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Marion Davies and her old Irish Roots

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

The recent release of the movie Mank has once again raised the profile of Marion Davies, one of the most popular Hollywood stars of the 1920s. Her talent as an actor, comedienne, writer and producer was destined to be overshadowed by her relationship with William Randolph Hearst, who pulled off the unusual trick of promoting and stifling her artistic career at the same time.


A quick glance at the surnames in Marion Davies’s family tree shows that virtually all her ancestors came from Ireland. It would have given her buckets of inspiration for her rôle as Patricia O'Day in the 1923 smash hit, Little Old New York.


Marion’s father, Bernard J. Douras, was born in New York in 1853. He acted as a magistrate in the Big Apple during the Prohibition years, and his droll pronouncements when handing down judgments were often reported in the press.


Although Davies’s father went by the surname Douras, his name was more correctly spelled Doris or Dorris. The origin of the name was Irish. Both of Bernard’s parents were Irish immigrants Daniel Doris and Catherine McCann. Born sometime between 1810-1818, they fled Ireland for America during the 1840s Potato Famine and most likely came from Ulster. Bernard was their only surviving child.


Daniel Doris found work in New York city as a porter and a stevedore and became an American citizen in 1867. The family lived in various Manhattan addresses such as Hester Street, Elizabeth Street, Division Street and Oliver Street.


Marion Davies’s mother was Rose Claire May Reilly and it’s no surprise that she was of Irish descent too. In fact both of Rose’s parents had Irish roots. Rose was born in New York in 1867 to Charles Reilly and Mary Frances Cushing. Although Charles was born in Connecticut in 1845 to an English-born father, also Charles Reilly, his mother, Rose Morris, came from Ireland. Charles's father may have been a stage coach owner.


Charles Reilly worked at many things in his life from liquor store owner to broker to real estate. Marion Davies claimed that her maternal grandparents were wealthy. The census records bear this out. The Reillys always owned the properties where they stayed and lived at prosperous addresses, such as 924 West End Avenue (the Cleburne Building) and North Fullerton Ave., Montclair, NJ.


Marion’s maternal grandmother Mary Frances Cushing was born in New York to Mary K. Cushing (née Carroll) and James Cushing, who worked as a stone cutter. Both her parents were born in Ireland but they came to the United States earlier than the Doris family. Records show that they met in New York and were married at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1834. Variations of the Cushing surname in Ireland include Cushin, Cushion, Cushion, Cussen.


Marion had three older sisters and a brother, Charles, who drowned in a boating accident on Lake Saratoga in 1900. Encouraged by their mother Rose Reilly, the sisters had Vaudeville and music hall ambitions. All four Douras sisters changed their name to Davies after spotting a billboard in Manhattan for the J. Clarence Davies real estate firm.


Surnames in Marion Davies's family tree:

Dorris, McCann, Reilly, Morris, Cushing (Cushin),Carroll



Historyeye | Irish Ancestry of Marion Davies


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