Saturday, October 23, 2021

Marion Davies: Actress, Philanthropist, and the Mistress of William Randolph Hearst

You probably never heard of Marion Davies--------

-----but you probably know the name of Yellow Journalism Publisher William Randolph Hearst and that Castle, below, he built in San Simeon, California

If not, but you're a movie history buff, you at least know of Orson Welles', 1941, "Citizen Kane", edited by future director Robert Wise, and the fictional story of the two.

This is is a motion picture and television blog, and as such, I am not writing a detailed biographical work on Marion Davies, but will concentrate on the motion picture career of the actress, screenwriter. and producer.



On January 3, 1897, Marion Cecilia Douras was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was the youngest of five children. Her parents were Bernard J, Douras, both a lawyer and judge in New York City, and, Rose Reilly, also a lawyer. 

Marion had three sisters, Reine, the eldest and the first of the sisters to use the stage name of "Davies", Ethel, I could not locate any information about her, and Rosemary "Rose". The girls also had a brother named Charles, but he apparently drowned and was laid to rest, again I could not locate any information on him. 

Marion attended the "Convent of the Sacred Heart" school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, and then was sent to another Convent school in Tours, France. She is on record as being unhappy as a child, because Marion hated being taught by Nuns. 

An aside:

The Douras family were long-time friends with architect Sanford White. At the time of Marion's "Sacred Heart" schooling, there had been a "Chorus Girl" named Evelyn Nesbit, who became a "Featured Star", and she became the escort to several very wealthy men.

Stanford White had first met Nesbit in 1901, when depending upon the source, she was either 15, or 16-years old, and White was 48-years-old, and became Evelyn's "Benefactor".

Five-years-later, when Marion was nine-years-old, Sanford White was murdered on June 25, 1906. The murderer was Evelyn Nesbit's husband, of one-year, multi-millionaire Harry Thaw. What followed, was dubbed "The Trial of the Century", and revolved around two facts.

First at the trial, Evelyn stated that she was invited over to White's home and after drinking some champagne, became unconscious. Evelyn claimed she woke-up in Sanford White's bed naked with a sleeping naked White next to her. Her testimony was that she had been raped by the famous architect.  

Second, Harry Thaw's murder of Sanford White, was in his words of his defense, retaliation for what White had done to Thaw's wife. However, it was revealed that Thaw was both mentally unstable and abusive to Nesbit and previously, other women. He was committed to a mental hospital and Evelyn Nesbit began touring Europe, as a result of the sensational trial.

There is a fictionalized 1955 motion picture, "The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing", that stars Ray Millan as "White", Joan Collins as "Nesbit", and Farley Granger, as "Thaw". 

Marion Douras Becomes Marion Davies!

Around 1914, Marion Douras left school to pursue a career as a "Show Girl", following her older sister Reine Davies in that profession. According to the story, the stage name of Davies, came from an office sign Reine saw for a "Valentine Davies".

Like Evelyn Nesbit, Marion, now Davies, started her career as a "Chorus Girl", in 1914, at the Forest Theatre, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The musical show, being previewed, was a fantasy entitled, "Chin-Chin: A Modern Aladdin", and she moved with it to Broadway, on October 20, 1914, at the Globe Theatre, the show would run for 295 performances.

Marion would be seen in three more Broadway shows over the next two years, but also started modeling for two famous illustrators, Harrison Fisher, and, Howard Chandler Christy, the creator of "The Christy Girl", the successor to "The Gibson Girl".

Enter William Randolph Hearst!

In 1916, Marion Davies became a "Ziegfeld Girl", one of the chorus and show girl's of the "Ziegfeld Follies", at the New Amsterdam Theatre, on Broadway. However, Marion had a problem, she had a stammer when reading her lines, and Florenz Ziefeld had to place her only in dancing routines.

Marion Davies first encounter with William Randolph Hearst is described in her posthumously published, 1975, autobiography:


[Hearst] always sat in the front row at the Follies. The girls in the show told me who he was. They said, 'Look out for him—he's looking at you. He's a wolf in sheep's clothing.' ... He sent me flowers and little gifts, like silver boxes or gloves or candy. I wasn't the only one he sent gifts to, but all the girls thought he was particularly looking at me, and the older ones would say, 'Look out'.

What the above quote doesn't explain is that William Randolph Hearst did not meet with Marion Davies at the time. He left, and she became the mistress of Paul Block, a business associate of Hearst, and owner of "Block Communications". Paul Block is credited with creating the concept of "National Advertising" of a product. He was also the publisher of both the "Pittsburgh-Gazette", and the "Toledo Blade", and it was Paul that actually introduced William to Marion. 

When the two finally came together in 1918, their eventual "Partnership" would last Thirty-four-years until his death on August 14, 1951. 

Hearst's wife, Millicent Veronica Willson Hearst, would not divorce him, she was Catholic, and he would not have given Millicent a divorce anyway, because of what she would demand as a settlement.

William and Millicent, who gave him five sons, had become estranged in 1926, but would stay married until his death.

