Sunday, May 22, 2011

Miss Marion Davies

I'm really surprised that I haven't done an entry on Marion Davies yet. She is on my top list and I completely blanked apparently! Marion was another example of someone who embodied the 1920s. She loved to have fun, loved to laugh, and well, she just loved to have fun! I get a chance to visit with her when I go to California. Well, kinda. She is entombed in a big ole family mausoleum, so the closest you can get is standing on the steps. But, hey. Take what I can get.

Marion Davies was born Marion Cecelia Douras on January 3, 1897 in Brooklyn, New York. Her father was Bernard, and her mother Rose, and she joined her older siblings, Rose, Reine, Ethel, and Charles (Charles drowned in 1906 when he was only 16).

The girls began to get the acting bug itch and decided they would try to break into show business. But first, they changed their "foreign" sounding name of Douras to Davies, an idea they got after reading the name on a real estate sign. The girls all began acting on stage, and Marion was signed to THE stage event of the early 1900s, the Ziegfeld Follies in 1916.

Marion made her film debut in a fashion reel modeling clothes designed by Lady Duff Gordon (famous also for being a survivor of the Titanic). She made a few other films the coming years and began to create a name for herself and earning money to help support herself and her family. One of the films, Cecilia of the Pink Roses (1918) was the first film she made with the man she would become forever tied to, William Randolph Hearst.

While Marion was still becoming a big star in her own right, but her "scandalous" relationship with Hearst, who was still married, was what she was most known for...even though she met him before her screen career, when she was still in the Follies. She wanted it to be adamantly known that she was NOT a gold digger who got her success from just being Heart's mistress. She was a talented actress who made it on her own.

Marion and Hearst had two different ideas about what direction her career should take. He liked seeing her in serious costume dramas, while she preferred comedies because she was just a natural! Her impressions of Pola Negri and Lillian Gish are hilarious! To be able to put her in the kind of pictures he wanted her in, Hearst created Cosmopolitan Pictures. Marion's showbiz friends, actors and directors alike both thought she would be better suited in comedy, but Hearst was very much against it. He didn't like people laughing at his beloved Marion.

And here comes the talkies!! Even though Marion performed on stage before appearing in silents, she was apprehensive about being in talkies because she had a stutter. But! Never fear! She persevered and did very well in talkies. However, Hearst was still nagging at her to appear in the big budget costume dramas he favored so much. In fact, Marion was up for the role of Marie Antoinette, but the role went to Irving Thalberg's wife, Norma Shearer (this was not the first time Marion lost a role to the head of the studio's wife). Even though the two couples remained friends, Hearst refused to show any support for the studio in his publications.

She made her last film, Ever Since Eve in 1937. She retired to San Simeon (the huge mansion built by Hearst) and spent her years just being a companion. She still had the itch to get back to work, but she was afraid that Hearst would try again to control her career, and she just did not want to deal with that stress again.

During the 1930s, Heart's fortunes took a drastic decline, and Marion actually had to write a check and sell some of her jewelry to help bail him out. William Randolph Hearst passed away on August 14, 1951. He left over half of his fortune to Marion (His legal wife, Millicent died in 1974. They had 5 sons together).

About two months after Hearst died, Marion married a man named Horace Brown. The marriage was not good, and she filed for divorce from him twice, but the divorce was never finalized.

Marion Davies passed away from cancer on September 22, 1961 in Hollywood.

She is buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Even though Marion was the partner of Hearst for over 40 years, she never had children....or did she? After her death, her niece, Alice Lake came out and said that she was not Marion's niece, but rather her daughter with William Randolph Hearst. She had been told growing up that she had been Marion's sister Rose's daughter. But on her wedding day, Hearst acknowledged her as his daughter. Alice died in 1993 and is buried along with her husband in the Douras family mausoleum. If you look at a picture of Alice, she really does look like Hearst and Marion.

Rumor has it that Marion and Charlie Chaplin had quite the fling. An even bigger rumor/urban legend is that the death of Thomas Ince aboard Hearst's boat was caused by Hearst shooting Ince thinking it was Chaplin who he thought was making the moves on Marion. Even though the truth came out that the true cause of Ince's death was acute indigestion, the urban legend reason is way more interesting and intriguing in my opinion. Watch The Cat's Meow with Kirsten Dunst and Eddie Izzard to see the whole ordeal played out. Great movie!

Marion was supposedly the inspiration for the Susan Alexander character in Citizen Kane. Neither she nor Hearst were happy at all with this movie.

She once got President Calvin Coolidge drunk by giving him wine and telling him it was juice.

"Somebody told me that I should put a pebble in my mouth to cure my stuttering. Well, I tried it, and during a scene, I swallowed the pebble." ~ Marion Davies


  1. Marion would have been a big star even without her wealthy benefactor. Besides being a total babe, she was wonderful comedienne. She was also a dear friend of Mabel's and stood by her during Normands various troubles. Thanks for the great post

  2. She really was great on her own. Very funny and full of life.

    But I don't blame her for sticking with Hearst. San Simeon is HUGE!

  3. Did you know that Marion Davies was a guest at the John F. Kennedy inauguration in 1961, eight months before she died? Learn more about it at

    Oh, and Marion is one of my favorites, too -- beautiful, funny, talented, generous. It's easy to understand why Hearst (and the Hollywood community) loved her.

  4. I did not know she was a guest. And you won me over with your picture of Carole. I just adore her. A kindred spirit, a blonde who has a mouth of a sailor!

  5. Despite the rumour she may have had a daughter of her own, many people forget Marion raised her favourite niece Pepi Lederer (born Josephine Rose Lederer) and nephew Charles Lederer (Named after Marion's late brother). Pepi and Charlie were her sister Reine's children (She was a divorced alcoholic who didn't have time for her kids) who Hearst paid for and put up in San Simeon/Hearst Castle and all his other residencies in California, New York and in Europe. Marion made sure Hearst helped Charlie with his writing career and in the 20s - 50s he was one of Hollywood's most successful screenwriters. Tragically his sister Pepi an aspiring writer/actress committed suicide at 25 in 1935. (Understandably Marion and the family were devastated). Pepi's buried alongside Marion and other family members in the Douras mausoleum.