Before her tenure as the reigning queen of Hollywood society, and her long-standing position as mistress of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies was among the most beautiful of Florence Ziegfeld’s glorified American girls. Here, she is a delicate princess captured at the height of her beauty by Alfred Cheney Johnston, who had as much a part of creating the Follies reputation as Ziegfeld himself.
Marion Cecelia Douras was born in the borough of Brooklyn, New York on January 3, 1897. She had been bitten by the show biz bug early as she watched her sisters perform in local stage productions. She wanted to do the same. As Marion got older, she tried out for various school plays and did fairly well. Once her formal education had ended, Marion began her career as a chorus girl in New York City and eventually found herself in the famed Ziegfeld Follies. But she wanted more than to dance. Acting, to Marion, was the epitome of show business and aimed her sights in that direction. Her first film was Runaway, Romany (1917) when she was 20. Written by Marion and directed by her brother-in-law, the film wasn’t exactly a box-office smash, but for Marion, it was a start and a stepping stone to bigger things. The following year Marion starred in three films, The Burden of Proof (1918), Beatrice Fairfax (1918), and Cecilia of the Pink Roses (1918). The latter film was backed by newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst, with whom Marion would continue a long-term romantic relationship for the next 30 years. Because of Hearst’s newspaper empire, Marion would be promoted as no actress before her. She appeared in numerous films over the next few years, with The Cinema Murder (1919) being one of the most suspenseful. In 1922, Marion appeared as Mary Tudor in the historical romantic epic, When Knighthood Was in Flower (1922). It was a film into which Hearst poured in millions of dollars as a showcase for her. Although Marion didn’t normally appear in period pieces, she turned in a wonderful performance and the film turned a profit. Marion remained busy, one of the staples in movie houses around the country. At the end of the twenties, it was obvious that sound films were about to replace the silents. Marion was nervous because she had a stutter when she became excited and worried she wouldn’t make a successful transition to the new medium, but she was a true professional who had no problem with the change. Time after time, film after film, Marion turned in masterful performances. In 1930, two of her better films were Not So Dumb (1930) and The Florodora Girl (1930). By the early 30s, Marion had lost her box office appeal and the downward slide began.
Had she been without Hearst’s backing, she possibly could have been more successful. He was more of a hindrance than a help. Hearst had tried to push MGM executives to hire Marion for the role of Elizabeth Barrett in The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934). Louis B. Mayer had other ideas and hired producer Irving Thalberg’s wife, Norma Shearer instead. Hearst reacted by pulling his newspaper support for MGM without much impact. By the late 1930’s Hearst was suffering financial reversals and it was Marion who bailed him out by selling off $1 million of her jewelry. Without her the Hearst Corporation might not be where it is today. Hearst’s financial problems also spelled the end to her career. Although she had made the transition to sound, other stars fared better and her roles became fewer and further between. In 1937, a 40 year old Marion filmed her last movie, Ever Since Eve (1937). Out of films and with the intense pressures of her relationship with Hearst, Marion turned to more and more to alcohol. Despite those problems, Marion was a very sharp and savvy business woman. After the death of Hearst in 1951, Marion married for the first time at the age of 54, to Horace Brown. The union would last until she died of cancer on September 22, 1961 in Los Angeles, California. She was 64 years old.
IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson
A large format double weight photograph with wonderful gentle sepia appearance.