Below is part of the interior of Marion Davies bedroom at San Simeon.

One last bit of biographical information I want to give my reader, prior to moving to Marian Davies motion picture career. Patricia Douras Van Cleve Lake was a American socialite, actress and radio comedian. From her birth, on June 8, 1919, near Paris, France, Patricia was presented as the daughter of Marion's sister, Rose, and her husband, George Van Cleve. The rumor mill had always claimed that in reality she was Marion and William's illegitimate daughter. Shortly before her death, on October 3, 1993, Patricia Lake acknowledged the truth of those rumors.

Citizen Kane vs Reality!

To the general public at the time, and still thought of today by many. Is the belief that Orson Welles', 1941, motion picture, "Citizen Kane", was based upon the life of William Randolph Hearst and that "Charles Foster Kane" was the fictionalized Hearst. 

However, in interviews with Mark W. Estrin, edited in 2002, for the University of Mississippi Press, Welles stated:

Mr. Hearst was quite a bit like Kane, although Kane isn't really founded on Hearst in particular.
Probably, the closest sequence to the real William Randolph Hearst in "Citizen Kane", was when he manipulates public opinion over the "Spanish American War". Although the screenplay leaves out his competition, publisher, Joseph Pulitzer. 

That real-life story is very interesting, even if you're not a history major. My article, "Hearst, Pulitzer, Theodore Roosevelt, Hollywood and the Spanish American War", can be read at:

Like the motion picture's title character, many of the characters in "Kane's" orbit were either entirely fictional, or when composites based upon real people, as Welles implies above. 

The real question for this article is, was "Susan Alexander Kane", played by Dorothy Comingore, Marion Davies? The screenplay and the motion picture describe "Susan Alexander" as an actress that becomes "Charles Foster Kane's" second wife. Davies was Hearst's "partner", but never his wife!

Above, Orson Welles as "Charles Foster Kane", and, Dorothy Comingore as "Susan Alexander Kane".

Both in his "Foreword" to Marion Davies autobiography, and in a 1992 interview with director Peter Bogdanovich. Orson Welles claimed that "Susan Alexander Kane" was a fictional character not based upon Marion Davies. However, in both, Welles mentions Harold Fowler McCormick, the chairman of the board of International Harvester Company, and his mid-1920s attempts to promote the Opera career of his lack luster, terrible singing, second wife, Polish born Opera singer Ganna Walska, below, as a  source for the "Alexander" character. In the motion picture Orson Welles has "Kane" react to "Susan's" career in the exact same manner as McCormick did for his wife.

No matter what Orson Welles may have said about the sources for the characters of "Charles Foster Kane", and, "Susan Alexander Kane", at the film's release. William Randolph Hearst believed otherwise and went ballistic. It is fact, that Hearst banned any advertising, reviews, or mention of the motion picture in any of his publications. He went a step further and sued Orson Wells for libel, which just added to the idea that he was "Kane", and, "Alexander" was Marion Davies.


Marion Davies made her on-screen debut not in a motion picture, but a 1916 film of her modeling the fashions of popular dress designer "Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon", who was a survivor of the 1912 sinking of "HMS Titantic". 

Davies Silent Screen Career Begins and Hearst Spends Millions to Promote It!

Next, and keeping it in the family, was Marion Davies actual first feature, filmed in New York City, were a majority of Motion Picture Studios were located at the time.

RUNAWAY ROMANY released on December 23, 1917

The silent feature was Produced and Directed by George W. Lederer, the husband of Marion's sister, Reine Davies.

The screenplay was written by Marion Davies, her first of three, and the critics main complaint was it did not show off the comedic skills, Davies was known for on stage,

Below, Davies is in the car on the set of the motion picture and Lederer is setting up the shot.

Below, is a newspaper ad:


CECILIA OF THE PINK ROSES released June 2, 1918.

Marion Davies second motion picture was important for two reasons:

1. William Randolph Hearst formed the motion picture company, "Cosmopolitan Productions", based in New York City, with Paramount Pictures chief executive, Aldolph Zukor, because United Artists, owned and formed by Mary Pickford, her husband Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplain, had refused him.

However, Zukor jumped at the offer, because it gave Paramount access to every story that appeared in Hearst's publications. Such as "Cosmopolitan Magazine", the source for the new company's name, "Harper's Bazaar", and, "Good Housekeeping". 

Cosmopolitan Productions was actually formed to have Marion work for William, and he signed her to a $500-per- week contract, equal as of this writing, to $9,083-per-week.

Until 1923, all of "Cosmopolitan's" films were released by "Select Distribution". Which was originally Lewis J. Selznick's, "Selznick Pictures", with his sons David, and Myron. In 1917, Adolph Zukor purchased half of that company and the name was changed to "Select". 

2. Marion Davies had formed her production company, "Marion Davies Film Corporation", and this was her first produced motion picture.

At the time that the 21-years-old Davies signed an excusive contract with 58-years-old Hearst, their sexual relationship began. 

