"Capturing the Truth: The True Story of Marion Davies" is a pretty good documentary about the screen comedienne and mistress of publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst. The documentary was made to dispel assumptions that Marion is basis of "Susan Alexander," the drunken no talent opera singer married to Charles Foster Kane in "Citizen Kane." It goes on to tell of the love story between Davies and Hearst, with a 1951 interview of Marion's occasionally supplying interesting audio bytes.
There was definite bias toward Hearst here, saying as much that he was within his rights to attempt to stop the release of "Citizen Kane." In fact he abused his power many times and used it as a weapon. The good part about this documentary is that it shows Marion the actress and Marion the woman with recounts from friends about her sense of fun, her generosity and her devotion to Hearst. It is a good insight into the woman, into the Hearst marriage, and into the 30 years Hearst and Marion had together.
Marion was talented and hard-working - would she have become a star if she hadn't had Hearst's support - given the right opportunities, probably. If her work seems old-fashioned today, it's because that work is 80 years old. Film and film acting were in its infancy. If people appeared in the documentary that were peripheral, as one of the posters here said, it's because it was hard to find people still alive who could speak about Marion or Hearst.
As to was she or wasn't she Susan Alexander, perhaps partially, perhaps not. Hearst was obviously too sensitive about the whole project to be rational. Orson Welles said it was a compilation of tycoons, and it probably was to an extent, but there isn't any doubt with Xanadu, the publishing, etc., that it relied heavily on Hearst.
Welles was a 24-year-old boy who came from radio and the New York stage to make "Citizen Kane," and Marion Davis at the time hadn't made a film in 4 years. Certainly it was well known that Hearst put the power of his publishing business behind her - to some people, that may easily have translated into thinking she had no talent. Frankly, I don't think that notion started with Citizen Kane. What Hearst was most upset about was that Susan Alexander was a drunk, and Marion had a drinking problem. That surely was put into the script to make the character more interesting. There was nothing of Marion's personality in Susan, and people who knew anything about her at all certainly recognized that at the time. Welles may have taken an idea that was floating around in the ozone and created a whole different scenario with it - modeling it, in fact, on Robert McCormick, a publisher who built the Chicago Opera House to promote his untalented girlfriend as an operatic star. It is sad that it remains a pervasive rumor that Susan is Marion - alas, sometimes rumors have more longevity than fact.
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