January 07, 2008

Marion Davies

TCM recently introduced me to a splendid actress and I am ashamed I didn't know about her sooner. Marion Davies is actress from the 20s and 30s, and one of the most charming and riotously funny actresses I've ever come across. As I was watching her films, I realized I had never really seen a silent film with a hilarious lady in it- usually women in silent films are weepy, mopey, or faint a lot. Later on I dug up some info on her, and was astonished. This woman figures into American pop culture more than I ever would have guessed. She is famous as the life-long mistress of Mr. William Randolph Hearst. They never married as Hearst couldn't finagle a divorce from his wife, but Hearst doted on Marion fiercely and set a new bar for all the sugar daddies in the world to reckon by. He created a movie studio for her to head, and produced dozens of films as star vehicles for her. If this sounds at all familiar, its because Orson Welles adapted this story in "Citizen Kane", implying through the character of Susan Alexander than Marion Davies was just a kept woman who's success was fake and undeserved. Ever wonder why snooty film majors make such a big whoop out of "Citizen Kane", calling it the best film ever made? You yourself have probably watched it, then shrugged your shoulders and gone "meh! whats the big deal?" Well, after learning what a commotion it caused in its time, I think I have a better idea of why it is remembered so well. "Citizen Kane" is basically an allegory based on William Randolph Hearst's life. Hearst and Davies, though more or less forgotten today, were superstars for decades. When "Citizen Kane" came out, the audiences surely knew who Charles Foster Kane and Susan Alexander were based on. Hearst bucked furiously at the implications it made about Marion (particularly her drinking) and even endeavored to destroy all the prints of the film. Perhaps the scent of scandal still lingers over the "Citizen Kane", even if most people have forgotten who made the original stink. How sad that people today will remember Susan Alexander, but not Marion Davies. Because the truth of the matter is that Marion Davies was superbly talented. Go rent "The Red Mill" and you'll see what a treasure she is. She was a remarkable woman for her time, or any time for that matter.

Thank you again, TCM, for continuously expanding my cinematic education! Oh, and this doodle isn't technically supposed to be Marion Davies- I just was inspired to do some 30s stuff after seeing Marion's movies.

No comments: