The ultimate insider from another era – on Marion Davies and W.R. Hearst

1930 Marian Davies and her father, Judge Douras
1930 Marion Davies and her father, Judge Douras

The Villa Carlotta was a fun place to live… SOUTH OF BEACHWOOD CANYON | BEGUILING HOLLYWOOD. Louella’s apartment was across from ours… Louella entertained a lot, and William Hearst and Marion Davies frequently attended her parties. I had never met Hearst but had seen him at the MGM studios when Marian made pictures there. It was a real shocker to talk to him because he was a huge man, but he had a tiny, shrill soprano voice. Marion Davies both adored and despised this man, who had bought her teenage favors by promoting her father to a federal judgeship. She was an exquisite girl but with absolutely no talent for projecting herself onto celluloid, despite the millions her paramour spent to elevate her to stardom. It was torture for her to act, to be funny (she was a chronic stutterer). But her Svengali was determined, so try she did. In her drunken moments, Marion railed bitterly against the man who truly loved her but could not get his wife to give him a divorce.

Marion and Hearst were in Magnin’s Boutique on Hollywood Boulevard one time when I was in one of the fitting rooms having a suit altered. Hearst selected a number of gowns, and Marion went to the fitting room to try them on. As the sales ladies helped her into her frocks, she opened her purse and extracted a silver flask filled with whiskey…

“I’m a slave, that’s what. A toy poodle.” And imitating a poodle she directed. “Now doggie, turn around. That’s a nice doggie. Wag your tail, doggie. Don’t want to? Hell, you’d better if you know what’s good for you!” It was hilariously funny to her but embarrassing to the rest of us. Yet when she reappeared before her lord and master and twirled around in her new finery, she was all smiles and laughter, and he was putty in her hands. Louella Parsons was a true friend to both of these lost souls. I think she felt compassion for her unhappy boss and his equally unhappy mistress. People trap themselves this way, and worldly goods and power do not make up for their misery.

“The Shocking Miss Pilgrim: a Writer in Early Hollywood”, by Frederica Sagor Maas The Shocking Miss Pilgrim: A Writer in Early Hollywood (9780813121222): Frederica Sagor Maas: Books.

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  1. George Kaplan
    July 24, 2013

    Isn’t it romantic? Dah-de-dah-de-dah…
    Yeesh, that is such a melancholy and somewhat stomach-churning tale. False Glamor and Real Horror!

    • July 24, 2013

      San Simeon – the grotesque opulence and isolation is captured particularly well in “Citizen Kane.

  2. George Kaplan
    July 24, 2013

    Yes, I was going to mention Charles Foster Kane! “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan…”

  3. July 25, 2013

    This is sad to read…but beautifully written. I like this Frederica’s style; I’ll have to suss out more of her material. Thank you for introducing her to me. 🙂

    • July 26, 2013

      It’s a great book – she knew everybody, started her career in silents, and lived to be 111.

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