Marion Davies (1897-1961) had a 20 year film career in both the silent and sound eras. Her costars in the 1930s included Clark Gable, Bing Crosby , Gary Cooper, Dick Powell.
She was an excellent light comedienne whose career was rather overshadowed by her private life as the mistress of newspaper tycoon, William Randolph Hearst. 

Good news that a new biography of Marion Davies is coming in 2022 – Captain Of Her Soul: The Life Of Marion Davies (UC Press) by Lara Gabrielle , a California based classic film writer and historian.
Lara kindly  agreed to talk about her book and interest in Marion Davies. Thank you ,Lara for answering  my questions !

        ”It’s been an absolute joy from the moment I started .My research has been conducted both in the United States  and Europe, primarily Los Angeles, Washington,D.C., UC Berkeley, New York, London and the south of France.

I went through both personal and professional archives, private letters, taped interviews, Marion’s autobiographical tapes, and I interviewed friends and acquaintances still alive.”



“I discovered Marion when I was about 13. I read ‘The Times We Had’, which is Marion’s autobiographical tales distilled into memoir form after her death.
I was struck by what a fascinating  woman she was . …she was incredibly  strong  and dealt with a lot in her life, and she always met the challenge and rose above it.”



“I have seen all of Marion’s films that still survive. There are several from the early days that are lost forever (that is….until they show up in somebody’s barn or attic!)

I like many for different reasons – I think BLONDIE OF THE FOLLIES is maybe her most 3-dimensional character, she rarely got to play those because Hearst  was protective of her image, and she is fabulous.
Of course I love SHOW PEOPLE, that’s an absolute masterpiece of silent cinema.”



With Robert Montgomery. BLONDIE OF THE FOLLIES


“Marion was head of her own production company within Cosmopolitan…..Hearst respected Marion enormously and essentially let her have director and leading man approval….she called all her own shots.

She was a phenomenal businesswoman….with real estate holdings , investments and knew instinctively how to deal with finances ( with only an 8th grade education.)



“Citizen Kane” is a great film that has been horribly misunderstood.People assume that ‘Susan Alexander’ is Marion but in fact all the characters are composites.

Hearst and Marion are the most well known of the composites so they got the brunt of it – Marion sort of shrugged off the movie – she claimed to not have been affected by it.”


My thanks to Lara for her observations . It’s a wait till 2022 but I am sure it will be worth it. Meanwhile Lara’s blog is at














9 responses »

  1. Great to learn a bit more about a great silent screen actress. Marion Davis, sounds like a fascinating character. I’m sure the book will be interesting and well worth a read. Sadly too many great films from the 20s & 30s are gone. I loved ‘Show People’, but I can’t say I have seen too many other of her films. Always on the look out for rare films appearing on Blu-Ray and DVD.

  2. There was a excellent biography of Marion by Fred Laurence Guiles many years ago. I am glad to hear of this new tribute to a much underrated actress. No one seems to have a bad word to say about her. On my first visit to L A in 1992. I was fortunate to meet her No 1 fan Bob Board who had become a great friend of Marion. He showed me home movies plus Spy 13 which I had never seen. Actress Virginia Madsen spent many hours with Bob, preparation for the TV film The Hearst And Davies Affair.

  3. Check out Bob’s incredible career on IMDb. A small part actor (He appeared in GILDA) and at one time was under contract to MGM. He was Robert Young’s stand in for over 20 years and they were close friends. He also made beautifully crafted dolls of the stars, including Marion. They first met when he presented the doll to her. He is on IMDb as Robert Board. On my second visit to Bob I met actresses Anne Gwynne and Trudy Marshall visiting his small private cinema.

    • Fascinating info about Bob Board. The sort of person one would love to have interviewed. And lucky you, visiting him – and meeting Anne and Trudy!
      Have you ever made a list of the vintage stars you have met in the U.K. and the States?
      I’ve ordered the Fred Guiles biography.

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