Glimpses: Marion Davies
The actress and mistress of William Randolph Hearst, Miss Davies entertained Churchill at her Santa Monica home on his California visit in 1929. She offers (unintentionally?) the following hilarious vignette in her posthumous memoirs, The Times We Had: Life with William Randolph Hearst (New York: Ballantine Books, 1975). —Judeth Kambestead
Churchill was my house guest. He came with [his brother Jack], his son Randolph and Randolph’s cousin John, who liked to play the piano. They arrived in Charlie Schwab’s railroad car, and they stayed at the beach house. MGM gave a big reception for Churchill. He had a sort of lisp, but it didn’t come out over the microphone. He couldn’t figure it out and I can’t figure it out, but a lisp just does not register.
We went to the opening of the Grand Hotel, and afterwards, there was a big party at The Roosevelt. I was working then, so I didn’t see much of Churchill. He was a very good house guest because he had so many things to do that he didn’t become a nuisance. And he stayed quite awhile, maybe three or four weeks….He liked his scotch and his cigars. They were what kept him alive…
[When we visited England] Churchill asked us to come down for the weekend at his home….He had a place outside of London, and he had this huge brick wall which he had built all by himself. And he built a brick garage [cottage -Editor]. He was quite an artist. He painted apples and oranges and occasionally a bottle of gin or something like that—but very artistically…
He had a big pond with swans, white and black swans. And one day they were fighting. One grabbed the other by the throat and it was horrifying. Churchill was picking up stones and throwing at them. He said, “Oh, you bally bloaters!” One swan was undoubtedly going to kill the other one, but he couldn’t stop it. He kept throwing rocks and stones and I decided that I didn’t want to look any longer. I was chicken-hearted. I went up to the house with his son Randolph, and we sat before the fireplace. It was always cold in England. When he came back he said, “One is dead, naturally.”
I said, “Why do you have swans that fight?” Dumb Dora. Churchill said, “Just show me one that doesn’t fight!” I didn’t know anything about swans; I didn’t even know what the swans know. I only knew Gloria Swanson.