Marion Davies

I’m Back to work today after a 2-week break. The kids were definitely not excited to be here this morning. Teenagers don’t like getting out of bed before noon you know, and getting out of bed in the morning, forget it. But they’re here and reading.

Today is Marion Davies’ birthday. She would have been 114 today. If you aren’t sure who she is, let me give you some background. Marion was an American actress, but probably best known for her elicit affair with William Randolph Hearst. In her early days, Marion was a Ziegfeld girl in the Ziegfeld follies.

Cecilia of the Pink Roses in 1918 was her first film backed by Hearst. She was on her way to being the most famously advertised actress in the world. During the next 10 years she appeared in 29 films, an average of almost three films a year. By the mid-1920s, however, her career was often overshadowed by her relationship with the married Hearst and their fabulous social life at San Simeon and Ocean House in Santa Monica; 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 had met Hearst long before she’d started working in movies. Hearst, later formed Cosmopolitan Pictures which would produce several starring vehicles for her. Hearst’s relentless efforts to promote her career instead 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.

Hearst and Davies spent much of their time entertaining, holding lavish parties with guests at their Beverly Hills estate. Frequent guests included, among others, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and a young John F. Kennedy. George Bernard Shaw, upon visiting St. Donat’s, was quoted as saying “this is what God would have built if he had had the money.”

Cosmopolitan Pictures folded so she left the movie 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.” In truth, she was intensely ambitious, but realized that at the age of forty, and after twenty years of hard work, that she had not won over the public or the critics not under Hearst’s control. Decades after Davies’ retirement and death, however, the general consensus among critics is far more appreciative of her efforts, particularly in the field of comedy.

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.

Davies died of cancer on September 22, 1961 in Hollywood, California. Her funeral at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Hollywood (donations to the church were from Hollywood celebrities such as Louis B. Mayer’s estate (he died in 1957) and Bing Crosby) was attended by many Hollywood celebrities, including Mary Pickford and Mrs. Clark Gable (Kay Spreckels), as well as President Herbert Hoover. She is buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and left an estate estimated at more than $30 million.

I’ve visited Hearst Castle, which is absolutely amazing, and have also seen Marion’s tomb at Hollywood Forever. She is truly a legend and will not be forgotten. Oh, by the way, take note of her gorgeous eyes!!

Happy Monday friends!

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Join the Discussion!

  1. She does have pretty eyes… I’v always wanted to go to Hearst Castle! What subject do you teach? I find it so fascinating that you know so much about old Hollywood… :)

  2. I saw a copy of Miss Davies’ book you mentioned here, “The Times We Had” laying around my dad’s house, but never paid much attention to it. Because of your informative blog today, I have to read it. Thank you so much!

    xoxo ~ Jodie
    PS
    I am so happy I can finally “Grab You Button”… I have been wanting to feature you on my blog for a while now!

  3. I can never get on your page from work Suzy because it says you have banned words lol….I will try to comment later Kori xoxo

  4. One of the first things I bought when I moved to NY from Paris was a framed and autographed picture of Marion. It hangs in my Hall of Fame. Sadly, I’ve not been to San Simeon, which is inexcusable. I know.

  5. Hi – thank you for following my filmblog!! I think you knew that I meant to write “good looking” instead of “good lokking” in my recent comment here.. ;”)

    oh, and: I am already a follower. ;”)

  6. Anonymous

    Great site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends!

  7. GREAT post! I love Davies’ porcelain skin and big doll eyes. I think her scandalous affair drew a lot more people to her, because she was not JUST another starlet.

  8. I believe she attended the 1961 inauguration of John F. Kennedy, whom she knew from being around his father, one-time film mogul Joseph P. Kennedy. A fascinating, charming and generous woman (she established a children’s medical clinic at UCLA), and a superb comedic actress, particularly in late-era silents such as “Show People,” “The Patsy,” “The Red Mill” and “The Fair Co-Ed.”

    I, too, have visited San Simeon; if I’m blessed enough to reach heaven one day, I only hope it will be half as magnificent.

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