Marcia Davenport

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Marcia Davenport
Marcia Glick

June 9, 1903
New York City, U.S.
DiedJanuary 16, 1996 (aged 92)
OccupationAuthor, music critic
Frank Delmas Clarke
(m. 1923; div. 1925)

(m. 1929; div. 1944)

Marcia Davenport (born Marcia Glick; June 9, 1903 – January 16, 1996) was an American author and music critic. She is best known for her 1932 biography of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the first American published biography of Mozart. Davenport also is known for her novels The Valley of Decision and East Side, West Side, both of which were adapted to film in 1945 and 1949, respectively.

Early life and education[edit]

Marcia Davenport was born Marcia Glick in New York City on June 9, 1903, the daughter of Bernard Glick and the opera singer Alma Gluck. Her family is of Romanian-Jewish descent.[1] Around 1911, when Marcia was 8, her parents separated.[2] Her mother remarried Efrem Zimbalist, a concert violinist.[3] With Zimbalist as a step-father, Marcia had two half-siblings: Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (who became an actor)[4] and Maria Virginia Zimbalist Bennett.[5]

She described her childhood as very lonely, apart from music and books (she always knew she wanted to write). Her mother made her continue piano lessons as discipline throughout childhood despite her being very bad at it.[3]

Growing up, Marcia traveled extensively with her parents. Intermittently, she was educated at the Friends School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr.[6] She began studies at Wellesley College but eloped to Pittsburgh after two years to marry her first husband, Frank Delmas Clarke. After their divorce in 1925, she travelled abroad to complete her B.A. at the University of Grenoble.[7]


After her divorce from Clarke in 1925, Davenport took an advertising copywriting job to support herself and her daughter. From 1928 - 1930, she worked on the editorial staff of The New Yorker.[8]

From 1934 - 1939, Davenport worked as the music critic of Stage magazine. From 1936 - 1937, she also worked as a radio commentator on the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts.[6] Through her opera-singing mother and violinist stepfather, Davenport had close ties to the classical music world, particularly the operatic world of Europe and America.

Biography of Mozart[edit]

In 1930, Davenport travelled to Prague to research the life of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart up close.[9] In 1932, she published her first book, Mozart, which was also the first American published biography of the composer Mozart. Widely praised, the book, which became Davenport's best known work, has remained continuously in print since its publication.[10][11]


In 1936, Davenport published her novel, Of Lena Geyer. The story is a portrait of an opera singer, and it also describes a lesbian relationship. It is thought that inspiration for the book was taken from Davenport's mother, Alma Gluck. Gluck was born in Romania as Reba Feinsohn; Alma Gluck later became her stage name as a soprano opera singer. She was well-known for being one of the 20th century's premier concert and recording artists.[2] If Of Lena Geyer is not based on Alma Gluck, it is possible Davenport took inspiration from her personal life experience, or from the tales of another opera singer, Olive Fremstad. Notably, Of Lena Geyer is one of the first two novels with a lesbian relationship that Barbara Grier, famous lesbian author, says she read growing up.[12]

In 1942, Davenport published her most popular fiction novel, The Valley of Decision, a historical fiction saga which traces the Scott family, prototypical owners of an iron works in Pittsburgh, from 1873 to the events of World War II. Davenport lived in Pittsburgh shortly after her first marriage with Frank Delmas Clarke, later using that background for her novel, along with further research on the steel industry, for the 788-page bestseller.[13]

In 1947, East Side, West Side was published, also becoming a best-seller. It was one of the last works edited by Maxwell Perkins of the Charles Scribners' Sons publishing house.[10]

Her memoir Too Strong for Fantasy (1967) describes the people, the music, the places and the political forces which shaped her life. Of particular interest is her telling of the events leading up to the death of the Czech diplomat and foreign minister Jan Masaryk in the Czernin Palace in Prague in 1948 and of her close relationship with Masaryk over many years.[10]

Film adaptations[edit]

Two of Davenport's novels have been made into films, both released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: The Valley of Decision and East Side, West Side.[14] The Valley of Decision starred Greer Garson, Gregory Peck, Donald Crisp, Lionel Barrymore, Preston Foster, Marsha Hunt, Gladys Cooper, Reginald Owen, Dan Duryea and Jessica Tandy.[15] The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Greer Garson) and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

East Side, West Side starred James Mason, Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, and Ava Gardner.

My Brother's Keeper (1954), based on the Collyer brothers, was optioned for films to various individuals over decades, but no film was ever produced.


In the 1930s, Davenport was a regular commentator on the radio broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera, though she appeared infrequently in subsequent decades, with her final Met broadcast being in 1966. During the 1940s, she was heard on various radio panel discussion shows. On January 23, 1943, she was serving as a panelist on The People's Platform with Alexander Woollcott and Rex Stout when Woollcott had a heart attack during the broadcast and subsequently died before his arrival at Roosevelt Hospital.

In 1967, she appeared on the NBC radio program Toscanini: The Man Behind the Legend, paying tribute to the legendary Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini.

