve), who was publicly identified as Davies' niece. On October 3, 1993, Lake died of complications from lung cancer in Indian Wells, California. Ten hours before her death, Lake requested that her son publicly announce that she was not Davies' niece but Davies' biological daughter, whom she had conceived with Hearst. Lake had never commented on her alleged paternity in public, even after Hearst's and Davies' deaths, but did tell her grown children and friends. Lake's claim was published in her death notice, which was published in newspapers.
Lake told her friends and family that Davies became pregnant by Hearst in the early 1920s. As the child was conceived during Hearst's extra-marital affair with Davies and out of wedlock, Hearst sent Davies to Europe to have the child in secret to avoid a public scandal. Hearst later joined Davies in Europe. Lake claimed she was born in a Catholic hospital outside of Paris between 1920 and 1923 (she was unsure of the precise date). Lake was then given to Davies' sister Rose, whose own child had died in infancy, and passed off as Rose and her husband George Van Cleve's daughter. Lake stated that Hearst paid for her schooling and both Davies and Hearst spent considerable time with her. Davies reportedly told Lake of her true parentage when she was 11 years old. Lake said Hearst confirmed that he was her father on her wedding day at age 17 where both Davies and Hearst gave her away.
Neither Davies nor Hearst ever publicly addressed the rumors during their lives. Upon news of the story, a spokesman for Hearst Castle only commented that, "It's a very old rumor and a rumor is all it ever was."
In November 1924, Davies was aboard the Hearst yacht when film producer Thomas Ince became ill and died. Rumors have endured since then that Davies had an alleged relationship with Chaplin, which lead to Ince's accidental shooting by a jealous Hearst. Chaplin (among other actresses and actors) and Davies were aboard the yacht the night Ince died. There has never been any evidence to support the rumors.
Ince's autopsy showed that he suffered an attack of acute indigestion while aboard the yacht and was escorted off to San Diego by another of the guests, Dr. Daniel Carson Goodman, a Hollywood writer and producer. Ince was put on a train bound for Los Angeles, but was removed from the train at Del Mar when his condition worsened. He was given medical attention by Dr. T. A. Parker and a nurse, Jesse Howard. Ince told them that he had drunk liquor aboard Hearst's yacht. He was taken to his Hollywood home where he died the following day of a heart condition.
Eleven weeks and one day after Hearst's death, Davies married Horace Brown on October 31, 1951, in Las Vegas. It was not a happy marriage; Brown allegedly encouraged her drinking. Davies filed for divorce twice, but neither was finalized.
Her funeral at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Hollywood was attended by 200 people and many Hollywood celebrities, including Mary Pickford, Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Mrs. Clark Gable (Kay Spreckels), and Johnny Weissmuller. She is buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Davies left an estate estimated at $20 million.
In popular culture
- The rumors of the Thomas Ince scandal were dramatized in the play The Cat's Meow, which was later made into Peter Bogdanovich's 2001 film of the same name starring Edward Herrmann as Hearst, Kirsten Dunst as Davies, Eddie Izzard as Chaplin, Joanna Lumley as Elinor Glyn, Jennifer Tilly as gossip columnist Louella Parsons, and Cary Elwes as Ince. Patty Hearst co-authored a novel with Cordelia Frances Biddle titled Murder at San Simeon (Scribner, 1996), based upon the death of Ince.
- The 1999 film RKO 281, a dramatization of the events during and after production of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, depicts Welles being told by screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz that Hearst shot Ince, and refers to this several times as an analogy for Hearst's efforts to bury the film.
- A documentary film Captured on Film: The True Story of Marion Davies (2001) premiered on Turner Classic Movies.
- In 2004, the story of William Randolph Hearst and Davies was made into a musical titled WR and Daisy with book and lyrics by Robert and Phyllis White; music by Glenn Paxton. It was performed in 2004 by Theater West. It was also performed in 2009 and 2010 at the Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica, California, the estate built by Hearst for Davies in the 1920s.
Portrayals of Davies
Davies was commonly assumed to be the inspiration for the Susan Alexander character portrayed in Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941), which was based loosely on Hearst's life. This led to various portrayals of Davies as a talentless opportunist. In his foreword to Davies' autobiography, The Times We Had (published posthumously in 1975), Welles wrote that his fictional creation bears no resemblance to Davies:
That Susan was Kane's wife and Marion was Hearst's mistress is a difference more important than might be guessed in today's changed climate of opinion. The wife was a puppet and a prisoner; the mistress was never less than a princess. Hearst built more than one castle, and Marion was the hostess in all of them: they were pleasure domes indeed, and the Beautiful People of the day fought for invitations. Xanadu was a lonely fortress, and Susan was quite right to escape from it. The mistress was never one of Hearst's possessions: he was always her suitor, and she was the precious treasure of his heart for more than 30 years, until his last breath of life. Theirs is truly a love story. Love is not the subject of Citizen Kane.
