King Vidor

S.: Agnes Christine Johnston, Laurence Stallings. F.: John Arnold. Scgf.: Cedric Gibbons. M.: Hugh Wynn. Canzone: Crossroads, William Axt, David Mendoza. In.: Marion Davies (Peggy Pepper), William Haines (Billy Boone), Dell Henderson (Colonello Pepper), Paul Rally (André), Tenen Holtz (il direttore del casting), Harry Gribbon (il regista delle commedie), Sidney Bracy (il regista dei drammi), Polly Moran (la donna di servizio), Albert Conti (il produttore), John Gilbert, Mae Murray, Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Elinor Glyn (loro stessi). P.: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures. 35 mm. L.: 2179m. D.: 79’ a 24 f/s. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

There was a comedy, I think it was called Polly Preferred. It was terrible, but they had bought it and it was theirs. Stallings and I rewrote it, taking inspiration from the life of Gloria Swanson who, starting as one of Mack Sennett’s bathing beauties, had become first a star and then Marquise de la Falaise de la Coudraye, so when she returned to Paramount studios she was treated with great honor. De Mille himself helped her out of the coach, etcetera, etcetera. We did the same with Marion Davies, and out of it came Show People, which makes the most of Davies’ abilities as an impersonator and comic actress: and in my opinion she is truly fabulous in this film. In Show People I even make fun of myself by caricaturing a love scene from Bardelys the Magnificent. I filmed in Mack Sennett’s studio, which no one used anymore, before they tore it down. All the comical scenes were filmed there. We even worked with Mack Sennett’s actors. Then we moved to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, as Davies’ career gradually took off. Then I redid a scene from The Big Parade, with Marion Davies in the part that Renée Adorée had played and me in the part of the director. Looking back at myself I said, “Gosh! I sure was handsome. I should have been an actor”. My acting wasn’t bad at all in that film.

King Vidor, A Tree Is a Tree, Harcourt, New York, 1953

In her career in the Twenties, we may remark a special attention in choosing women scenarists, writing for her more congenial characters. Marion Davies was a close friend of screenwriter Frances Marion, who appreciated her intelligence and spirit, and proposed her more appealing stories. It was however in the venture with King Vidor and scenarist Agnes Christine Johnston for a series of films depicting the show business world that Marion Davies was able to express her best acting talent, in particular in The Patsy (1928) and Show People (1928). Agnes Christine Johnston participated in the writing of both films: she was a light-handed writer, authoring the script of The Patsy (while the titles’ credits go to the most famous titlist of the time, Ralph Spence) and adapting Show People (whose continuity is credited to another writer, Wanda Tuchock).

Giuliana Muscio, Girls, Ladies, Stars, Cinegrafie, n. 13, 2000

Hearst put up the money for many of the movies in which Marion Davies was starred and, more importantly, backed her with publicity. But this was less of a favour than might appear. That vast publicity machine was all too visible; and finally, instead of helping, it cast a shadow – a shadow of doubt. Could the star have existed without the machine? The question darkened an otherwise brilliant career. 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.

Orson Welles, 28/5/1975, in Marion Davies,  The Times We Had: Life with William Randolph Hearst, Mass Market Paperback, 1989

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