Captured on Film - The True Story of Marion Davies
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(Dec 03, 2002)
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Blonde, beautiful and talented, Marion Davies was the first and funniest screwball comedienne. As star of two of the best comedies ever made, "Show People" and "The Patsy," she combined zany slapstick and exuberant mimicry; she was also famous for her 35-year-long love affair with William Randolph Hearst. Unfortunately she has too often been remembered for a film in which she never appeared: "Citizen Kane." Orson Welles may have based his great film on the life of Hearst, but Davies was nothing like Susan Alexander. This loving and insightful combination of archival film clips, interviews, and rare home movies explores her life and work, from her days dancing in the Ziegfield Follies through her relationship with Hearst, which led to Hearst creating for her a movie studio and a legendary castle where she reigned over the elite of Hollywood. Narrated by Charlize Theron, this moving tribute to a silver screen legend is one to cherish.
Tennessee Williams once wrote, "Marion Davies makes up for the rest of Hollywood," and this superb documentary demonstrates why the gifted actress was so beloved in high society. Executive produced by Hugh Hefner and narrated by Charlize Theron, Captured on Film corrects the fallacy that obscured Davies's achievements since the release of Citizen Kane in 1941. Orson Welles intended no harm with his masterpiece, but the film's portrayal of a publishing tycoon--loosely based on William Randolph Hearst and his lengthy affair with Davies--painted an unflattering portrait of a talentless, drunken mistress, and Davies was quite the opposite. Among many expert interviewees, film historian Kevin Brownlow observes that Davies was truly the first screwball comedian, and vintage film clips bear him out: watch Davies impersonate such film greats as Lillian Gish and Pola Negri, and you can see her comedic gift in full bloom, undiminished by time. Her 32-year devotion to Hearst (whose wife refused to divorce him) is accurately chronicled as sincere and meaningful, and the 1927 feature Quality Street offers a worthy showcase for Davies's versatile talents. (It was remade in 1937 with Katharine Hepburn; this silent version is arguably superior.) --Jeff Shannon
- Bonus feature: the rarely seen Marion Davies feature "Quality Street" (1927, 111 min.), from a story by James M. Barrie, with a piano score by Philip Carli
- Stills gallery
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Her career and her life with W.R. Hearst is celebrated and featured in the one hour documentary "Captured on Film: The True Story of Marion Davies". A fantastic documentary on the life of Marion Davies, how she met Hearst, her career in silent films and then how she felt about the talkies and also covering her life after film, the Ince scandal, affair rumors, her niece Patricia Lake (who was actually the child of both Hearst and Davies), the death of Hearst and the death of Davies.
A fascinating documentary with so much detail about her life, the "Captured on Film" also goes into one of the most unfortunate things that has ever happened to an actress, specifically Marion Davies.
Known as the first screwball comedienne, Marion Davies has had an illustrious career from 1917 through 1937 which was well known to many at that time...that was until the the Orson Welles 1941 film "Citizen Kane" was released.
"Citizen Kane", considered to be the greatest film ever made, is a film which many people believe to be an autobiographical film in which the character Charles Foster Kane is based on the mogul William Randolph Hearst and the ditsy, no-talent character Susan Alexander Kane was based on Marion Davies.
Unfortunately, since the film and as the Silent Film became forgotten, many people believed that Marion Davies was the same as Susan Alexander Kane. An actress who was with a rich publishing mogul and a person without talent. Although "Citizen Kane" to this day is considered by many film institutes as the greatest film ever made, unfortunately, the myth of Marion Davies is like the character of Susan Alexander Kane is absolutely false but for many it became fact. Marion Davies was nothing like the character of Susan Alexander Kane. Not only did Davies have business smarts, she was one of the most talented actresses of that time. She also was an inspiration to many, as she donated money to help the needy, to help friends and it was well-known that she had a stuttering problem but for her live action films, she showed many that can she overcome the problem.
Orson Welles commented, "We had somebody very different in the place of Marion Davies. And it seemed to me to be something of a dirty trick, and does still strike me as being something of a dirty trick, what we did to her. And I anticipated the trouble from Hearst for that reason." (from "The Battle Over Citizen Kane" PBS documentary)
But at what cost has "Citizen Kane" hurt Marion Davies reputation overtime? One thing that we do know is that Davies never watched the film but she did write, "I had no anger toward Orson Welles. After all, everybody is created to do their very best, and he probably thought that was his way to make money. Who was I to say I didn't like the way he did his picture? I was not built that way. I liked to keep the waters calm. "
Fortunately, with this documentary, people will get to know who Marion Davies is and how she was unlike the character featured in "Citizen Kane".
Also, included with this DVD release is a Marion Davies MGM 1927 silent film titled "Qualty Street", a film based on the 1901 play by J.M. Barrie. Directed by Sidney Franklin and featuring a piano score by Philip Carli, "Quality Street" takes place in England during the Napoleonic Wars and revolves around Phoebe Throssel (played by Marion Davies). As many of the young and older women are smitten by Dr. Valentine Brown (played by Conrad Nagel), Brown has his eyes set only on the young and beautiful Phoebe.
All seems to go quite well between the two, but while walking home, Brown sees a rally in which the the military is asking for men to join and fight for their country against the impending march of Napoleon's troops to Britain. Phoebe who thinks that Dr. Brown would be proposing is shocked when she finds out that Brown is going to join the military to fight for the country.
