Saturday, July 6, 2013

Shameless Saturday Camp Explosion: Never Looked Lovelier

"...the way of Camp, is not in terms of beauty, but 
in terms of the degree of artifice, of stylization."
- Susan Sontag, "Notes on Camp"

In terms of pure Camp, Marion Davies may be the greatest star in Hollywood history, on a very short list with the likes of Mae West (whose camp value is offset by her canny self-awareness) and Vera Hruba Ralston (who is mostly simply excruciating, and so not all that much fun).

When it comes to this little moment in her surprisingly long and successful career - a tender interlude in 1934's Operator 13 (in which she plays a Northern spy impersonating, for part of the epic, her own black maid) - I really can't improve on the description provided by brcmano, the very amusing YouTube poster who made this available: "Marion Davies shows to us that she doesn't know how to sing, and simply don't give a damn."  She is joined by the toothsome Mr. Gary Cooper, trim in a Civil War uniform, and backed by what looks startlingly (speaking of not giving a damn) like the Tara at Sunset set from Gone With the Wind (studio's right, MGM, but it's five years too early).

Operator 13 was Marion's last MGM feature; her patron, William Randolph Hearst, would shortly pull up stakes and move his pet star (and her massive dressing-room bungalow) over to the Warners lot, where instead of playing second fiddle to Norma Shearer, she would be, he hoped, be Queen of the Lot.  It didn't quite work out that way, but in the end it didn't really matter - a Davies picture was a Davies picture, more important in terms of keeping Marion busy than any actual box-office triumph, and in a few years she decided to throw in the towel and devote her time to her houses, her parties, taking care of her increasingly frail paramour (theirs is one of tenderest and truest of all movie love stories), and, increasingly, the occasional cocktail.

But for true fans, it's always 1934, and Marion, of course...never looked lovelier.


  1. At least she's better than Susan Alexander Kane!

  2. Replies
    1. In silver underwear? No, wait - that was Flash Gordon...

    2. Ah, but Sam Jones with no underwear was even better.

  3. She sings (and swings) like an actress... Jx

  4. Marion Davies' generosity -- to her fellow workers in the industry, ailing children (she founded a clinic at UCLA that still operates), and ultimately to Hearst himself when it appeared his empire was about to collapse -- make her not a gold digger, but one of the most special people in Hollywood.

  5. That is quite a frock! And did I see her knickers?!

  6. no one could ever accuse her of not
    being able to get those legs in the air.

    randolph taught her good.