Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

William Randolph's Hearse


Marion Davies
Marion Davies

Though his marriage was reported to be a happy, fulfilling one with five healthy children, like most men with wealth and power, Hearst had a roving eye. In 1915 that 52-year-old eye fell on a lively, blonde-haired, 18-year-old dancer from the Ziegfeld Follies named Marion Davies.

Marion Davies was born Marion Cecilia Douras in Brooklyn, New York on January 3, 1897. She reportedly picked up her stage name after walking past a building named for the Davies Insurance Company in New York, and she liked the sound of it. Her whole family must have liked it, too. They all took on the name, including her sisters, Rose, Reine, and Ethel who also went into acting careers.

Marion appeared in a number of musicals during the silent era and had been in the Ziegfeld company when she first caught Hearst's eye in December 1915. She was prominently featured in a musical called Stop! Look! Listen! at New York's Globe Theatre. Hearst was in a second-row seat with another publisher friend who, it is believed, had been dating Marion. After she and Hearst became involved, he showered her with expensive gifts, but the best gift he gave her was a long career in show biz and in the public eye.

During the course of their lengthy affair, the bubbly, sprightly, fun-loving Marion was the balloon that lifted the spirits of the businesslike, strait-laced newspaper tycoon who was old enough to be her grandfather. Their age difference, according to many accounts, seemed to bring out the oft-buried fun side in him. Among other things, Marion delighted in masquerade parties and she encouraged "Pops" to participate, which he did. In one scene in The Cat's Meow, Hearst has on a jester's costume, which isn't stretching the truth too far. A number of photographs of Hearst in variously humorous costumed garb have been widely circulated over the years.

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