The "Cecilia of the Pink Roses" was based up the first novel of authoress Katharine Haviland-Taylor. The scenario was by writer, Samuel "S.M." Weller, but he seems to disappear from motion pictures after doing the scenario for three 1918 films and another in 1919.

The basic plot has Irish girl, "Cecillia" faced with the imminent death of her mother and having to take over running the family.

Above, Marion Davies as "Cecilia (Celie)", and, Eva Campbell as "Dolly Vernon". 

The Marion Davies Film Corporation in conjunction with Cosmopolitan Pictures, filmed a World War One spy drama: 

THE BURDEN OF PROOF released on September 21, 1918,

The scenario was written by S.M. Weller from a play by French playwright Victorien Sardou. Marion's character of "Elaine Brooks", marries "Robert Ames", played by John Merkyl, who works for the U.S. Department of State. 

The German's employ "Viola Durand", played by Eloise Clement, to get some documents "Robert" has in his possession and she tricks "Elaine" into helping her and then frames her, making "Elaine" seem a traitor.

Above, Mary Richards as "Mrs. Brooks", and Marion Davies as her daughter, "Elaine".

Two things had occurred between the release of the two motion pictures. The first was that William Randolph Hearst, moved Marion, her mother and sisters into an elegant, at the time, Manhattan, Townhouse, located on the corner of Riverside Drive, and 105th Street, in New York City.

Although, by this time Marion was also filming in the new town called "Hollywood". My reader my find the story behind "Tinsel Town", not as they imagined, and my article, "Hollywood: Segregated Housing, Motion Picture Studios and Movie Palaces", can be read at:

The second, and parodied in 1941's, "Citizen Kane", was Hearst assigning one reporter, from his "Los Angeles Herald Examiner", to follow Marion around every day and write articles about her daily life to be sent to all his publications, and, he had a camera man, from the "Hearst Metrotone Newsreels", filming her daily activities, to be shown in movie theaters across the World. All to promote the motion picture career of his Mistress Marion Davies. It is estimated that he spent $7 million, 1918 and 1919 dollars, equal at the time of this writing, to $110,992,485 dollars, to accomplish his task.

Bringing some of Davies own show girl background into a motion picture was:

THE BELLE OF NEW YORK released on March 27, 1919.

The screenplay was based upon the West End, Broadway musical of the same name, written by C.M.S. McLellan and composed by Gustave Kerker, originally performed in 1897, and starring Edna May, as "Violet Gray", below, "of the Salvation Army".

Eugene Walter turned the musical into the non-musical scenario with Marion Davies as "Violet". Who leaves the Salvation Army, after her inventor father dies, and joins the Follies as a show girl.

Above, Davies as "Violet" and her now passed away father, "Amos Gray", played by L. Rodgers Lytton. Below, "Violet" in the Follies billed as "The Belle of New York".

Three more pictures followed:

GETTING MARY MARRIED released on April 19, 1919,

The screenplay tells the story of a young woman, "Mary Bussard", portrayed by Davies, who has always felt like a prisoner in the apartment of her step-father. When he dies, she stands to gain a fortune from his will, IF, she stays unmarried for one-year, but living with her step-brother, "Amos Bussard's", played by Frederick Burton, family. Of course, he wants the money and will do anything to get her married, especially after bachelor "James Winthrop", played by Norman Kerry, of Lon Chaney's 1923, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", and, 1925, "The Phantom of the Opera", enters her life.

Above, Marion Davies and Norman Kerry.

THE DARK STAR released on August 3, 1919.

This was the first film actually released under the banner of  William Randolph Hearst's "Cosmopolitan Productions".

The screenplay was by Francis Marion, she is often considered the most renowned female screenplay writer of the 20th Century. Francis was also the first screenplay writer to win two Academy Awards for, 1931's, "The Big House", and 1932's, "The Champ".

After being a war correspondent, upon her return to the United States in 1919, Hearst offered Francis Marion a $2,000 a week salary to write for "Cosmopolitan Productions". 

Marion Davies portrayed "Rue Carew".
Norma Kerry portrayed "Jim Neeland". 

The following description of Frances Marion's screenplay comes from the TCM Website:

According to tradition, some metal which had fallen from a dark star, or evil planet, was fashioned into the image of Erlik, Prince of Darkness. Secret plans detailing Turkish fortifications are hidden in the image. An American missionary in Turkey, not knowing of the plans, brings the image to America. When he dies, his daughter, Rue Carew, born under the influence of the star, who as a child played with the image and copied the plans so much she had memorized the drawings, gives the plans to her friend Jim Neeland, who secretly works for the French secret service. German spies convince Rue that Jim himself is a German spy, then follow him on board a steamer to Europe where they tie up Rue and Jim and set up explosives to blow them up with the plans. Rue, a sharpshooter, shoots off the fuse of the bomb. Later, in a Paris café, she is rescued from the spies by Jim, then the spies are killed and she and Jim are united as lovers.

In 1919, with the death of his mother Phoebe Hearst, his father has previously passed away, William Randolph Hearst inherited the family's ranch in San Simeon, California. The ranch consisted of 250,000 acres of land and 14 miles of the California Coast Line. William met a friend of his mothers, architect Julia Morgan, the initial designs were created, and the start of building what became known as "Hearst Castle" began.

