Captain of Her Soul: The Life of Marion Davies

Univ. of California. Sept. 2022. 332p. ISBN 9780520384200. $34.95. FILM
Marion Davies expert Gabrielle spent nine years on this scrupulously researched biography of American actress Davies (1897–1961), who was for a long time better known as the mistress of tabloid publisher William Randolph Hearst. Davies and Hearst’s 30-plus-year relationship has been the subject of novels, films, and documentaries. She and “W.R.” threw extravagant parties at his palatial estate and her Hollywood mansion, hobnobbing with the stars and politicos of the day. Gabrielle presents a more well-rounded picture of Davies. Though sometimes verging on hagiography, this work discusses her success in silent films, her transition to sound pictures despite a persistent stutter; her generosity to friends, family, and several charities (she even bailed out Hearst when his company nearly went bankrupt); and her business savvy. Gabrielle also addresses Davies’s alcoholism and an unhappy marriage after Hearst’s death. While she also crisply dismisses rumors about a Hearst/Davies love child passed off as a “niece” and a suspicious death on Hearst’s yacht—readers may not be convinced.
VERDICT For fans of old-Hollywood lore and classic movies, especially those starring Marion Davies. With notes, bibliography, filmography, and just enough photos to send readers to the internet in search of more images of Davies and her milieu.
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