MARION DAVIES Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Marion Davies                                                                       
Birth name: Marion Cecelia Dourvas                                                         
Born: 3 January 1897 Brooklyn, New York                                                   
Died: 22 September 1961 Hollywood, California                                             
Marion Davies (January 3, 1897 – September 22, 1961) was an American actress of         
the silent era.                                                                           
Davies was born Marion Cecilia Dourvas in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest of             
five children born to Bernard J. Dourvas, 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, drowned at             
the age of 15 in 1906. His name was subsequently given to Marion's favourite               
nephew, the screenwriter Charles Lederer, the son of Marion's sister Reine                 
The Dourvas family lived near Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The sisters changed               
their surname to Davies, which one of them spotted on a realtor's sign in the             
neighborhood. Even at a time when New York was the melting pot for new                     
immigrants, having an Anglo-Saxon surname greatly helped one's prospects.                 
The sisters all hit the Great White Way, and Marion was signed on as a chorine             
in Florenz Ziegfeld's annual "Ziegfeld Follies" revues.                                   
Davies is best remembered for her relationship with newspaper tycoon William               
Randolph Hearst. Even during her career, her high-profile social life often               
obscured her professional career. In her posthumously published memoirs, Davies           
claimed she wasn't an actress, knew nothing about politics, and described                 
herself as a "silly, giggly idiot."                                                       
After making her screen debut in late 1916 in a fashion newsreel, modeling gowns           
by Lucile (Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon), she appeared in her first feature film in             
1917's Runaway Romany. It was a film written by herself and directed by her               
brother-in-law, the 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 comedic roles, she quickly                 
became a major movie personality, making a small fortune which enabled her to             
provide financial assistance for her family and friends.                                   
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             
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 dubbed the biggest house on the beach, "the beach between           
San Diego and Vancouver".                                                                 
Hearst had met her soon after she'd started working in movies, and formed                 
Cosmopolitan Pictures solely to produce 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, 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 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 two directed by King Vidor, The Patsy and the backstage-in-Hollywood           
saga Show People (both 1928). The Patsy contains her imitations, that she                 
usually did for friends, of silent stars Lillian Gish, Mae Murray and Pola Negri.         
The coming of sound made Davies nervous, because she had never completely                 
overcome a childhood stutter. Her career survived, 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. She also               
harboured an increasing dependence on alcohol, hiding bottles of liquor in San             
Simeon's toilet tanks. However, her body of work has often been praised by                 
contemporary critics.                                                                     
Hearst reportedly had tried to push MGM executives to hire Davies for the role             
of Marie Antoinette in Marie Antoinette (1938). Louis B. Mayer hired producer             
Irving Thalberg's wife Norma Shearer for the part instead. Hearst reacted by               
pulling his newspaper support for MGM, and moved Cosmopolitan Pictures to Warner           
Bros.'s studios, but stayed only a few years. Davies' films there included Page           
Miss Glory (1935), Hearts Divided, Cain and Mabel (both 1936), and Ever Since             
Eve (1937), her last film. Cosmopolitan Pictures folded, so she left the screen           
and retreated to San Simeon. Marion would later state in her autobiography that           
after many years of work, she had had enough, and decided to devote herself to             
being Mr. Hearst's "companion." In truth, Marion was intensely ambitious, but             
realized that at the age of forty, she still hadn't won over the public.                   
Hearst and Davies lived as a couple for decades but were never married, as                 
Hearst's wife refused to get a divorce. At one point, he reportedly came close             
to marrying Davies, but decided his wife's settlement demands were too high.               
Davies, although with Hearst for years, also privately dated other actors. In             
the mid-1920s, Davies had an affair with actor Charlie Chaplin, and in the mid-1930s       
she was involved with actor Dick Powell. Hearst was incredibly jealous and                 
possessive of her, even though he was married throughout their relationship.               
Her relationship with Chaplin became the stuff of legend in 1924 when he, Hearst,         
Davies (among other actresses and actors) were on Hearst's yacht with film                 
producer Thomas Ince when Ince died.                                                       
Despite the lack of evidence to support them, rumors have circulated since that           
time that Hearst mistook Ince for Chaplin and shot him in a jealous rage. The             
rumors were dramatised 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 and Cary Elwes as Ince.           
Patty Hearst co-authored a novel with Cordelia Frances Biddle titled Murder at             
San Simeon (Scribner, 1996), based upon the death of Ince.                                 
By the late-1930s, Hearst was suffering financial reversals; Davies bailed him             
out by selling off $1 million of her jewelry. When Hearst died, his family                 
had every trace of Davies' presence in his home removed, and when discussing his           
life and legacy, made no reference to her.                                                 
Ten weeks after Hearst's death, Davies married Horace Brown on October 31, 1951.           
It was not a happy marriage; he allegedly encouraged her drinking.                         
Davies filed for divorce twice, but neither was finalised. Her friends, and the           
media, noticed a remarkable physical similarity between Brown and the young               
In her last years, Davies was involved with charity work: in 1952 she donated $1.9         
million to establish a children's clinic at UCLA, which still bears her name.             
She also fought childhood diseases through the Marion Davies Foundation.                   
She suffered a minor stroke in 1956, and was later diagnosed with cancer of the           
jaw. She had an operation which appeared to be successful; she soon after fell             
and broke her leg, however. The last time Davies was seen by the American public           
was on January 10, 1960 on an NBC TV special called Hedda Hopper's Hollywood.             
Davies died of cancer in Hollywood, California. Her funeral was attended by               
many Hollywood legends, including Mary Pickford and Mrs. Clark Gable (Kay                 
Spreckels), as well as President Herbert Hoover. She is buried in the Hollywood           
Forever Cemetery in Hollywood. She left an estate estimated at more than $30               
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 Rosemary Davies (Marion's sister) and her first husband, George Van           
Cleeve. Although the claim does not appear to have been verified independently,           
Lake and her husband — Arthur Lake, who played Dagwood in numerous films — were       
buried beside Davies in the Douras family mausoleum.