The subject of this week’s Monday Quiz may not be immediately familiar to our readers under a certain age, but think of Marion Davies this way:
Recall the Susan Alexander character in Orson Welles’ 1941 masterpiece, Citizen Kane. You know, the aspiring opera singer (played by Dorothy Comingore) who sang flat, and was pushed way beyond her artistic limits by her media mogul lover determined that he was not about to made to look ridiculous.
Well, that character was loosely — very loosely — based on Marion Davies, the lifelong lover of William Randolph Hearst, a surprisingly gifted movie actress (in both silents and ‘talkies’) who ended her life as a genuine Hollywood doyenne, a wealthy and generous woman with many show biz friends.
Given that Davies flourished in the Twenties and early Thirties — beginning in 1917 and winding up two decades later — you may not be all that familiar with her life and acting career. But don’t let that stop you. Why not take our Marion Davies Quiz anyway, and see how you do?
We are indebted here to a pair of biographies of newspaper mogul Hearst, Ben Proctor’s William Randolph Hearst (2007, Oxford Univ, Press) and David Nasaw’s The Chief (2000, Houghton Mifflin, 2000,). Davies played such a key role in his life that books about him are largely about her.
Ok, here we go:
1) Question: Davies was a close friend of one of Hollywood’s most famous gossip columnists. Which one of the following was she closest to? a) Louella Parsons; b) Jimmy Fidler; c) Hedda Hopper; or d) Earl Wilson.
2) Question: Davies’ lover, the fabulously wealthy Hearst, was much older than she was. How many years separated the two? a) 12; b) 25; c) 15; or d) 34.
3) Question: Davies, a not-terribly-good-looking actress of mediocre skills, would have gone nowhere with the huge career push provided by Hearst? a) True; or b) False.
4) Question: From childhood on, Davies coped with a physical imperfection that influenced her whole life. Which of the following describes the defect best? a) She was born with a large, hook nose; b) She was cross-eyed; c) She battled a pronounced stutter; d) She was bow-legged.
5) Question: Davies was highly religious from childhood, and refused to participate in some of Hearst’s more bizarre sexual antics. a) True; or b) False?
6) Question: Davies never loved Hearst but couldn’t do without the financial support he provided to her career? a) True; or b) False?
7) Question: Here’s a tough one. Which of the following was Davies’ first ‘talking’ picture? a) Cecilia of the Pink Roses; b) When Knighthood Was In Flower; c) The Floradora Girl; or d) Marianne.
8) Question: Which Hollywood studio most welcomed Davies early in her movie acting career? a) Paramount; b) Warner Bros.; c) MGM or d) Republic Pictures.
9) Question: Although she never married Hearst, Davies, soon after his 1951 death, eloped to Las Vegas with a man in which of these professions. a) A studio executive; b) A big time Hollywood agent; c) An obscure actor; or d) A Merchant Marine captain.
10) Question: Davies’ lasting reputation as an actress was: a) As a remarkably gifted comedienne; b) As a dramatic presence in costume dramas; c) As a song and dance performer; or d) As total no-talent with heavy duty connections.