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Marion Davies

Marion Davies


Born: January 3, 1897 (New York City, New York)

Died: September 22, 1961 (Los Angeles, California)

Notable Films:
The Patsy, Show People, Not So Dumb, The Bachelor Father, Blondie of the Follies, Going Hollywood

Marion Davies is perhaps better known for her relationship with powerful newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst than for her movie career. She was born in Brooklyn, New York on Jan. 3, 1897. While in her teens, Davies became a showgirl. In 1917, she appeared in her first movie, Runaway Romany, at the age of twenty. In 1918, while appearing in the Ziegfeld Follies, Davies met Hearst. Although Hearst was over fifty and had a wife and five sons, they soon started a relationship of mutual devotion which lasted until Hearst's death, over thirty years later.

Hearst's financial backing assured that Marion would appear in first-rate productions, work with top leading men, and receive favorable treatment at the film studios. His control of a newspaper chain guaranteed positive reviews and extensive advertising for her films. Davies appeared in films for several studios, but from 1925 to 1934, her films were produced by MGM, including three directed by King Vidor: the silents The Patsy and Show People (both 1928), and her first talkie Not So Dumb (1930). Show People is generally regarded to be Davies' finest film, and was selected for preservation in National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Although Hearst is said to have preferred her in dramatic roles, her abilities were in comedy, and she found her greatest success in the silent comedies, while the majority of her talkies were flops. But for Hearst's support, Davies' career in motion pictures would not have lasted as long as it did. She made her last film in 1937, a year in which Hearst's financial situation deteriorated.

In California, Hearst built several homes for himself and Marion. The houses were open to guests from around the world. They staged elaborate parties at the beach house in Santa Monica and the palatial mansion on a hillside along the central coast. Marion was well known for her friendliness, cheerfulness, and hospitality. Although Davies' movie career had long since ended, she and Hearst were still together when he died in 1951. Marion married for the first and only time shortly after Hearst's death in 1951. She died of cancer September 22, 1961, in Los Angeles, California.

Further Reading

The Patsy

Show People

Not So Dumb

The Bachelor Father

Blondie of the Follies