On the surface, the story of Marion Davies reads like a real-life fairy tale. Born in Brooklyn at the turn of the century, she rose from a modest background to become one of the foremost personalities of 1920s Hollywood, coming to symbolize the freedom and high living of flapper-era America. As the companion of publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst for more than 3 decades, she was as legendary for her work onscreen as she was for the lavish parties held at her Santa Monica Beach House and Hearst Castle, and for the selfless generosity that defined her relationships.
A gifted comedienne and mimic, Marion Davies was one of only a handful of actors to successfully make the transition to talkies, despite the stutter that threatened to ruin her in front of the sound cameras. She traveled the world many times over, enjoyed a career that lasted far longer than most of her contemporaries, and had fun doing it.
But unlike a fairy tale, her seemingly charmed existence was not without its dark side. Marion’s career was controlled by William Randolph Hearst’s iron will and desires, limiting her substantial talent and relegating her to roles to which she was unsuited. Despite the free living attitude of Hollywood in the 1920s, she encountered intense scrutiny and judgment among moralists for living with the man she loved without marrying him, leading to a private life that was often fraught with difficulty. But what ultimately emerges from her story is a woman ahead of her time, possessing courage, strength, and a backbone of steel, who forged her own path and created her own destiny in spite of the limitations placed upon her.