Welles told filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich that Samuel Insull's building of the Chicago Opera House, and business tycoon Harold Fowler McCormick's lavish promotion of the opera career of his second wife, were direct influences on the Citizen Kane screenplay. "As for Marion," Welles said, "she was an extraordinary woman – nothing like the character Dorothy Comingore played in the movie."
In the 1979 comedy The Jerk, the character Marie, the love interest of the tycoon protagonist, is largely modeled after Davies and her fictional counterpart Susan Alexander (enacted by Dorothy Comingore) in Orson Welles' Citizen Kane.
Davies was portrayed by Virginia Madsen in the telefilm The Hearst and Davies Affair (1985) with Robert Mitchum as Hearst. Madsen later became a Davies fan and said that she felt she had inadvertently portrayed her as a stereotype, rather than as a real person.
|1918||Cecilia of the Pink Roses||Cecilia|
|1918||The Burden of Proof||Elaine Brooks|
|1919||The Belle of New York||Violet Gray|
|1919||Getting Mary Married||Mary||Producer|
|1919||The Dark Star||Rue Carew|
|1919||The Cinema Murder||Elizabeth Dalston||Lost film|
|1920||April Folly||April Poole|
|1920||The Restless Sex||Stephanie Cleland|
|1921||Buried Treasure||Pauline Vandermuellen|
|1922||Bride's Play||Enid of Cashel/Aileen Barrett|
|1922||Beauty's Worth||Prudence Cole|
|1922||The Young Diana||Diana May|
|1922||When Knighthood Was in Flower||Mary Tudor|
|1922||A Trip to Paramountown||Herself||Short subject|
|1923||The Pilgrim||Congregation Member||Uncredited|
|1923||Adam and Eva||Eva King|
|1923||Little Old New York||Patricia O'Day|
|1924||Janice Meredith||Janice Meredith|
|1925||Zander the Great||Mamie Smith|
|1925||Lights of Old Broadway||Fely/Anne|
|1925||Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ||Crowd Extra in Chariot Race||Uncredited|
|1926||Beverly of Graustark||Beverly Calhoun|
|1927||The Red Mill||Tina|
|1927||Tillie the Toiler||Tillie Jones|
|1927||The Fair Co-Ed||Marion|
|1927||Quality Street||Phoebe Throssel||Producer|
|1928||The Patsy||Patricia Harrington||Producer (uncredited)|
|1928||The Cardboard Lover||Sally||Producer|
|1928||Show People||Peggy Pepper/Herself||Producer|
|1928||The Five O'Clock Girl||Patricia Brown||Incomplete|
|1928||Rosalie||Princess Rosalie Romanikov||Incomplete|
|1929||The Hollywood Revue of 1929||Herself|
|1930||Not So Dumb||Dulcinea 'Dulcy' Parker||Producer|
|1930||The Florodora Girl||Daisy Dell||Producer|
|1930||Screen Snapshots Series 9, No. 23||Herself||Short subject|
|1931||Jackie Cooper's Birthday Party||Herself||Short subject|
|1931||The Bachelor Father||Antoinette 'Tony' Flagg||Producer|
|1931||It's a Wise Child||Joyce Stanton||Producer|
|1931||Five and Ten||Jennifer Rarick||Producer|
|1931||The Christmas Party||Herself||Short subject|
|1932||Polly of the Circus||Polly Fisher||Producer|
|1932||Blondie of the Follies||Blondie McClune||Producer|
|1933||Peg o' My Heart||Margaret 'Peg' O'Connell|
|1933||Going Hollywood||Sylvia Bruce|
|1934||Operator 13||Gail Loveless|
|1935||Page Miss Glory||Loretta Dalrymple/Miss Dawn Glory||Producer|
|1935||A Dream Comes True||Herself||Short subject|
|1935||Pirate Party on Catalina Isle||Herself||Short subject|
|1936||Hearts Divided||Elizabeth 'Betsy' Patterson||Producer|
|1936||Cain and Mabel||Mabel O'Dare|
|1937||Ever Since Eve||Miss Marjorie 'Marge' Winton/Sadie Day|
- The name is sometimes spelled "Marion Cecilia Dourvas" in biographies. In her autobiography, it is spelled "Douras," as it appears in the 1900 U.S. Census when they lived in Brooklyn, New York.
- "Died". Time (magazine). May 6, 1935. Retrieved June 26, 2008. "Bernard J. Douras, 82, retired New York City magistrate, father of Film Actress Marion Davies and three other daughters; in Beverly Hills, California. His death caused the cancellation of a huge costume party planned at Davies' home in honor of William Randolph Hearst's 72nd birthday."
- "Married". Time (magazine). February 17, 1930. Retrieved June 26, 2008. "Gloria Gould Bishop, daughter of Capitalist George Jay Gould; and Walter McFarlane Barker of Chicago; in Manhattan. He was her second husband. They were married in the Domestic Relations Court by Judge Bernard J. Douras, father of cinemactress Marion Davies."
