Actress. She is remembered for being an actress in the pioneer years of the Hollywood film industry. With her three older sisters, Rose, Reine, and Ethel, being successful performers in New York City on Broadway, she had a desire to follow in their footsteps. Starting in school plays, she became a chorus girl after graduation and eventually appearing in the famous Ziegfeld Follies. While being a model, she met William Randolph Hearst, a publishing tycoon, and, although he was married with children, she began a very public intimate thirty-year relationship with him. He was thirty-four years her senior. In the era of black-and-white silent movies, at the age of twenty, she made her first film, “Runaway Romany” in 1917, which she wrote and her brother-in-law directed. In 1918 she appeared in three more films, which were financed by Hearst, including the one that made her a star, “Cecilia of the Pink Roses.” From this point, she appeared in more films which were financed by Hearst. After Hearst's wife and children returned to New York in 1927, the couple lived together in his grand mansion, Hearst Castle, in San Simeon, California. They hosted legendary parties attended by many Hollywood personalities. Although some sources state that her popularity as an actress was due to her association with the newspaper magnate Hearst, many newspapers not owned by him gave her favorable reviews for her performances. Although Hearst felt she belonged in more serious costume dramas such as “When Knighthood Was in Flower” in 1922, “Yolanda” in 1924, and “Lights of Old Broadway” in 1925, she is believed that she performed best in light comedies such as “Adam and Eva” in 1923, “The Fair Co-Ed” in 1927,“Show People” and “The Patsy” in 1928, “The Floradora Girl” in 1930 and “Bachelor Father” in 1931. With the introduction of the “talkie” films, she was concerned about passing the voice test but did despite of stuttering when she was nervous or excited; her transition was successful. She continued to have roles in the 1930s, but as the years passed, she had fewer and fewer roles offered. In her memoirs, “The Time We Had,” she blamed Hearst for her decline with pushing her to do drama, over promoting her, and his financial problems in the late 1930s. She sold over a million dollars worth of her jewelry to allay his financial problems. Her last role was in “Ever Since Eve” in 1937. A large blow to her reputation came in 1941 with the release of Orson Welles' film, “Citizen Kane,” which was claimed to be based on Heart's life and featured a character named “Susan Alexander;” this character apparently was based on Davies' part in his life. Moviegoers came away from believing she was a no-talent, drunken floozy whose rich and powerful lover forced his newspapers to only print favorable reviews for her movies. Since this movie, many film historians have attempted to restore her professional reputation. Although she began to have some problems with alcohol abuse after her retirement, she was a very sharp businesswoman. After Hearst's death in 1951, she married Horace Brown and even after filing for divorce twice, remained married to him until her death. Before her death, she was involved in charity work especially fighting childhood diseases through the Marion Davies Foundation and financing a $1.9 million children's clinic at University of California at Los Angeles in 1952.
Bio by: Carrie-Anne
Horace G. Brown