Marion Cecilia Douras in Brooklyn, New York, 3 January 1897.
Convent of the Sacred Heart, Hastings, N.Y., 1910–16; Theodore
Kosloff's Ballet School, Manhattan; Wayburn School; Sargent School;
Empire School of Acting.
Married Horace Brown, 1951.
1913—began appearing in revues and musicals as dancer;
1914—received billing as "Marion Davis" in Jerome
; 1916—featured role in the
Ziegfeld Follies of 1916
; 1917—film debut; contract with William Randolph Hearst;
1918—began starring in films of Hearst-owned Cosmopolitan Pictures;
Hearst papers began intensive promotion of Davies films; 1920—last
stage appearance; 1922—first film hit,
When Knighthood Was in Flower
; 1924—Cosmopolitan joined Metro-Goldwyn merger; 1929—first
The Broadway Melody
; 1929–33—president of Motion Picture Relief Fund;
1934—Cosmopolitan severed connection with MGM in favor of Warners;
1937—retired from film; 1951—Hearst died.
Of cancer, 23 September 1961.
Runaway Romany (Lederer) (as Romany, + sc); Cecilia of the Pink Roses (Steger and King) (as Cecilia); The Burden of Proof (Steger) (as Elaine Brooks)
The Belle of New York (Steger) (as Violet Gray); Getting Mary Married (Dwan) (as Mary); The Dark Star (Dwan) (as Rue Carew); The Cinema Murder (Baker) (as Elizabeth Dalston)
April Folly (Leonard) (as April Poole); The Restless Sex (Leonard and D'Usseau) (as Stephanie Cleland)
Buried Treasure (Baker); Enchantment (Vignola)
Beauty's Worth (Vignola) (as Prudence Cole); When Knighthood Was in Flower (Vignola) (as Mary Tudor); The Bride's Play (Terwilliger); The Young Diana (Capellani and Vignola); Adam and Eva (Vignola)
Little Old New York (Olcott) (as Patricia O'Day)
Yolanda (Vignola) (as Princess Mary of Burgundy/Yolanda); Janice Meredith ( The Beautiful Rebel ) (Hopper) (title role)
Lights of Old Broadway ( Merry Wives of Gotham ) (Bell) (as Fely/Anne); Zander the Great (Hill) (as Mamie Smith)
Beverly of Graustark (Franklin) (as Beverly Calhoun)
The Red Mill (Goodrich, i.e. Roscoe Arbuckle) (as Tina); Tillie the Toiler (Henley) (as Tillie Jones); The Fair Co-ed ( The Varsity Girl ) (Wood) (as Marion); Quality Street (Franklin) (as Phoebe Throssel)
The Patsy ( The Politic Flapper ) (Vidor) (as Patricia Harrington); Her Cardboard Lover (Leonard) (as Sally); Show People (Vidor) (as Peggy Pepper)
The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (Reisner); Marianne (Leonard) (title role); The Five O'Clock Girl (Green—unreleased)
Not So Dumb ( Dulcy ) (Vidor) (as Dulcy); The Floradora Girl ( The Gay Nineties ) (Beaumont) (as Daisy)
The Bachelor Father (Leonard) (as Tony); It's a Wise Child (Leonard) (as Joyce); Five and Ten ( Daughter of Luxury ) (Leonard) (as Jennifer Rarick); The Christmas Party ( Jackie Cooper's Christmas ) (Reisner—short) (as guest)
Polly of the Circus (Santell) (as Polly); Blondie of the Follies (Goulding) (as Blondie McClune)
Peg o' My Heart (Leonard) (as Peg); Going Hollywood (Walsh) (as Sylvia Bruce)
Operator Thirteen ( Spy Thirteen ) (Boleslawsky) (as Gale Loveless)
Page Miss Glory (LeRoy) (as Loretta)
Hearts Divided (Borzage) (as Betsy Patterson); Cain and Mabel (Bacon) (as Mabel O'Dare); Pirate Party on Catalina Isle (Lewyn—short)
Ever since Eve (Bacon) (as Marge Winton)
The Times We Had: Life with William Randolph Hearst , edited by Pamela Pfau and Kenneth Marx, Indianapolis, 1975.
