Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Marie MacDonald

I watch a lot of Turner Classic Movies and every once in a while I get curious about some of the actresses I see there. The other morning I started watching an old Gene Kelly movie and couldn't break away to write because I was so taken by the female lead, Marie MacDonald. She is one of the most shockingly beautiful, elegant women I've ever seen. And despite what th following bio implies, she did well by her role. I was curious about why I'd never heard of her before. So I looked her up. Her bio is straight out of Raymond Chandler, the dame who gets killed right after the credits roll. What a sad, frantic life. If looks alone could make a star, she would've been up there with Garbo--and put Garbo to shame.

Birth name

Cora Marie Frye


The Body

Mini biography

Kentucky-born Marie McDonald, born Cora Marie Frye in 1923, was a leggy, voluptuous blonde starlet who pursued her career with a vengeance but found little reward in the end. Her mother was a former Ziegfeld girl and her grandmother an operatic singer. Her father, on the other hand, was not so artistically inclined, earning a living as a warden at Leavenworth Prison. Her parents divorced when Marie was just 6 years old. Marie's mother remarried and the new family moved to Yonkers, New York, where she attended Roosevelt High School and excelled in piano. Although she was offered a college scholarship by Columbia University in journalism, Marie's impressive beauty and physical assets propelled her to try a show business career. A Powers model at 15 (she lied about her age), she quit high school and started entering beauty contests, winning the "Miss Yonkers" and "The Queen of Coney Island" titles, among others. In 1939 she was crowned "Miss New York," but subsequently lost at the "Miss America" pageant.

The attention she received from her beauty titles, however, pointed her straight to the Broadway stage in "George White's Scandals of 1939." This in turn led to Los Angeles and the chorus line while trying to break into pictures. She found her first singing work with Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra on his radio show and eventually joined other bands as well. Although Universal signed her up, she couldn't get past a few one-line jobs. She knew publicity would have to be her mode of operation if she was to draw the necessary attention and advance her career. Press agents dubbed her "The Body" and the tag eventually stuck. Though her physical attributes were impressive, her talent was less so. Managing to come her way were the films Guest in the House (1944), Living in a Big Way (1947) with Gene Kelly and Tell It to the Judge (1949). Marie was once in contention for the Billie Dawn role in "Born Yesterday," which could have been her big break, but she lost out to Judy Holliday. The audience simply didn't latch on to Marie and she ended up more on the road doing bus-and-truck shows than anything else.

Despite the numerous tabloid attention (she was married seven times), sex scandals and publicity hijinks she mustered up, notoriety that would have made the late Jayne Mansfield envious, Marie's career was stalled and she turned to drink, drugs and despair. This led to frequent brushes with the law and more than a few nervous breakdowns. Her last effective role was in the Jerry Lewis starrer The Geisha Boy (1958) where she gamely played a snippy movie star at the mercy of the comedian's outrageous slapstick. In 1965, at age 42, the never-say-die gal finally decided enough was enough and she ended it all with an overdose of pills.

IMDb mini-biography by

Gary Brumburgh / gr-home@pacbell.net


Donald F. Taylor
(1964 - 21 October 1965) (her death)

Edward F. Calahan
(1962 - 1962) (annulled after 48 hours)

Louis Bass
(1959 - 1960) (divorced)

Harry Karl
(1955 - 1958) (divorced) 1 child

Harry Karl
(1947 - 1954) (divorced) 2 children

Victor M. Orsatti
(10 January 1943 - May 1947) (divorced)

Richard Allord
(1940 - 1940) (annulled)


Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California, in the Freedom Mausoleum, Sanctuary of Heritage.


Married seven times, twice to Harry Karl, the shoe tycoon who went on to marry to Debbie Reynolds and lose both his and her fortunes.

In one of her many publicity stunts, police reports state that Marie was found on a desert road in her pajamas ranting and raving that she had been kidnapped from her home by two men.

Killed herself with an overdose of Percodan. Her seventh husband, Donald F. Taylor committed suicide shortly after.

Her two older children are adopted.

When she still a child, her parents divorced and and she and her mother moved to Yonkers, New York, where her mother married a man whose last name was McDonald and ran a hardware store. Marie worked as a journalist on her high school newspaper, but dropped out of school at fifteen to become a model and began working for a modeling agency. She competed in beauty pageants, including the Miss New York competition, but did not win.

She replaced sexpot Mamie Van Doren in the movie Promises, Promises in 1963 but had numerous fights on the set with the other bombshell star Jayne Mansfield. She married the producer of that movie, Donald F. Taylor, who would be her last husband.

After several miscarriages, she adopted two children, Denise "Dede" and Harrison "Bo", between the years 1951-1954. A daughter, Tina Marie, was born later in 1956.

Her 1962 marriage to Los Angeles lawyer and banker Edward F. Callahan was annulled after 48 hours. They officially divorced in 1963.

Was the model used by illustrator Alex Raymond for the Dale Arden and Princess Aura creations for the Flash Gordon comic strip.

Some of the beauty titles Marie held were "Miss Yonkers," "Miss Loew's Paradise" "Queen of Coney Island" and "Miss New York."

She died because there was air in the needle that injected with her drugs. Her husband was charged with murder, but he killed himself two days after she died.

Harry Karl, the father of her three children, did not want the children after Marie died. His wife at the time, Debbie Reynolds, insisted they move in with him anyway.

Her daughter, Tina, was born with drugs in her system. She had severe problems related to this while growing up.

Her marriages to Harry Karl was the inspiration for the film The Marrying Man (1991).

Personal quotes

"Husbands are easier to find than good agents."

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Blogger mtmorgan said...

I've long been a fan of actress Gail Russell, who died from complications of alcoholism at age 36. She apparently drank to combat stage fright and things eventually spiraled out of control. Before I knew her story I was struck by her frail, I guess, *sad* beauty and aloof presence. She was my second real Somewhere In Time-like crush (after Donna Reed) where I dreamed of beaming back to an earlier age and sweeping her off her feet. And eventually saving her from all the bullshit. Not sure if she could really act, and who cares ultimately. She was just right for film noir and the few gothic type potboilers in which I've watched her. She apears in 7 Men From Now tonight on TCM. It's the only Boetticher-directed western I've yet to see and it features one of her last performances. I've wanted to see this for a long time.
Meant to comment a few days back concerning Marvin Albert. He's one of my favorite underrated crime writers with fellows like Braly, J. Flynn, Ralph Dennis, Bruno Fischer, Gil Brewer and Ennis Willie. I really enjoyed the Tony Rome novels I've read- 3or 4- as well as Nick Quarry and a couple as by Al Conroy- Nice Guys Finish Dead as I recall being the best.

1:27 PM  

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