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Marion Davies was 36 when she played Margaret O'Connell, the spirited teen-age Irish colleen who is the heroine of Peg O' My Heart (1933). William Randolph Hearst, the publishing magnate who formed a film-production company called Cosmopolitan Pictures for the sole purpose of creating star vehicles for Davies, his mistress, had tired of seeing her as a jaded blonde in such movies as Polly of the Circus and Blondie of the Follies (both 1932).
Hearst's gamble in returning the light of his life to the homespun roles of her youth paid off surprisingly well. In the opinion of Davies biographer Fred Lawrence Giles, the actress "made the audience forget her years through much of...the film...pouring considerable Irish charm and vitality into her role." Giles wrote that Hearst saw to it that Peg O' My Heart "was polished to a brightness" that made the film one of Davies' best. She won some excellent notices, including a comment from The New York Times that hers was a "whole-souled portrayal, always devoting more thought to Peg than to any idea of making herself attractive." The film did well at the box office, especially in smaller towns.
Released through MGM, Peg O' My Heart is a musicalized adaptation of J. Hartley Manners' stage success, which he wrote for his wife, Laurette Taylor. The play, which ran on Broadway for two years beginning in 1912, had been a triumph for Taylor, who also starred in a silent-screen version in 1922. In all versions, the story concerns the uneducated Peg's comic adventures after she is bequeathed two million pounds on the condition that she leave her homeland and live with an upper-crust English family.
Shortly after Davies completed filming Peg O' My Heart, she and Hearst threw one of their much-celebrated parties - this one to celebrate his 70th birthday - at San Simeon, the lavish estate shared by the couple. The guest list of about 200 included the cream of Hollywood society. The theme was "Pioneer America," and Davies dressed as Hearst liked to see her in films - in a gingham dress and sunbonnet. The dance orchestra repeatedly played the theme from Peg, "There's a Light in Your Eyes, Sweetheart, Darling," a lilting ballad in the old Irish tradition which was destined to become even more popular than the movie. Within a short time, it was named the country's number one song.
Producer: Robert Z. Leonard, John W. Considine Jr. (supervising, uncredited)
Director: Robert Z. Leonard (uncredited)
Screenplay: Frank R. Adams, Frances Marion (adaptation), from play by J. Hartley Manners
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Cinematography: George Barnes
Costume Design: Adrian
Editing: Margaret Booth
Original Music: Herbert Stothart
Cast: Marion Davies (Margaret "Peg" O'Connell), Onslow Stevens (Sir Gerald "Jerry" Markham), J. Farrell MacDonald (Patrick Shamus OConnell), Juliette Comptom (Ethel Chichester), Irene Browne (Mrs. Chichester), Tyrell Davis (Alaric Chichester), Alan Mowbray (Capt. Christopher Brent).
by Roger Fristoe