William Randolph Hearst was one of the America's wealthiest and most powerful newspaper publishers who used his own empire to crusade mostly for progressive causes, a consummate politician who held White House aspirations, and an extravagant spender who build one of the United States' most fabled homes, and the inspiration for a film classic…
107). The screen career of Marion Davies is of course inextricably bound up with the name of William Randolph Hearst. While this fact has always been recognized, the critical treatment of this particular "help" has shifted considerably over the years. When Hearst and Davies were still actively producing films, none dared mention the personal side of their relationship. Benjamin Hampton, writing in 1930, summarized Hearst's film activities by noting, "Few producers have derived more enjoyment from the game".
Hearst interest in film predated his encounter with Davies. He operated the International Newsreel, an animation studio, and produced several of the most important early serials, including The Exploits of Elaine (1915). According to Proctor (1998), Hearst spotted Marion Davies in the 1916 Ziegfeld Follies and after seeing her performance in a cheaply made feature called Runaway Romany (1917) decided to fold her into his own motion-picture empire. Under the Cosmopolitan banner, Hearst was already producing a series of features with Alma Rubens, but because of his special interest in Davies, he now became involved on a much more personal level.
In the 1920s, with the war and the controversy behind him, the growth of the Hearst media empire was on the march again and he was undoubtedly the most famous newspaper publisher in the United States and c...
is overextension, a love affair with Davies, heavily promoted by his newspapers, and his eventual inheritance of the family fortune, following his mother's death, staved off disaster. In time Hearst vast newspaper empire, his movie studio, and his successful magazine division that included Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan became immensely profitable (Nasaw 2000).
The Bulk of Davies' Cosmopolitan productions, Nasaw (2000) continued, which were made in New York until Hearst shifted his center of operations to California in 1924, are light romantic melodramas. Some are more tearful than others, but one finds a wartime spy plot (The Burden of Proof, 1918), a comedy (Getting Mary Married, 1919), and a flapper-era morality tale (The Restless Sex, 1920). These films do no seems to have been especially successful, and Hearst was already being chided in print for his string of Davies features. After discussing the early serials and newsreels Robert E. Sherwood concluded:
"Up to this point Hearst had probably made money from pictures, but then he found Cosmopolitan Pictures Cooperation and started losing on a triumphant scale. He made picture after picture in which Marion Davies was featured, and on which he lavished incredible sums, and one after another flopped dismally. Miss Davies did not prove to be a stalwart box office attraction, and an irreverent wag in the movie industry remarked that Mr. Hearst had to bribe the exhibitors to rent his pictures" (The Best Moving Pictures of 1922-23, p. 50).
Hearst lived on a scale whose lavishness was news-making. He became popular in great measures because Davies was a creation of Hearst newspapers, magazines, and movies. The emphasis in all periods has been to suggest that Davies' screen career was manufactured, and then foisted ...
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(William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies Essay)
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