W.R. Hearst Orders Up Comedy For Davies
Marion Davies Is The Patsy (1928)
Marion Davies in an MGM comedy directed by King Vidor. He was lately triumphant with The Big Parade and so welcomed into W.R. Hearst's inner social circle. This was heady climate for even biggest names, as none approached Hearst's power or wealth. Vidor was assigned honored dining place at San Simeon beside
|Above Two Photos: King Vidor Directs The Patsy on Varied Locations|
But read A Tree Is A Tree, especially Vidor's account of a "camping trip" organized by Hearst, and know from where at least one major segment of Kane sprang. I'm guessing Orson Welles, or more likely Herman Mankiewicz, spoke to Vidor and got the anecdote, or maybe Mankiewicz occupied one of the tents himself. Vidor impressions of Hearst and San Simeon translate directly to Citizen Kane's eventual script. I think it was such personal observations, plus the evident slur on Marion Davies, that annoyed W.R. Hearst, not Kane's x-ray of him as news czar and failed politician. Interesting that a comedy modest as The Patsy was done against backdrop of lives lived so large, the movie little more than Cinderella through jazz-age prism. Toughest choice is which player to focus on during two-shot pantomime, Davies or bossy mom Marie Dressler. Both are supreme at farce and often share busy frames. Overseers at Metro, certainly Vidor, would have realized that Dressler would be a most valuable character player in foreseeable future. The Patsy makes clear how she'd become the Number One audience favorite soon after sound came in.
Marion Davies was by all accounts a deft entertainer for guests at San Simeon, doing among, other things, deadly impersonation of other actresses. She took herself least seriously of them all, of course (that made it easier to quit when time came). Vidor would have seen the parlor tricks, and probably suggested they be worked into The Patsy. This highlight does play like something dropped in, and for
The Patsy is a lot like domestic comedies W.C. Fields was doing around the time, and would refine with talkies. His counterpart in The Patsy is Del Henderson, a comic familiar from Hal Roach shorts to come, plus elsewhere work before and after. There are also routines that Fields would expand upon later, notably mirror gags borrowed for 1935's It's A Gift (or had Fields done them first on stage, and it was The Patsy coming up second?). No telling how far back such a routine went, but it plays fresh in The Patsy, thanks to Davies, Dressler, and Henderson as combatants for the looking glass.