Marion Davies final film of the year was:

THE CINEMA MURDER released on December 14, 1919.

Davies portrayed aspiring motion picture and stage actress, "Elizabeth Dalston". After rehearsing a murder scene for a motion picture, the director suddenly fires "Elizabeth". What she doesn't know is the director was told to fire her by orders of the film's Wall Street backer, "Slyvanus Power", played by Anders Randolf. The married "Power" wants to make "Elizabeth" his mistress and offers to pay for her acting education in England and build a theatre for her to appear in. On the ocean liner crossing the Atlantic to England, "Elizabeth" meets and falls in love with "Philip Romilly", played by Nigel Barrie, who has been accused of murdering his brother "Douglas", played by W. Scott Moore, or did he? When "Elizabeth" refuses "Slyvanus'" advances, he calls the police to arrest "Philip" for murder, but "Douglas", still alive, clears things up.

The 1920's and San Simeon

Above, Marion Davies on the cover of the January 1920 issue of "Motion Picture Classic".
Below, Marion Davies on the cover of the June 1920 issue of "Theatre Magazine".

APRIL FOLLY released on March 21, 1920.

In this picture, Marion Davies portrayed authoress "April Poole", who meets with her publisher, and starts to read her latest novel, as "April's" written story comes alive for the audience.

Above, Davies' "April Poole", with the man she loves, "Kerry Sarle", played by Conway Tearle, in the story she's reading.

THE RESTLESS SEX released on September 12, 1920.

Next, Marion Davies portraying "Stephanie Cleland",  finds herself torn between two men, her childhood sweetheart, and an art student, in a screenplay written by Francis Marion.

Above, "Flapper", Marion Davies in "The Restless Sex".

BURIED TREASURE released on April 10, 1921.

The plot of the film revolves around reincarnation and Norman Kerry portrays "Dr. John Grant", and Marion Davies is the key to buried pirate treasure in a past life. She portrays, "Pauline Vandermuellen", and is also, the Spanish woman "Lucia", in a past life and the key to the treasure.

This was the first motion picture Davies played a dual role and the idea of using reincarnation for a motion picture plot was a very rare idea!

Above right, Davies as "Pauline", and Norman Kerry as "Dr. Grant". To their left are Edith Shayne as "Mrs. Vandermuellen" and Anders Randolf as "William Vandermuellen".

Below, right, Norman Kerry and Marion Davies.

ENCHANTMENT premiered in New York City on October 30, 1921.

The film begins with a stage production of William Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew". In the audience is "Mr. Hoyt", portrayed by Tom Lewis, and he thinks a similar idea to what is on stage, is needed to straighten out his spoiled, everything revolves around her, daughter, "Ethel", portrayed by Marion Davies. "Hoyt" hires the actor playing "Petruchio", "Ernest Eddison", portrayed by Forest Stanley, to teach "Ethel" a lesson starting with both in a stage production of "Sleeping Beauty", and of course, the two fall in love.

"Enchantment" was followed in 1922, by, "The Bride's Play", "Beauty's Worth", and, "The Young Diana". Then came the motion picture Marion Davies is most remembered for during her Silent Movie Period.

WHEN KNIGHTHOOD WAS IN FLOWER released on September 14, 1922.

This was a grand historical motion picture produced by William Randolph Hearst, with exteriors filmed at Windsor Castle in England. Although the rest of the motion picture was filmed in the United States. 

The screenplay was based upon two sources, the first, the 1898 novel of the film's title, by Charles Major writing as Edwin Caskoden. The second, was the 1901 play by playwright Paul Kester.

The motion picture was directed by Italian Robert G. Vignola. Vignola had started out as an actor in 1906's, "The Black Hand", for the Biograph Company, and started directing in 1911, while remaining an actor for four more years, for the Kalem Company. His last film, was directing 1937's, "The Girl from Scotland Yard".

Luther Reed adapted the novel for film and William LeBaron wrote the screenplay. In 1926, LeBaron became a very successful motion picture producer. 

Some of the he Cast as Presented in the Opening Credits:

Buried with Sixteenth Billing was William H. Powell as "Francis, Duc d' Angouleme (Francis I)". This was the second motion picture for the actor who would co-star in "The Thin Man Series", with Myrna Loy, 1936's, have the title role of "My Man Godfrey", with Carole Lombard, and portray "Florenz Ziegfeld", in 1936's, "The Great Ziegfeld".

The basic story has 16-years-old "Mary Tudor", forced to marry "Louis XII", as part of a peace agreement between England and France. However, she is really in love with "Charles Brandon", and "Mary" appears freed by the death of "Louis" However, the evil, "Francis I", comes to power and has wanted her and makes attempts to marry the Queen, but in the end, she marries her true love, "Brandon".

According to "Variety", at the time, William Randolph Hearst launched the largest publicity campaign ever seen to that year. In New York City alone, he had 650 billboards advertising "When Knighthood Was in Flower", in the subways he had 300 place cards throughout the system, and Hearst set up special booths in major department stores selling souvenir programs in advance of the picture's release.

