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Hearst's English Castle

“What were you saying about Hearst's mistress, Marion?” Rory asked.

“He saw Marion in a chorus line in 1915. Hearst was fifty-two, with a pregnant wife at home. But he still haunted the theaters, second row, one seat for him, and one for his hat. He was familiar to the showgirls, one of the wealthy men who would give a girl something nice if she favored him with her company.”


Russ nodded. “Marion was eighteen, but she knew what she was doing. She was already a practiced hand at this game. When she lost his first gift, a Tiffany Watch, she called Hearst up for a replacement.”

“He should have known she was a gold-digger. It seems obvious to me.”

“She was a gold digger all right, and she made no bones about it. But she made Hearst laugh. I think her most famous line was ‘I started out a gold digger, but then fell in love with him.’”

The others walked behind Russ and Rory, talking as they walked.

“The first film he produced for Marion was his favorite historical romantic epic, ‘Cecilia of the Pink Roses.’ That was in 1918 and to promote the movie he completely remodeled the theater. He even surrounded the entire movie screen with thousands of pink roses. And he had the ceiling and floor fans strategically placed to waft the scent of roses across the audience. For another Davies epic, ‘When Night Hood was in Flower’, 1922, Hearst spent fifteen times the average budget. He then publicized the expense in his newspapers.”

“I think Russ is the one in love with her.” Denise joined their conversation at the top of the landscaping stairs. Katie was right behind her.

“How are you, Katie?” Russ asked.

“I’m all right,” she replied. Smiling, she snuggled close to Rory. “Who are you talking about?”

“Hearst bought a castle in England for his girlfriend, Marion, to raise the baby,” Rory explained. “Now that’s what I mean about the rich and famous doing whatever they want.”

“The baby, Patricia Lake was born June 18, 1923, which means they conceived her near Sept 12, 1922, when the movie debuted,” Russ said. “In Hollywood, they said Marion Davies would have been nothing without Hearst. He micromanaged her career, and she never complained about his twelve-page telegrams dictating every scene in her film. She also never complained publicly when Hearst’s wife arrived in California, and she temporarily left the ranch. She was happy with her place in Hearst’s life.”

“So, they were the couple no one could talk about,” Denise added. “But she wasn’t a saint either. She knew Hearst had his private detectives reporting on her when she had affairs with Charlie Chaplin, Leslie Howard, and Dick Powell.”

“She knew that and stayed?”

“She relished the intrigue. Marion would say: ‘ That should give him something to think about.’” Denise smiled, thinking of Marion’s satisfaction

“Marion’s castle in England came about because of this affair.” Russ took over the narrative again. “Davies became pregnant by Hearst in the early 1920s. They conceived the child out of wedlock, so Hearst sent her to Europe to have the child in secret to avoid a public scandal. He joined her in Europe after he bought her a castle."

“When was this?”

“In 1925. Marion saw a picture of St. Donat’s castle in Country Life magazine and suggested she needed a place for their baby. Hearst spent a fortune renovating and revitalizing the place with architectural trophies from across the country.”

“Did Hearst visit her there?

“Yes, he went to St. Donat’s a lot. The locals enjoyed having Hearst in residence at the castle. He paid his employees well, and his arrival always created a big stir. Hearst built an electrical generating station for this small English community so his castle and the town could have lights. That impressed the locals immensely.

He spent much of his time entertaining influential people. His guests included Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and even a young John F. Kennedy. George Bernard Shaw said: ‘This is what God would have built if he had had the money.’”


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