Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
She was a beautiful and funny blonde girl, whose long-running relationship with newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst obscured her very genuine talents.
Of Greek and Irish heritage, she was born Marion Douras in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest of five children born to Herbert Douras, a lawyer who moved in New York City political circles, and Rose Reilly, formerly of Jersey City, New Jersey. Her elder siblings included Rose, Reine, and Ethel. A brother, Charles, died at the age of fifteen from drowning in 1906.
The Douras family lived near Prospect Park in Brooklyn, but already the bright lights of Manhattan beckoned to the sisters. They all became showgirls on the Great White Way, where Florenz Ziegfeld was beginning his spectacular annual "Ziegfeld Follies" shows. These shows were considered the high end of Vaudeville.
The girls changed their surname to Davies, which one of them spotted from a realtor's sign in the neighborhood. Even as New York was the melting pot for new immigrants, having a WASP surname greatly helped one's prospects.
She made her film debut in 1917's Runaway Romany. So she begun to play light comedic roles well into the 1920s and giving generous financial assistance to her family and friends. These facts are still overshadowed by her relationship with William Randolph Hearst, who was married to former showgirl turned society grande dame Millicent Veronica Willson , and Davies' fabulous life as hostess at San Simeon and Ocean House in Santa Monica. Hearst met her soon after she'd started working in movies, and formed Cosmopolitan Pictures solely to produce starring vehicles for her.
Hearst loved seeing her in expensive costume pictures such as Janice Meredith (1924) and Quality Street (1937), but in retrospect she seems to have fared just as well, if not better, in contemporary comedies like Tillie the Toiler, The Fair Co-Ed (both 1927), and especially two directed by King Vidor, The Patsy and the delightful backstage-inHollywood saga Show People (both 1928), where she showed an excellent comedic talent, and a considerable pantomimic skills.
Marion outshone her siblings with a 20-year movie career, playing light comedic roles well into the 1930s. 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. She also harboured an increasing dependence on alcohol, hiding bottles of liquor in San Simeon's toilet tanks.
In all she played in fifty movies, including ten movies that she produced. Her last was in 1937.
She is sometimes confused with the shrill, talentless Susan Alexander character portrayed in Citizen Kane, which was based loosely on Hearst's life. But there's little similarity between the fictional character and real woman.
At one point Hearst's empire crumbled and he was about to lose everything. Over Hearst's objections, Davies sold millions of dollars of the gifts Hearst had given her over the years to raise money to bail him out. Davies commented that the gold digger had fallen in love.
Ten weeks after the death of William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies married for the first time, at the age of fifty-four, on October 31, 1951. Her husband was a former sea captain and policeman and sometime actor, Horace G. Brown. It was not a happy marriage: Marion filed divorce papers twice but no divorce was ever finalized.
Marion Davies died of Cancer in Hollywood, California. Her funeral was attended by old-time Hollywood legends and President Herbert Hoover. She is buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood.
After the death of Davies' niece, Patricia Lake (née Van Cleeve), Lake's family announced that she was in fact the daughter of Marion Davies and William Randolph Hearst. Prior to the announcement, it had been said that Lake was the daughter of Rose Davies (Marion's sister) and her first husband, George Van Cleeve. Although the claim does not appear to have been verified independently, Patricia and her husband—Arthur Lake, who played Dagwood in numerous films—were buried with Marion Davies.
- History of Santa Monica, California in the 1920s A short history of Ocean House.
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