ADAM AND EVA released on February 11, 1923.

"Adam and Eva" 
was the last of Marion Davies motion picture made by Paramount Pictures. Hearst started looking for another studio for "Cosmopolitan" to work with, the following feature was distributed by "Goldwyn Pictures".

LITTLE OLD NEW YORK released August 1, 1923.

This was the comedy romance about an Irish girl, "Patricia O'Day", portrayed by Davies, who comes to America, disguised as a boy, to claim a fortune left to her upon the death of her brother.

YOLANDA released February 19, 1924 was Marion Davies first motion picture for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

"Yolanda" was another historical picture directed by Robert G. Vignola.

Marian Davies portrayed "Princes Mary of Burgundy", who disguises herself as "Yolanda".
Ralph Graves portrayed the disguised "Maximillian of Austria"

The disguised "Mary of Burgundy" meets the disguised "King Maximillian of Austria" and the two fall in love without knowing who they really are. However, the Swiss threaten "Mary's father, "Charles the Bold, the Duke of Burgundy", played by Lyn Harding, with War, if the two marry. The duke arranges a marriage for his daughter with the unstable "The Dauphin of France", played by Johnny Dooley, it is up to "Maximillian" to save his beloved and unite "Austria" with "Burgundy".

During 1924, the "Theater Owners of America" named Marion Davies the "Number One Female Box Office Star" and at their convention, elected the actress as "The Queen of the Screen".

The Thomas H. Ince Scandal

On November 15, 1924, William Randolph Hearst visited Thomas Harper Ince at his home to conclude a deal to use Ince's studio to shoot film for "Cosmopolitan Pictures". Thomas Ince, who was known as "The Father of the Western", was an actor, screenplay writer, director, and producer. At the time of his death, at age 44, Thomas H. Ince had written 67 screenplays, directed 154 motion pictures, and produced 609.

It is that death I am concerned with here and it started with Ince being invited to spend the weekend on Hearst's yacht, "Oneida". 

The Official Story:

While on board, Thomas Ince suffered an attack of acute indigestion caused by an ulcer. He was taken off in San Diego, and escorted by Dr. Daniel Goodman, actually Hearst's studio manager, and put on a train for Los Angeles. On the train his condition worsens, and in Del Mar, the train was met by Dr. T.A. Parker and nurse, Jesse Howard. Ince stated he had a strong liquor on the yacht, which by doctor's orders for the ulcer, he shouldn't have drank. Once in Los Angeles, Thomas Ince was driven to his home, at 1051 Benedict Canyon Drive, in the Los Angeles hills, where he passed away from a heart attack

The Scandal:

The following morning the "Los Angeles Times" had the headline:
Movie Producer Shot on Hearst Yacht

The evening edition did not have that headline and on November 20, 1924, the times ran Thomas H. Ince's obituary, that stated the cause of his death was a heart attack.

The rumor mills claimed that William Randolph Hearst found Thomas H. Ince making unwanted advances toward Marion Davies, and in a rage, Hearst fatally shot him. A variant of the story, had Charlie Chaplin making sexual advances on Davies and Hearst thought it was Ince, not Chaplin, and shot him instead.

Guests on board the "Oneida", claimed they were sworn to secrecy over the actual events. However, at Ince''s funeral the coffin was open and not one person who attended saw any bullet wound, but the scandal shook Hollywood for some time. 



In 1926, Millicent and William Hearst separated and she moved to New York City. This was followed by William and Marion moving into "Hearst Castle".

For Marion Davies to be near the Hollywood Studios, Hearst purchased as beach house in Santa Monica.

Should the couple be tired of San Simeon, the two could relax in Hearst's very northern "Wyntoon Estate", in Siskiyou County, near the Oregon State line. It home would burn down in 1929!

Then there was "St. Donat's Castle", in Wales, Hearst bought in 1925 and owned until 1960.

While, Hearst was running his publishing empire, Davies continued her motion picture career. In 1925, MGM, made New Mexico Governor Lee Wallace's, "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ", into an epic motion picture starring Raymond Novarro and Francis X. Bushman. The studio needed the chariot race sequence to have a large crowd and ordered all their actors into the viewing stands. Other Hollywood personalities joined in the party and were provided food and refreshments by the studio.

Among those in the crowd with Marion Davies, were John Barrymore, future 1930's "B" Cowboy "Wild" Bill Elliot, Douglas Fairbanks, Clark Gable, Janet Gaynor, John Gilbert, the sisters Dorothy and Lillian Gish, producer Samuel Goldwyn, the builder and owner of both the Chinese and Egyptian Theatres, Sid Grauman, Nobel Johnson the future, 1933, King of Skull Island in "King Kong", director Henry King, Harold Lloyd, Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy, Colleen Moore, Mary Pickford, Tom Tyler, and Fay Wray.

Meanwhile, the "Jazz Age" was in full swing and at "Hearst Castle", and the King and Queen held court.

