“What difference does it make if you walk up to the altar, and they say ‘You are now man and wife?’ Does that make love any more potent? No, it doesn’t. Love comes from the heart.

-Marion Davies

From her humble days in Brooklyn to her rise to fame alongside press baron William Randolph Hearst, the public life story of Marion Davies plays like a modern fairy tale, shaped by gossip columnists, fan magazines, and biopics. Yet the real Marion Davies has remained largely hidden from view.

With her “sparkling” debut biography, author Lara Gabrielle counters the public story in Captain of Her Soul: The Life of Marion Davies. Through a decade of meticulous research, unprecedented access to archives around the world, and interviews with friends and family members, reveals a woman who navigated disability and social stigma to rise to the top of a young Hollywood dominated by powerful men. Davies took charge of her own career, negotiated her own contracts, and shaped her identity as one of the top comediennes of the silent era, alongside such contemporaries as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Equally important to Davies’s story is her generosity of spirit and philanthropy, her early advocacy for animal rights, and her dedication to children.

Captain of Her Soul pulls back layers of myth to show a complex and fiercely independent woman, ahead of her time. Set against the backdrop of a country grappling with its identity as an artistic and entertainment powerhouse on the world stage, this biography brings Davies out of the shadows cast by the Hearst legacy, shedding light on a dynamic woman who declared that she was “the captain of her soul.”

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Lara Gabrielle reads from Captain of Her Soul: The Life of Marion Davies at the Biographers International Organization conference, May 2023.
Now available at the Castle Collection Gift Shop, inside the Hearst Castle Visitor’s Center!
Click on the image above to order the book from University of California Press.