World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Marion Davies


Marion Davies

Marion Davies
Davies in 1920s
Born Marion Cecilia Douras
(1897-01-03)January 3, 1897
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died September 22, 1961(1961-09-22) (aged 64)
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Stomach cancer
Resting place Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Nationality American
Occupation Actress, film producer, screenwriter, philanthropist
Years active 1917–1937
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 when one of his guests, film producer Thomas Ince, died.

In the film Citizen Kane (1941), the title character's second 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.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Early career 2.1
    • Hearst and Cosmopolitan Pictures 2.2
    • Sound films 2.3
  • Later years 3
  • Personal life 4
    • Relationship with William Randolph Hearst 4.1
    • Patricia Lake 4.2
    • Ince scandal 4.3
    • Marriage 4.4
  • Death 5
  • Cultural references 6
    • Portrayals of Davies 6.1
  • Filmography 7
    • Silent films 7.1
    • Sound films 7.2
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Early life

Davies was born Marion Cecilia Douras[1] 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).[2] Her father performed the civil marriage of Gloria Gould Bishop.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5]


Portrait of Davies for the June 1920 cover of Theatre Magazine

Early career

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.[6] 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.[7][8] 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.[9] One of her most known roles was as Mary Tudor in When Knighthood Was in Flower (1922), directed by Robert G. Vignola, with whom she collaborated on several films.

Hearst and Cosmopolitan Pictures

Set Visitor Douglas MacArthur
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;[10] 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.[11] 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.[12] 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

Sound films

The coming of sound made Davies nervous because she had never completely overcome a childhood stutter.[9] 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.

Later years

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.[9] Part of the Medical Center at UCLA is named the Marion Davies Clinic.[14]

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.[15] 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.

Personal life

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.[16]

By the late 1930s, Hearst was suffering financial reversals.[17] After selling St Donat's Castle, Davies bailed him out by writing out a check for $1 million.[18] Hearst died on August 14, 1951.[19]

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.

Patricia Lake

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.[20] On October 3, 1993, Lake died of complications from lung cancer in Indian Wells, California.[21] 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.[20]

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

External links

  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ No. 331: Publisher's Mistress — NY Times
  9. ^ a b c
  10. ^ Marion Davies' Homes —
  11. ^ "The Times We Had", by Marion Davies, edited by Pamela Pfau and Kenneth S Marx
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Lita Grey Chaplin. My Life With Chaplin, Grove Press (1966) pp. 214-215
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b c
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ Marion Davies at Find a Grave
  31. ^
  32. ^ Captured on Film: The True Story of Marion Davies at the Turner Classic Movies Database
  33. ^ Transcript, The Battle over Citizen Kane on PBS' American Experience; retrieved January 22, 2012
  34. ^ 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
  35. ^ 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."


See also

Year Title Role Notes
1929 Marianne Marianne Producer (uncredited); co-stars Lawrence Gray
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

Sound films

Year Title Role Notes
1917 Runaway, Romany Romany Writer
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
1921 Enchantment Ethel Hoyt
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 Yolanda Princess Mary/Yolanda
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 Marianne Marianne Producer (uncredited); co-stars Oscar Shaw

Silent films


Melanie Griffith was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Miniseries or a Movie for portraying Davies in RKO 281 in 2000.

Davies was portrayed by Heather McNair in Chaplin (1992); by Gretchen Mol in Cradle Will Rock (1999); and by Kirsten Dunst in The Cat's Meow (2001).

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.

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.

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."[35]

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.[34]

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.[33] 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:

Portrayals of Davies

  • 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.
  • Al Stewart included the song "Marion the Chatelaine" about Davies on his album Between the Wars (Al Stewart album).
  • 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.[32]
  • 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.

Cultural references

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.[29][30] Davies left an estate estimated at $20 million.[31]

Davies died of stomach cancer on September 22, 1961, in her home in Hollywood, California.[28]

Mausoleum at Hollywood Forever where Marion Davies is entombed


Eleven weeks and one day after Hearst's death, Davies married Horace Brown on October 31, 1951, in Las Vegas.[25] It was not a happy marriage. Davies filed for divorce twice, but neither was finalized, despite Brown admitting he treated her badly: "I'm a beast," he said. "I took him back. I don't know why," she explained. "I guess because he's standing right beside me, crying. Thank God we all have a sense of humor."[26][27]


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.[24]

In November 1924, Davies was among those aboard Hearst's luxury yacht Oneida for a weekend party that resulted in the death of film producer Thomas Ince. Rumors have endured since then that Davies had an alleged relationship with Chaplin, which led 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 scandal

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."[23]


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.