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Star of the Month: Dick Powell
Remind Me

Page Miss Glory

Marion Davies and her mentor, publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, made the transition from MGM to Warner Bros. with Page Miss Glory (1935), a Cinderella story. Although Davies was an underrated star and a fine comedienne, most of her fame was a product of publicity in Hearst's papers, engineered by gossip columnist Louella Parsons. The move to MGM changed Hollywood history nonetheless. It was so important to Warners, in fact, that a year later the studio commemorated her stardom there with a Tex Avery cartoon based on the film.

Davies made all her films through Hearst's Cosmopolitan Pictures, which for most of her career were produced and released through MGM. Although not ambitious for herself, Davies had a strong desire to please her mentor, who was increasingly dissatisfied with what he perceived as the studio's failure to treat his star as a star. In particular, he was miffed that two roles he had wanted for Davies, Elizabeth Barrett Browning in The Barretts of Wimple Street (1934) and Marie Antoinette (1938), had been given instead to Norma Shearer, whose husband, Irving G. Thalberg, was the studio's head of production. When they lost the latter role, he entered negotiations with Warner Bros. and, in 1935, moved his Cosmopolitan Pictures from MGM's Culver City lot to Warners' Burbank location.

This was an important move for Warner Bros. Although most of Davies' films barely broke even, primarily because of the extravagance with which they were produced, her presence guaranteed the studio preferential treatment in Hearst's papers, a big help in drawing Depression-weary audiences into movie theatres. But those benefits hardly came cost-free. When Davies refused to leave her personal bungalow behind, they had to have her two-story structure transported across town from MGM. This required breaking it into three parts, loading each part on a truck, and driving through Los Angeles' busy streets at five miles an hour. When one of the pieces fell off its truck, it stood on its side, blocking traffic, for hours as passersby snuck in to see how the other half lived. Once the thing had been delivered and reassembled, studio head Jack Warner had two rooms added to it and gave Davies a silver Rolls-Royce just to keep her happy.

There was one thing nobody would give her, however. During filming she developed a crush on the picture's juvenile star, Dick Powell. Although he was single at the time, Powell didn't want to risk Hearst's considerable ire for having an affair with his mistress. And Director Mervyn LeRoy did everything he could to keep them apart, then realized that Powell himself was too scared to take advantage of the situation. He barely said a word to his co-star off the set.

Needless to say, Davies felt lonely and alienated on the new lot at first. She had left most of her friends behind at MGM, though Warners borrowed cinematographer George Folsey, who knew how to shoot the aging star at her best, for this and her next film, Hearts Divided (1936). There was little problem, however, making the transition from Adrian's trend-setting designs at Metro to her new costumer, the equally gifted Orry-Kelly. Before long, Davies had bonded with her female co-stars, Mary Astor and Patsy Kelly. Most days she invited them to her bungalow for "girl talk," which consisted mainly of gossip and free-flowing champagne. Often during the shoot, LeRoy had to release the company early when the three ladies succumbed to fits of alcohol-induced giggling. There was a downside to their playfulness, of course. All three ladies would suffer from alcoholism in later years, with Kelly's and Astor's careers sidelined as a result.

None of the publicity generated by Davies' move to Warner's translated into much at the box office. Despite some positive reviews, even from papers Hearst didn't own, there weren't enough Davies fans to off-set the costly production. Within three years, as each of her Warners films continued to under perform, Davies would retire from the screen to devote herself fulltime to drinking and tending to Hearst's needs.

Producer: Marion Davies (uncredited)
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Screenplay: Delmer Daves, Robert Lord
Based on the Play by Joseph Schrank & Phillip Dunning
Cinematography: George J. Folsey
Art Direction: Robert M. Haas
Music: Leo F. Forbstein
Cast: Marion Davies (Loretta Dalrymple/"Dawn Glory"), Pat O'Brien (Dan "Click" Wiley), Dick Powell (Bingo Nelson), Mary Astor (Gladys Russell), Frank McHugh (Ed Olson), Lyle Talbot (Slattery of the Express), Patsy Kelly (Betty), Allen Jenkins (Petey), Barton MacLane (Blackie), Hobart Cavanaugh (Joe Bonner), Lionel Stander (Nick Papadopolis), Mary Treen (Beauty Operator), Irving Bacon (Waiter), John Quillan (Bellboy).
BW-93m. Closed captioning.

by Frank Miller



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