Above Charlie Chaplin with Marion Davies, below, Claudette Colbert and Davies at a San Simeon costume party.

Above, William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies. Below, left to right are, Jack L. Warner, director Raul Walsh, Marion Davies, William Randolph Hearst and Jack's wife, Irma Warner.

Other regular visitors to the Castle included, Clark Gable, Harpo Marx, President of the United States Calvin Coolidge, British Chancellor of the Exchequer Winston Churchill, Charles Lindbergh, and Amelia Earheart.

Above, Gloria Swanson, Charlie Chaplain and Marian Davies. Below, Mary Pickford, Gary Cooper, and Marion Davies.

Both Charlie Chaplain and Mary Pickford thought Marion Davies was an excellent comedic actress and wanted to show off her talent in films made at their United Artists studio.

The problem for Chaplain and Pickford was William Randolph Hearst, who wanted Marion Davies to appear mainly in historical motion pictures. However, the executives at MGM agreed with Charlie and Mary and assigned director King Vidor to direct Marion in three classic comedies starting with:

THE PATSY released April 22, 1928.

31-years-old Marion Davies, portrayed lovesick, "Patricia Harrington". A teenager in love with her older sister, "Grace Harrington's", played by Jane Winton, boyfriend, "Tony Anderson", played by Orville Caldwell.

Actress Marie Dressler restarted her motion career as "Ma Harrington".

Above, Marie Dressler, Marion Davies, and Jane Winton.

SHOW PEOPLE released November 20, 1928.

Marion Davies portrayed "Peggy Pepper", who comes to Hollywood in the hopes of becoming a movie star.

The movie was a comic look at Hollywood during the silent era and included twenty-two cameo roles by famous stars, including cowboy actor William S Hart, Norma Talmadge, future gossip columnist Louella Parsons, John Gilbert, Charlie Chaplain, Douglas Fairbanks, and Claire Winsor. 

In one scene, Marion Davies appeared as herself, and King Vidor, as himself, is seen directing another motion picture. 

William Randolph Hearst objected to a planned scene of Marion Davies having a pie thrown in her face as a sight-gag. He felt such a scene would endanger her image with the public, he was promised the scene would be removed, but unknown to Hearst, another scene replaced it and Marion Davies was sprayed with a bottle of  seltzer water.

Below, Marion Davies and King Vidor.

The third film made by King Vidor, will mention, at the proper time, in the next section.


There had been short sound segments in motion pictures since D.W. Griffith was seen stepping out of a curtain, in the original road show release, of his 1923, "Dream Street", and introduced the movie to the audience. However, it was four years later, when Al Jolson not only sang, but spoke in Warner Brothers, "The Jazz Singer", that upset the Silent Movie Industry.

The rush started to make sound features and MGM, like the other majors, had to figure out what to do with already made silent films, as the public demanded sound. An example of this was MGM's, 1929, release of Jules Verne's "The Mysterious Island", starring Lionel Barrymore. The picture had begun production in 1926 as a silent and rather than starting all over, the remaining scenes were shot with sound. This dual footage, as with many other transitional motion pictures, was given to the film's editors. Who had to create a hybrid blend of silent and sound film, while learning how to work with sound, sometimes moving back in forth between both in one sequence, "The Mysterious Island's" film editor was the father of a neighbor of mine and she lent me her mother's scrapbook for my article:

"Carl L. Pierson Forgotten Film Editor", at:

Next, came Marion Davies first sound motion picture, but first there had been the release of the silent version of  the same film, starring Davies, near the start of 1929, I could not locate the actual month. The sound remade musical version was released on August 24, 1929, with some of the actors changed. because of the music.

Above the poster for the silent version and below, for the sound version.

Above, Lawrence Gray as "Stagg", Marion Davies as "Marrianne", in the silent version.
Below, Oscar Shaw as "Stagg", and Marion Davies as "Marianne", in the musical version.

The story is set during the First World War, and young French girl, "Marianne", must choose between "Andre", a blind French soldier she is engaged to, and an American soldier, "Stagg", she falls for.

In the silent version, "Andre" was portrayed by George Baxter, and in the sound version by, Fred Solm using the stage name of Robert Castle. The role of "Soapy" was portrayed by Cliff Edwards in the silent version, and Robert Ames in the sound. While, Scott Folk portrayed "Lieutenant Frane" in both versions.

Next, came that third motion picture for director King Vidor and a bad start to 1930.

NOT SO DUMB released January 17, 1930

Marion Davies portrayed "Dulcinea 'Dulcy' Parker". She's a constant chatterbox interrupting others and saying the wrong things. At the end of the film, "Dulcy" has changed and ends up with "Gordon 'Gordy' Smith" played by Elliot Nugent.

However, the audiences didn't like the film and MGM lost $39,000.

There was a problem for Marion Davies with sound films, she had that constant stutter, Ziegfeld had moved her over, in her delivery. The stutter aside, the MGM executives considered the actress an astute business woman and her investments and income purchases backed up their belief. 

Marion Davies next motion picture was the comedy:

THE FLORODORA GIRL released May 31, 1930.

