Runaway Romany (1917)

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Surprisingly, Marion Davies' first film was not financed by her companion, William Randolph Hearst, but by her former beau Paul Block, who was yet another newspaper magnate. Davies' reputation as a showgirl had grown to the extent that she was considering several film offers, and she wound up working with her ex-brother-in-law, George Lederer. He produced and directed Runaway, Romany. The story was nothing terribly special -- Davies plays a rich girl who has wandered off with a band of gypsies. She grows up with them, but when the chief of the gypsies (W.W. Bitner) commands her to marry his son (Pedro de Cordoba), she runs away. Her one non-gypsy friend Bud Haskell (Matt Moore) helps her out and eventually brings her back home to her father (Joseph Kilgour), who had spent much of his fortune in search of her. The film did not turn out very well, but Davies showed a natural talent for film acting. Hearst and Davies had already been an item for quite a while when this film was made, and he was chagrined that she had Block fund the effort. He had been reluctant to support her acting career, however, until he was sure she was ready. For all its faults, Runaway, Romany convinced him of his mistress's talent, and from then on, he footed the bill for Davies' film career (and requisite publicity in all the Hearst papers). This was not always a good thing -- many assumed that Davies' stardom was bought, even though she turned out to be a solid, and at times impressive, actress, especially in light comedies.