Ann Leonard: Thank you for doing this. I know you don’t do many interviews. Your life has been iconic in so many ways. Will you look back with me and answer a few questions about William Randolph Hearst – or WR as you like to call him – and Norman Kerry and of course, Charlie Chaplin? And I hope we can talk about your daughter Patricia, and your sisters, and of course Orson Welles and Citizen Kane.
Marion Davies: Thank you for having me. It’s nice to be able to talk openly about subjects that were taboo when I lived them.
Ann Leonard: Well, then let’s dive in. When you think of WR now, what do you think of?
MD: Love. His uncompromising devotion and love for me. WR adored me and though he had his ideas about how to show me and how to protect me, his love was like a big bear hug, it sometimes smothered me.
AL: There were rumors about WR hiring private detectives to follow you so he could keep an eye on you. Is that true?
MD: It’s true. He started doing that while we were still in New York. He’d have to leave town for work or whatever he did when he wasn’t with me, and he wanted to know where I was every single minute. He was so jealous. It made me so mad but he would never stop it, no matter how much I begged.
AL: Later it must have been hard, after you moved to Hollywood, and he hosted Millicent and his four sons at San Simeon while the Castle was being built.
MD: Please don’t call it that. WR hated when people called it a Castle. Please call it the Ranch. Thank you. [She pauses and looks out the window.] Yes, it was hard to be hidden from sight when Millicent came to town. It broke my heart. I knew WR didn’t love her, but he had to be a father to his boys and they always travelled with her when they were young. Those were tough years after we moved west.
AL: But isn’t that when you and Charlie Chaplin began your affair?
MD: Charlie was a sweetheart. I loved him dearly and the chemistry we had was undeniable and incomprehensible to me. The air crackled when we were together. We enjoyed ourselves immensely during those early years. I know you have details that I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say I’ve read parts of the book coming out – THE BLUE BUTTERFLY – and I don’t object to anything.
AL: That’s quite an endorsement Ms. Davies. I’m sure the world will love hearing that. Can we talk about your movies? Which one was your favorite?
MD: So many were my favorites. My first, Runaway Romany will always be my favorite even though it was a horrible little film. But I wrote the script, starred in it, and found financing myself at age 20. WR didn’t help me at all. Some of my other favorites are Buried Treasure, When Knighthood Was in Flower and Show People. It’s hard to pick favorites.
AL: Can we talk about Patricia? You and WR have denied that she’s your daughter for your entire life. Can you please answer once and for all, is Patricia Van Cleve Lake your daughter?
MD: [She stares at her hands and folds them together, placing them on her lap and then looks up.] Yes, Patricia is our daughter. Why is the world so obsessed with this fact? Why does it matter? Yes, Patricia is my lovely daughter, and I am so proud of her and my grandchildren and Arthur of course. He was such a good father. Now, let me ask YOU this: what will you do with this knowledge?
AL: Breaking the news of one of the best kept secrets in a hundred years will be wonderful. Finally we can lay it to rest. Can I ask about another rumor? Did WR kill Thomas Ince aboard his boat that fateful weekend?
MD: Let’s get all the dirty laundry out, shall we? No! WR couldn’t kill a fly. He was jealous of Charlie and me and yes, Thomas and his girlfriend Margaret were aboard that weekend, but Thomas had a bleeding ulcer that an infection caused his demise – not WR!
AL: Of all the theories about what happened that weekend, your explanation is the most boring of them all.
MD: That’s how you know it’s true. WR was a lover of animals and a tender soul who wouldn’t hurt anything. I loved WR more than anything even though he bugged me so much. He lectured me and everybody about history, and about artifacts, and about doing the right thing, and being a good citizen. It made us all crazy. It bored me to tears sometimes, but I loved him more than I can explain. We were meant to be together, him and I.
AL: Do you wish you had been able to marry?
MD: Of course I do. I wish we could have been like everybody else, instead of a circus show. But it wasn’t meant to be. Millicent refused to give WR a divorce, and when she did get close to agreeing to the divorce, she always had second thoughts and demanded some outrageous thing be added to the terms of the divorce. She was a greedy, small, and spiteful woman. And she won in the end.
AL: I hate to end on such a sour note, but thank you for the interview. You are most gracious and kind. I thank you for telling the truth.
MD: Of course, you are welcome.
Leslie Johansen Nack’s debut, Fourteen, received five indie awards, including the 2016 Finalist in Memoir at the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Before she started writing, she raised two children, ran a mechanical engineering business with her husband, took care of her aging mother, and dreamed of retirement when she could write full-time. She did everything late in life, including getting her degree in English Literature from UCLA at age thirty-one, only two years after she married for the second time. If you want to know when her next book is coming out, please visit her website www.lesliejohansennack.com and sign up to receive an email when she has her next release. She lives in sunny San Diego and enjoys sailing, hiking and reading.