From a strictly technical perspective, the movie was shot in black and white, until a Two-Strip Technicolor finale. The basic plot has Marion Davies playing a "Gay Nineties" Chorus Girl, named "Daisy Dell". This was still Pre-Motion Picture Code, and like many features pushed the censors' limits.

"Daisy" gets bad advice from the other girls about how to handle a handsome rich suitor, "Jack Vibart", played by Lawrence Gray. "Daisy" think she knows what he's after from her, and she won't do that, unless she's married. In the end "Daisy" gets her wish.

While MGM was casting Davies in comedies to show-off her talent on-screen. She was having problems with Hearst, who still only saw Marion in historical films and would interfere at MGM over their choice of roles for her.

Around September 4, 1929, the Stock Market started to fluctuate and on October 29, 1929, known as "Black Tuesday", it crashed and the lead-in to the "Great Depression" took place. By the late 1930's, William Randolph Hearst faced "Bankruptcy". He sold most of the contents of "St. Donat's Castle", but that wasn't enough to stay afloat.

Business woman Marion Davies, now sold her jewelry. all her stocks and bonds, and wrote Hearst a check for one-million dollars, equal, as of this writing, to $16,425,748 dollars, and saved his empire for the moment.


Marian Davies started 1931 with an MGM comedy that just made back the studio's investment.

THE BACHELOR FATHER released January 20, 1931.

The comedy, drama, and romance revolved around "Sir Basil Algernon 'Chief' Winterton", played by British character actor C. Aubrey Smith, who invites all his three illegitimate children to live with him. Marion Davies portrayed "Antoinette 'Tony' Flagg", Ralph Forbes portrayed "John Ashley", in his eighth feature film, Ray Milland portrayed "Geoffrey Trent".

Above, Ralph Forbes, Marion Davies, and C. Aubrey Smith, and below, Davies with Ray Milland.

FIVE AND TEN released June 13, 1931.

This was a major MGM drama and an attempt to change Davies on-screen image. As the above poster indicates, the screenplay was based upon a novel by popular, at the time, woman's authoress Fannie Hurst. The story is about an heiress, "Jennifer Rarick", portrayed by Marion Davies, who falls in love with "Berry Rhodes", played by British actor Leslie Howard, eight years before he portrayed "Ashley Wilkes" in 1939's, "Gone with the Wind". However, he marries someone else, but the two still love each other.

Above and below, Marion Davies and Leslie Howard.

Above "Berry Rhodes" and the two women in his life, Mary Duncan portrayed "Muriel Preston".

POLLY OF THE CIRCUS released February 27, 1932.

As the above poster indicates, this was a Marion Davies Production and featured C. Aubrey Smith, but with the placement of Davies foot, it seems to read C, Audrey Smith.

Marion Davies portrayed Circus Trapeze artist, "Pauline 'Polly' Fisher, but the picture really is of interest for her leading man. Clark Gable was two pictures away from the classic, 1932, "Red Dust", co-starring Jean Harlow with a fourth billed, Mary Astor.

Above, Marion Davies and, Yes, Clark Gable as "Reverend John Hartley".

When the circus arrives at a small rural town, "Polly" is outraged to find that clothing has been painted onto the posters to cover-up her skimpy costume. She immediately goes to the man she believes is responsible, the "Reverend John Hartley". He denies having anything to do with the change and this will lead to a romance between the two people from different worlds.


Above, Gable, Davies, and C. Aubrey Smith as "Bishop James Northcott".

GOING HOLLYWOOD released December 22, 1933.

"Going Hollywood" was a musical directed by one-eyed Raul Walsh, he lost one of his eyes and wore a pirate patch. He was also the director of a 70 mm widescreen 1930 Western and change the name of his leading man, a prop boy turned actor, to John Wayne. Speaking to that Western, my article, "John Wayne, William Fox: Grandeur and "The Big Trail", be read at:

The story for "Going Hollywood" was from Francis Marion and is about an infatuated school teacher for crooner, "Bill 'Billy' Williams", portrayed by Bing Crosby. Who would perform solo, six songs, and a duet with Davies! While Davies, as school teacher "Sylvia Bruce", has one solo song. In all there are thirteen songs during the movie.

The story follows "Sylvia" as she goes to Hollywood and becomes "Bill's" fiancée's maid. So, she can be close to him with predictable situations involving his fiancée and the leading lady of the movie within this movie.


In 1934, Marion Davis was a close friend of MGM Executive Irving Thalberg and his wife. She approached MGM's Thalberg for the leading role of poet "Elizabeth Barrett", opposite Frederick March as poet "Robert Browning", in MGM's major production, "The Barretts of Wimpole Street", but Thalberg decided to give the role to actress Norman Shearer.

Despite the friendship between Davies and Thalberg, William Randolph Hearst retaliated against Thalberg and MGM. His newspapers would no longer run MGM ads and he moved Marion Davis to Warner Brothers and gave his friend Jack L. Warner all the distribution rights to "Cosmopolitan Productions" films.