Personal life[edit]

Davenport married Frank Delmas Clarke (1900–1969) in April of 1923. Her first child, Patricia Delmas Clarke, was born in 1924.[16] In 1925, she and Clarke divorced.[10]

On May 13, 1929, she married Russell Davenport, and thus changed her name to Marcia Davenport. Russell Davenport became editor of Fortune magazine soon after marrying Marcia. The couple never had to worry about money, and together they travelled abroad to Europe often. The couple had homes in Milan, Lake Como, Salzburg, and Vienna.[7] In an interview with the New York Times, Marcia Davenport said that once, Russell Davenport gave her a lion as a gift.[3] Marcia and Russell Davenport had a daughter, Cornelia Whipple Davenport, in 1934.[17][18] Her marriage to Russell Davenport ended in 1944.

After the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, Marcia Davenport became a close friend of the refugee Czech statesman, Jan Masaryk. Davenport lived in Prague with Masaryk from 1945 to 1948, until the Communists seized power. Davenport thereupon returned to London, where she and Masaryk planned to be married as soon as he could join her, but only a few days later he was found dead under mysterious circumstances.[9][19]

Plaque in Prague-Hradčany

Davenport, who in her latter years lived in Pebble Beach, California, died on January 16, 1996, at a hospital in Monterey, at the age of 92. She was survived by her younger daughter Cornelia Davenport Schwartz, six grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.[10] Davenport's papers are archived at the University of Pittsburgh and in the Library of Congress.[19][6]


There is a memorial plaque dedicated to Marcia Davenport at Loretánská Street 13 in Prague.



  • Mozart (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1932)
  • Garibaldi: Father of Modern Italy (New York: Random House, 1956)
  • Too Strong for Fantasy (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1967) [Memoir]
  • Jan Masaryk: Posledni Portret (Czechoslovakia: 1990) [Memoir]


  • Of Lena Geyer (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936)
  • The Valley of Decision (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1942)
  • East Side, West Side (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1947)
  • My Brother's Keeper (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1954)[20]
  • The Constant Image (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1960)

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "Alma Gluck Dead; Operatic Soprano". The New York Times. October 28, 1938.
  2. ^ a b "Alma Gluck Gluck (1884-1938) - Find A Grave..." Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c van Gelder, Robert (February 28, 1943). "An Interview With Mrs. Marcia Davenport" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved November 25, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ "Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (1918-2014) - Find A Grave..." Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  5. ^ "Maria Virginia Zimbalist Bennett (1915-1981) -..." Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c Seebee, Jay. "Marcia Davenport Papers: A Finding Aid to the Collection in the Library of Congress." Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Washington D.C., 2011, pg 3,
  7. ^ a b "Davenport, Marcia (1903–1996) |". Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  8. ^ Pace, Eric (January 20, 1996). "Marcia Davenport, Biographer, Is Dead at 92 (Published 1996)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  9. ^ a b "Marcia Davenport". Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d e Pace, Eric (January 20, 1996). "Marcia Davenport, Biographer, Is Dead at 92". The New York Times. Retrieved October 18, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ "AMERICAN WRITES LIFE OF MOZART; First Biography of Composer to Be Produced Here Is Work of Marcia Davenport. ORIGINAL SOURCES USED Book by Daughter of Alma Gluck Presents Material Gathered In Europe" (PDF). The New York Times. February 29, 1932. Retrieved November 25, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ Rapp, Linda (2003). "Grier, Barbara (1933-2011)" (PDF). GLBTQ Archive. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  13. ^ Woods, Katherine (October 25, 1942). "A Novel of Three American Generations; Marcia Davenport's "Valley of Decision" Is Stirring and Has Vast Scope THE VALLEY OF DECISION By Marcia Davenport. 790 pp. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. $3. Marcia Davenport's American Saga" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved October 18, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ McGrory, Mary (October 19, 1947). "Marcia Davenport's Love-Letter to Manhattan; EAST SIDE WEST SIDE. By Marcia Davenport. 378 pp. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. $3" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved October 18, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  15. ^ Gould, Jack (March 21, 1960). "TV: 'Valley of Decision'; Marcia Davenport's Story of Pittsburgh Steel Dynasty Gets 90-Minute Hearing" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved October 18, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  16. ^ "Patricia Delmas Clarke Kapplow (1924-1994) - Find..." Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  17. ^ "MISS DAVENPORT ENGAGED TO WED; Daughter of Novelist to Be Bride of Harvey Schwartz, Aide to Kentucky Senator" (PDF). The New York Times. January 25, 1957. Retrieved October 18, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  18. ^ “Marcia Davenport” in the 1930 United States Federal Census (Year: 1930; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 0697; FHL microfilm: 23413000)
  19. ^ a b "Guide to the Marcia Davenport Papers, 1942-1989 SC.1990.01 | Digital Pitt". Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  20. ^ Dempsey, David (October 24, 1954). "Desperate Dependence; MY BROTHER'S KEEPER. By Marcia Davenport. 457 pp. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. $3.95" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved October 18, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)