Fast forward several years later and Phoebe and her sister Susan are now teachers but during those years, the young and beautiful Phoebe looks much different. She no longer shows the enthusiasm that she once had, wearing eye glasses and covering her whole head with a bonnet, she is much different than before. And in one instance at school, she finds out that one of the young students drew her and called her an old maid.
Meanwhile, Dr. Brown returns from war, with a few battle scars but what has kept him going is his love for Phoebe and can't wait to propose to her. When Brown arrives back home, he and Phoebe finally meet but things are not the same as before. Brown is shocked by how Phoebe looks and Phoebe can tell that with the years that have passed, not only have they grown older but she can tell Dr. Brown does not see her in the same way anymore.
But the reaction of Dr. Brown towards her and the incident at the school and a student looking at her as an "old maid" has hurt her. But now she has had enough. She wants to know how much Dr. Brown loves her but the only way is to transform into the vamp "Livvy", the niece of Phoebe. Phoebe tells her sister Susan that if Brown really loves her and not her looks, he will avoid Livvy but if he becomes smitten with her, she does not want anything to do with him.
As Dr. Brown returns back to Phoebe's home to apologize, instead of meeting Phoebe, he comes across the sexy Livvy. Will Dr. Brown be allured by the charm of the sexy Lilli? Or will his heart and love for Phoebe remain?
For "Captured on Film - The True Story of Marion Davies", the documentary features very good photos as we get modern interview footage with those who knew Marion Davies and also the archived footage featured in the documentary are good as well.
As for "Quality Street", the film is presented in black and white (1:33:1) and the picture quality of the film varies. While the film is watchable and most of the scenes are good, you will notice that there is degradation from the original film source and see some warping on the sides of the film. Fortunately, the main part of the film is not damaged but towards the end of "Quality Street", there is about a minute or so, where the degradation takes over the whole screen. It is watchable but that is probably the only time where the film is at its worst. Fortunately, it's for a short time only.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
"Captured on Film - The True Story of Marion Davies - The Milestone Collection" is presented in Dolby Digital Stereo for the documentary "Captured on Film - The True Story of Marion Davies". The dialogue is clear. As for "Quality Street", the silent film features a piano score by Philip Carli. Quality Street has English intertitles.
"Captured on Film - The True Story of Marion Davies - The Milestone Collection" comes with the following special features:
* Stills Gallery - Featuring an autoplay of movie still images and photos featuring Marion Davies and WR Hearst.
I absolutely love Marion Davies. When it come to beautiful silent film stars, next to Louise Brooks, she is one of my favorites. I suppose one of the reasons why I enjoy her work is that, while Mary Pickford films usually are serious films, Marion Davies films are the screwball comedies and films where she just has fun. She's one of those actresses where your eyes are glued to the film as she is definitely ravishing but her acting and mannerisms, are just fantastic.
But it is a shame when you follow her career, despite having a flourishing career especially during the transition from silents to talkies, she has had such a raw deal despite all that she has accomplished and contributed. From the Ince scandal, her affair with WR Hearst and then "Citizen Kane", you just wish that people can know the true Marion Davies than what we see of Susan Alexander Kane who is nothing like Davies.
Of all people, "Citizen Kane" director/actor Orson Welles was even asked to contribute a foreword to Marion Davies oral history "The Times We Had" in which Welles went on to say about Davies, "Marion Davies was one of the most delightfully accomplished comediennes in the whole history of the screen. She would have been a star if Hearst had never happened. She was also a delightful and very considerable person. The proof is in this book, and I commend it to you."
Despite how anyone may have felt about Hearst, she was dedicated to him, maybe not loyal but she was with him and both shared the brunt of the media. But despite her personal life with Hearst, Davies is one of the most talented comediennes in the history of screen and with the release of "Captured on Film - The True Story of Marion Davies", I am so grateful for this documentary and grateful to Milestone Film & Video for including one of her silent films on this DVD.
"Quality Street" may not be one of Marion Davies classic films but it's one of the films that showcases her charm and how she knows how to use her mannerisms to showcase the character's personality but also showcases her strength in production (which she did a lot for WR Hearst films). Both Davies and Conrad Nagel have very good chemistry onscreen and for the most part, the film is a dramatic comedy that doesn't get too serious or convoluted. I do like the set design and costume design as well as the early cinematography for the film. I've read for the dolly shots, cinematographer Hendrik Sartov used a hand-held camera and wore roller skates. If that is the case, that would be very impressive, especially knowing how bulky camera equipment was during that time. "Quality Street" may not be among the top or most recognized Marion Davies films but the film does showcase humor and charm and for the most part, I enjoyed the film and that it was included alongside with the documentary as an excellent bonus.
Nearly a decade since the release of this DVD, fortunately we are now starting to see some of her classic films released (from Warner Archive) and aired on TCM. As a new generation of viewers discover silent film, I'm sure they will discover Marion Davies and hopefully now, a renewed interest and respect for one of the best comedic actresses of all time thanks to this documentary and DVD release.
If you have discovered Marion Davies or a big fan of the comedienne, "Captured on Film - The True Story of Marion Davies" is definitely recommended!
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A little shocking to find out about her personal life and that long affair...Read more