Turner Classic Movies
Davies, Marion
Written by James Colt Harrison   

Marion Davies Profile



Date of Birth: January 3, 1897

Place of Birth: Brooklyn, New York

Date of Death: September 22, 1961

Place of Death: Los Angeles, California

Cause of Death: Stomach cancer


Marion Davies was born in Brooklyn, New York as Marion Douras. Her father, Bernard Douras, was a prominent lawyer and her mother was Rose Reilly. Although she had a brother named Charles, he was lost to drowning at age 15. His name was given to sister Reine's son, screenwriter Charles Lederer. Mr. Lederer was married to actress Ann Shirley and later wrote many famous films such as His Girl Friday and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

It's said Davies was educated in a convent in New York. Being studious wasn't for her, and she soon developed an interest in the bright lights of the stage. She envied her older sisters Rose, Ethel and Reine with their success on the stage. She wanted to be in show business as well.



Davies first went into modeling, which led to her cast as a chorus girl in the famous Ziegfeld Follies. That wasn't enough for the ambitious 20 year-old girl. So, she looked to the new medium of silent films. Between 1915 and 1917 she appeared in Chin-Chin, Stop, Look and Listen, Ziegfield Follies, Betty, Words and Music, Miss 1917 and Oh Boy. That same year she appeared in the feature Runaway, Romany. In 1918,she starred in three more films, one of which (Cecilia of the Pink Roses) was financed by newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. She played mainly light comic roles and was good at them. Hearst took a personal interest in Davies, although Davies once said she had met Hearst long before she began in pictures.

when_knighthood_wasin_flower_1922_lobby_card_220.jpgAt the time Hearst had more money than he knew what to do with, and so he formed Cosmopolitan Pictures, with a distribution deal through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. This was purely to promote Davies' career. He liked to see her in lavish costume pictures such as the historical romance When Knighthood Was In Flower (1922), which didn't really capture her comic abilities.

Hearst pumped millions into the picture to promote her. Luckily the film made a big profit. She wanted to remain with her friends at United Artists -- Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, and Mary Pickford. Well into their 30 year-affair, Davies gave in to Hearst's managing her career, sometimes to her detriment. However, with his big newspaper empire behind him, he promoted Davies as no other star had ever been promoted to the movie-going public.

Going Hollywood
Because of a natural stutter when she spoke, she was terrified of the coming of talking pictures in 1929. However, she made the transition and made two delightful films in 1930, Not So Dumb and The Florodora Girl, both hits with the audience.
Polly of the Circus
Davies was liked by the public as well as her film crews, and nobody had a bad word to say about the gorgeous blonde star. Clark Gable co-starred with her in the comedy Polly of the Circus (1932), Going Hollywood (1933) with crooner Bing Crosby, and Operator 13 (1934) with Gary Cooper.

A major rift with MGM occurred when Marion wanted the leading lady parts in The Barretts of Wimpole Street and Marie Antionette. But production chief Irving Thalberg cast his own wife, Norma Shearer, in the parts and Marion was crushed. Hearst reacted with rage and promptly severed his relation with MGM. Hearst earlier had a lavish dressing room cottage built for Davies at MGM and he had large trucks come onto the lot, rip it from its foundation, and roll it over the Hollywood hills to Burbank to settle down at Warner Bros.

Going Hollywood
Davies career at Warner Bros was short-lived and consisted of a few films such as Page Miss Glory (1935), Hearts Divided (1936), Cain and Mabel ,also 1936, and Ever Since Eve (1937). This capped her film career.

During this period of the late 1930s, Hearst was running into financial trouble with his empire. Marion thought nothing of selling one of her famous baubles and handed Hearst $1 million. Her generous gift saved the newspaper mogul.

Marion Davies and Willliam Randolph Hearst were famous for their lavish entertaining at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, along the California Coast.  Although she really didn't want to retire from making movies at age 40, she accepted her fate of being the hostess of the world. They entertained everybody who was anybody, from future President John F. Kennedy, to Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., ice skating star Sonja Henie, Mexican film actress Dolores del Rio, Rita Hayworth, Reginald Gardiner, Charles Lindbergh, and President Calvin Coolidge. There were hundreds of other celebrities too numerous to mention.

Davies and Hearst never married since Hearst was still married to his wife, who lived in New York. His wife refused to divorce him. Davies and Hearst lived together for more than 30 years, until he died in 1951 at age 88. Hearst left her 51percent of his estate.

Davies lived on to have another life at age 54 with Horace Brown, whom she married in late 1951. They remained together until she died of stomach cancer on September 22, 1961 in Los Angeles. She left an estate worth millions.



It was discovered Patricia (Van Cleve) Lake was the biological daughter of Davies and Hearst. She had always been passed off as a "niece" who belonged to Davies' sister.  Lake died Oct. 3, 1993.

Davies' famous beach house in Santa Monica has been turned into a historical center and is open to the public as the Annenberg Community Beach House.

Davies' was the mother-in-law of actor Arthur Lake, who played cartoon character Dagwood Bumstead in the movies.

Ms. Davies was on Hearst's yacht in 1924 when famed movie director Thomas Ince died. It was rumored Hearst shot Ince, thinking he was Charlie Chaplin, the real culprit, allegedly having an affair with Marion. The case was never solved.

Marion donated nearly $2 million to the Children's Hospital at UCLA.

It has been rumored for 70 years that Orson Welles' classic epic Citizen Kane (1941) was based partly on the lives of William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies.




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