For Marion it was:

OPERATOR 13 released June 8, 1934.

This was a musical set during the Civil War, with Marion Davies as "Gail Loveless (Operator 13)", a spy for "Alan Pickerton", played by Sidney Toler, who in 1938, became the movies "Charlie Chan".  

Gary Cooper portrayed "Confederate Officer Captain Jack Gailliard". Cooper had just portrayed "The White Knight", in the excellent, but forgotten 1933, "Alice in Wonderland". 

"Gaillard" has been assigned to find the Union Spy, Loveless has been assigned to get information on the Confederate movements after the Union defeat at the "Second Battle of Bull Run". The two will meet at a ball and begin to fall in love, without knowing the truth about the other.

By having the character of "Gail" as part of "The Pauline Cushman Players" traveling show. The movie is able to add, the then, popular, "The Four Mills Brothers", singing several songs and Marion Davies accompany them.

William Randolph Hearst caused problems for director Richard Boleslawski on the set and demanded that he direct one scene himself.

The picture lost MGM, $226,000 dollars.

Marion Davies would end her motion picture career with only five more motion pictures into 1937, including the following that reunited her with Clark Gable.

CAIN AND MABEL released September 26, 1936.

William Randolph Hearst got his friend, Jack L. Warner, to borrow Clark Gable from MGM, for the role of "Larry Cain". Next, he rejected actor and singer Dick Powell for the role of "Ronny Caldwell", perhaps because he was one of Marion's lovers. The role went to actor Roger Paige using the name of David Caryle. 

Marion Davies was the "Mabel" of the title, portraying
"Mabel O'Dare".

The predictable plot, has waitress "Mabel", who has turned-Broadway star, vs, Garage mechanic "Cain" turned-prize fighter, in a romantic comedy. Depending upon the critics, it was either Gable being miscast, or Davies being miscast.

Another problem for Jack L. Warner was Marion Davies said that Sound Stage 16 was not large enough for the big musical numbers, it was the standard 45 feet in height, but she wanted a higher set. So, she called Hearst, who called Warner, and Warner hired several hundred workers at Hearst's expense. The workers using hand jacks actually started by lifting the sound stage one foot off the ground and placing railroad ties under the building. Then it was raised again, more railroad ties crisscrossed the others, and this went on until Sound Stage 16 had been raised to 98 feet. Once at that height, Warner than had a foundation built, and even today, Sound Stage 16, remains the tallest in North America. 

The 98 foot figure comes from a video, "A Look Inside Stage 16, VIP Tour, Warner Brothers Studio Tour" at:

However, the website, "Dear Old Hollywood", states Sound Stage 16 was only raised 30 feet, which makes it 75 feet.

My reader can decide what the height of Sound Stage 16 actually is.


Any way you look at it, "Cain and Mabel" bombed at the box office.

By 1937, William Randolph Hearst was $126 million 1937 dollars in debt, equal as of this writing to two billion, four hundred million, two-hundred and twelve thousand, five-hundred dollars. During that year, Hearst attempted to get Jack L. Warner to cast Marion Davies in the leading role for Warner Brother's film version of playwright, Robert E. Sherwood's, "Tovarich", but Claudette Colbert was cast.

In 1938, Hearst "Cosmopolitan Productions" closed down. Also, that year Hearst tried to get Thalberg to case Davies in the title role of MGM's, historical biography, "Marie Antoinette", it went to Norma Shearer. 

Both William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies became recluses at San Simeon and she took to drinking. Visitors would remark that when she was drunk, Davies cursed all those she felt ruined her career, but never William.

During the Second World War the two spent most of their time at Wyntoon and only returned to San Simeon in 1945. On, August 14, 1951, the 88-years-old publisher passed away. In his "Will", William Randolph Hearst didn't forget Marion Davies, and gave her 170,000 shares of "Hearst Corporation Stock". Along with another 30,000 shares he had established in a 1950 trust fund.

This actually gave Marion total control over the corporation, but she voluntarily sold her 170,000 shares to Millicent Hearst on October 30, 1951 for one dollar. Marion Davies kept the 30,000 shares in the trust fund and an advisory role in the corporation.

The business woman the MGM executive remarked about, now purchased "The Desert Inn", in Palm Springs, California, and several properties in New York City. These included the "Squibb Building" at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street, and "The Douras Building", at East 55 Street.

Marion Davies would marry a sea captain named Horace Brown on October 31, 1951, in Las Vegas, Nevada. He treated her badly and admitted it, she filed for divorce twice, but never went through with them.

Marion Davies became a Philanthropist and became noted for her generality toward charities and established a children's clinic, named for her, at UCLA. However, it was changed in 1998 to the "Mattel Children's Hospital".

On September 22, 1961, 64-years-old Marion Davies passed away from cancer. She is buried at the "Hollywood Forever Cemetery", at 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard, in Hollywood, California.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Gordon Douglas: The Little Rascals (Our Gang) - Giant Ants - and Francis Albert Sinatra

When asked to name a "Classic Film Director", depending upon how much you're into motion pictures, what's your favorite ge...