Stars of Slapstick #48: Marion Davies
Today is Marion Davies’ birthday (1897-1961). sadly she is remembered for everything nowadays BUT her acting career: the Thomas Ince murder, her relationship with William Randolph Hearst and affair with Charlie Chaplin, and the Citizen Kane controversy chief among them. Hearst famously pressured the former Ziegfeld chorus girl into doing costume dramas and more dignified roles, possibly holding her career back by not allowing her to do the broader comedies that were rumored to be her forte. And the evidence remains before us in comedies like Tillie the Toiler (1927), The Fair Co-Ed (1927), The Patsy (1928), Show People (1928) and Not So Dumb (1930). She retired from pictures in 1937.
By the way, I highly recommend her autobiography The Times We Had if you want to meet the real Marion Davies. She’s certainly not completely frank (or sometimes even honest) but you do get to encounter her intelligence and humor; a needed antidote to the impression left by “Susan Alexander”.
For more on silent and slapstick film don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.