"How I Keep in Condition," in Photoplay (New York), January 1922.
Swanberg, W. A., Citizen Hearst , New York, 1969.
Guiles, Fred, Marion Davies: A Biography , New York, 1972.
Wallis, Hal, and Charles Higham, Starmaker , New York, 1980.
Chaney, Lindsay, and Michael Cieply, The Hearsts: Family and Empire—The Later Years , New York, 1981.
Montayne, Lilian, "Marion of the Golden Hair," in Motion Picture Classic (Brooklyn), September 1919.
Evans, Delight, "Galatea on Riverside Drive," in Photoplay (New York), October 1919.
St. Johns, Adela Rogers, "An Impression of Marion Davies," in Photoplay (New York), January 1925.
York, Cal, "The Girl on the Cover," in Photoplay (New York), September 1926.
Gaines, William, "Davies' Secret of Success," in Photoplay (New York), February 1935.
Milne, Tom, "Marion Davies," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1968.
Kendall, P., "Marion Davies," in Silent Picture (London), Summer 1970.
Anderson, E., "Marion Davies," in Films in Review (New York), June-July 1972.
Classic Images (Indiana, Pennsylvania), November and December 1982.
Vieira, Mark A., "Blondie of the Follies," in Bright Lights (Cincinnati), July 1993.
Edwards, Anne, "Marion Davies' Ocean House: The Santa Monica Palace Ruled by Hearst's Mistress," in Architectural Digest (Los Angeles), April 1994.
Golden, Eve, "Marion Davies: a Modern Du Barry," in Classic Images (Muscatine), October 1994.
Sherrill, M., "Sam Simeon's Child , " in Vanity Fair (New York), April 1995.
Board, Robert, "Meeting Marion Davies," in Classic Images (Muscatine), May 1995.
* * *
Citizen Kane may have been wickedly accurate in its lampooning of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, but Dorothy Comingore's portrayal of Susan Alexander Kane has tended to cast an unfortunate pall on posterity's view of Marion Davies, Hearst's mistress. Film scholarship is rife with those who—without benefit of actually having seen any of Davies's films—are content to dismiss her as a vapid, talent-free beauty who lucked into an association with the biggest Stage-Door Johnny of them all.
In fact, Davies has been unfairly maligned. She was a delightful talent with a fine comedic sense, a flair for mimicry, and a natural, agreeable personality. Her liaison with Hearst may have paid the rent at San Simeon (where she reigned as the ultimate Hollywood hostess) but his overbearing attentions effectively stifled the development of her true gifts. Hearst's relentless publicity machine made Davies a star but it lost her the respect of the industry and the patience of the public who felt that a truly talented performer would have no need of such a constant media blitz.
If not for the Hearst connection, Davies would almost certainly be regarded more highly now. Few of her films were very bad and there are a surprising number of real gems in her filmography. She shines in comedies such as King Vidor's The Patsy and Show People (of the former, Vidor wrote that it "even got some good reviews outside of the Hearst Press"). But Hearst's ideas of her capabilities seldom matched with reality; he saw her as another Lillian Gish: noble, delicate, virginal. Costume spectacles such as Janice Meredith and When Knighthood Was in Flower feature the Davies that Hearst sought to showcase: prim, doll-like, a little dull. Unpretentious comedies such as Tillie the Toiler , Her Cardboard Lover , and Not So Dumb display the bounce and wit that were among Davies's most obvious attractions.
Her career started to wind down by the time sound pictures came along, but she managed to put her best foot forward in Blondie of the Follies , Going Hollywood , and Page Miss Glory . After the dopey and plodding Ever since Eve , Davies retired from the screen. Her professional reputation has since fallen into neglect. Her career is due for reexamination, though; it remains a classic case of too-often misdirected talent. Hearst was an empire builder. He wanted Marion Davies to be a magnificent cathedral when all she was was a simple country church.