- Davies, Marion (1975). The Times We Had. ISBN 0-672-52112-1.
- "Famous Actress-Philanthropist Marion Davies Dies of Cancer". Tri City Herald. September 18, 1961. p. 2. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
- "Marion Davies". Golden Silents. Retrieved June 26, 2008.
- Alleman, Richard. "MARION DAVIES MANSION". New York: The Movie Lover's Guide. pp. 359–360.
- No. 331: Publisher's Mistress — NY Times
- "Marion Davies". Deco Films. Retrieved June 26, 2008.
- Marion Davies' Homes — decofilms.com
- "The Times We Had", by Marion Davies, edited by Pamela Pfau and Kenneth S Marx
- Bevan, Nathan (August 3, 2008). "Lydia Hearst is queen of the castle". Wales on Sunday. Retrieved August 3, 2008.
- "ULCA: Facts & History". Archived from the original on December 19, 2007. Retrieved April 4, 2008.
- "Marion Davies, film star of 1920's confidante of Hearst, dies at 64". The Leader-Post. September 23, 1961. p. 1. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
- Lita Grey Chaplin. My Life With Chaplin, Grove Press (1966) pp. 214-215
- "Hearst Career Full of Drama". The Milwaukee Journal. August 14, 1951. p. 4. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
- "Marion Davies Dies of Cancer". The Miami News. September 23, 1961. p. 7A. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
- "Allowance Asked By Hearst Widow". Spokane Daily Chronicle (August 22, 1951). p. 7. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
- Fiore, Faye (October 31, 1993). "Obituary Revives Rumor of Hearst Daughter : Hollywood: Gossips in the 1920s speculated that William Randolph Hearst and mistress Marion Davies had a child. Patricia Lake, long introduced as Davies' niece, asks on death bed that record be set straight.". latimes.com. p. 1. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
- "Patricia VanCleve Lake". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. October 16, 1993. p. 8B. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
- Vogel, Michelle (2005). Children of Hollywood: Accounts Of Growing Up As the Sons and Daughters Of Stars. McFarland. pp. 208–209. ISBN 0-7864-2046-4.
- Fiore, Faye (October 31, 1993). "Obituary Revives Rumor of Hearst Daughter : Hollywood: Gossips in the 1920s speculated that William Randolph Hearst and mistress Marion Davies had a child. Patricia Lake, long introduced as Davies' niece, asks on death bed that record be set straight.". latimes.com. p. 2. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
- Source: Citizen Hearst by W. A. Swanberg. pages 445–446. Press hostile to Hearst fueled the rumors. Op cit p. 446 The District Attorney of San Diego, Chester C. Kempley made an inquiry into the events and issued a statement to the effect that he was satisfied that Ince's death was due to "heart failure due to an attack of acute indigestion". Op cit p. 446 The quote is footnoted. The source for Mr. Kempley's statement is given as the New York Times December 4, 1924.
- "Sea Captain wed to Marion Davies. Ex-Actress Protegee of Hearst Married in Surprise Service by Las Vegas Justice. Hearst Kinship Disputed Hearst Agreement Discussed.". New York Times. Associated Press. November 1, 1951. Retrieved July 21, 2007.
- "Marion Davies Files. Sues Husband for a Divorce. Married Last October". New York Times. July 17, 1952. Retrieved June 26, 2008.
- "New Horizons". Time. July 28, 1952. Retrieved June 26, 2008.
- "Marion Davies Sinking. Actress, 61, Said to Be Near Death, Gets Last Rites". New York Times (United Press International). September 21, 1961.
- "Ex-Actress' Funeral Held". The Spokesman-Review. September 27, 1961. p. 13. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
- Fleming, E. J. (2005). The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling And The Mgm Publicity Machine. McFarland. p. 146. ISBN 0-786-42027-8.
- Captured on Film: The True Story of Marion Davies at the Turner Classic Movies Database
- Transcript, The Battle over Citizen Kane on PBS' American Experience; retrieved January 22, 2012
- Davies, Marion, The Times We Had: Life with William Randolph Hearst; foreword by Orson Welles, May 28, 1975. Indianapolis and New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1975 ISBN 0-672-52112-1
- Welles, Orson, and Peter Bogdanovich, This is Orson Welles. New York: HarperCollins Publishers 1992 ISBN 0-06-016616-9 page 49. Welles states, "The real story of Hearst is quite different from Kane's … There's all that stuff about McCormick and the opera. I drew a lot from that from my Chicago days. And Samuel Insull."
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Marion Davies.|
- Marion Davies at the Internet Movie Database
- Marion Davies at the Internet Broadway Database
- Marion Davies at the TCM Movie Database
- Marion Davies at Find a Grave
- Photographs of Marion Davies and bibliography
- Large collection of Marion Davies images