Town Hall Theatre in Wilton paying tribute to Marion Davies

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    Lara Gabrielle, author of “Captain of Her Soul: The Life of Marion Davies," will introduce a screening of “Show People” Sept 22 at Town Hall Theatre in Wilton. COURTESY PHOTO

  • William Haines and Marion Davies meet an out-of-costume Charlie Chaplin (right) in “Show People.” COURTESY PHOTO

Published: 9/19/2023 9:01:25 AM

Lara Gabrielle, author of the new Marion Davies biography, “Captain of Her Soul: The Life of Marion Davies,” will introduce the 1928 comedy “Show People” Friday, Sept. 22, at Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St. in Wilton.

Admission to the program is free, with a suggested donation of $10 per person. The screening will feature live music by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis.

Gabrielle will speak about Davies' life, which included significant work in the fields of entertainment, business and charity. She will also sign copies of her new Davies biography, which will be available through Balin Books of Nashua. In writing the biography, Gabrielle removed layers of rumor that have clung to Davies, who had a stutter and rarely gave interviews. 

The story of Davies' life has long been overshadowed by her relationship with legendary press baron William Randolph Hearst. Many movie buffs believe that the character of Susan Alexander in Orson Welles' “Citizen Kane” was based on Davies, an assumption that has distorted Davies's reputation for decades. Gabrielle addresses and clarifies this idea in “Captain of Her Soul.”

“Show People,” directed by King Vidor, shows Davies at the height of her 1920s popularity as a screen icon. The light-hearted story follows Peggy Pepper (Davies), a beauty queen from small-town Georgia who hopes to break into the movies as a dramatic actress. William Haines plays Billy Boone, lead actor at a slapstick comedy studio where Pepper lands her first opportunity.

“Show People” also offers rare behind-the-scenes glimpses of movie-making at the very end of the silent period, when studios were rushing to prepare for sound. In 2003, the movie was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Gabrielle's appearance and screening are part of the Town Hall Theatre's silent film series, which aims to recreate the silent film experience, with restored prints projected on the big screen, live music and with a live audience.

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