Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Marie's Story

Marie McDonald became one of the most popular pin-up girls of the 1940's. She had a promising career but it was overshadowed by her countless personal problems. Marie was born on July 6, 1923, in Burgin, Kentucky. Her real name was Cora Marie Frye. She was the only child of Marie and Everett Frye, an engineer. Marie attended grammar school in the small town of Hazard. When she was six years old her parents divorced and she moved to New York City with her mother. In 1935 Marie's mother married nightclub owner John Tuboni. Marie wanted to become a journalist but her mother encouraged her to go into show business. She dropped out of Roosevelt high school and turned down a scholarship to college. Marie signed with the prestigious John Robert Powers modeling agency. She won numerous beauty titles and competed in the 1939 Miss America pageant. Her overprotective mother traveled with her everywhere to make sure she didn't get into trouble. Marie appeared on Broadway in George White's Scandals Of 1939 and Earl Carroll's Vanities. In 1940 she eloped with actor Richard Allord. She walked out on him a three weeks later when she discovered he gave her a fake diamond ring. Marie later had the marriage annulled. She started a relationship with Sir Charles Frederick Bernard, a theatrical entrepreneur. He paid for her to get the space between her two front teeth fixed. Marie moved to Hollywood in 1940 and found a job dancing at The Florentine Gardens. She decided to return to New York City but a chance encounter with bandleader Tommy Dorsey changed her plans. Tommy heard Marie singing at a nightclub and hired her to perform on his radio show. A job singing with the Charlie Barnett orchestra brought Marie back to New York City in 1941. To make extra money she worked as a cigarette girl at the Central Club. A talent scout saw her at the club and offered her a contract at Universal. Marie was given small roles in films like It Started With Eve and Pardon My Sarong. She had a serious romance with actor Bruce Cabot and the press reported that they were engaged. After being dropped by Universal she hired agent Vic Orsatti. He helped her get a contract with Paramount in July 1942.

Marie's career really took off when she dyed her hair platinum blonde. She costarred with Paulette Goddard in I Love A Soldier and with Alan Ladd in Lucky Jordan. Marie dumped Bruce and started dating Vic. They eloped on January 10, 1943 in Reno, Nevada. When Paramount did not renew her contract she signed with producer Hunt Stromberg. He gave her a role in the 1944 drama Guest In The House. Although Marie's part was small her performance earned rave reviews. The following year she was given her first leading role in the comedy Getting Gertie's Garter. Marie was nicknamed "The Body" and posed for countless cheesecake pictures. She became one of the most popular pin-ups during World War 2. Marie divorced Vic in 1946 but he continued to ber her agent. She had short-lived romances with Cuban millionaire Jose Noval and mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel. Unhappy with the roles she was getting Marie sued Hunt Stromberg. She claimed he stole money from her and failed to promote her career. Marie signed a lucrative contract with MGM in October 1946. She was cast opposite Gene Kelly in the musical Living In A Big Way. The movie was a critical and commercial flop. MGM blamed Marie for it's failure and she bought out her contract. She began dating Harry Karl, a wealthy shoe tycoon. The couple was married on September 19, 1947. Marie tried to change her image by going back to her natural brown hair color but her career stalled. She could only get supporting roles in low budget movies like Tell It To The Judge and Once A Thief. Marie appeared on several television shows and starred in a Los Angeles stage production of Born Yesterday. She suffered from many health problems including ulcers and frequent fainting spells. Harry spent more than one million dollars trying to cure her. Marie desperately wanted to be a mother but she had six miscarriages. In early 1950 she convinced Harry to adopt a daughter they named Denise Susan. A few months later they adopted a son named Randolph Harrison.

Marie happily announced that she was retiring to be a full-time mother. She got pregnant in 1952 but sadly when she was six months pregnant the baby was stillborn. By this time Marie was struggling with a serious addiction to prescription drugs. On June 21, 1954 she was arrested for driving while under the influence of sedatives after she crashed into three parked cars. She agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of hit-and-run driving and was fined $50. Marie and Harry had a rocky marriage and they separated numerous times. They were divorced in November 1954. In court Marie told the judge that she was allergic to her husband. A few months after the divorce they rekindled their relationship and were remarried on June 14, 1955. The following year Marie was thrilled to discover she was pregnant again. During the fifth month of her pregnancy she got into a fight with Harry. He beat her so badly she almost lost the baby. Marie filed for divorce in May 1956. She gave birth to a daughter named Tina Marie on September 18, 1956. Unfortunately she had continued using prescription drugs during her pregnancy and as a result the baby spent several weeks in an incubator. Marie reconciled with Harry and stopped the divorce proceedings. In November 1956 she crashed her Cadillac into a tree in Hollywood. She made headlines again a few months later when she told police she had been kidnapped from her home. There was an investigation but she was accused of making up story up for publicity. During the summer of 1957 Marie joined Bob Hope and Eddie Fisher on a USO tour. She enjoyed a brief affair with Eddie Fisher, who was married to Debbie Reynolds. Marie tried to make a comeback by recording an album called The Body Sings. She also toured the country in her own nightclub act. Marie sued the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco after she was injured during a show. In 1958 Marie landed a role opposite Jerry Lewis in the comedy The Geisha Boy. That same year her unhappy marriage to Harry finally came to an end.

Depressed over the divorce she attempted suicide in June 1958 by swallowing a bottle of aspirin. Marie was now dating Michael Wilding, ex-husband of Elizabeth Taylor, but the romance fizzled when he went to England to star in a play. She was briefly engaged to a stockbroker named Blake Garner. In May 1959 she married Louis Bass, an agent, but the marriage lasted only ten months. At the divorce hearing she said that Louis bored her. She married Edward F. Calahan, a lawyer, on August 7, 1962. Six weeks later she had the marriage annulled. In March 1963 Marie suffered a nervous breakdown while in Australia. She was committed to a psychiatric clinic but she ran away after only a few days. Four months later Marie was arrested for forging a prescription to percodan. She was fined $250 and put on probation for three years. Her last film was the 1963 comedy Promises! Promises!. Marie started dating the movie's producer Donald F. Taylor. Promises! Promises!, which featured several nude scenes with Jayne Mansfield, was a box-office flop. In November 1963 Marie married Donald. It was a violent marriage and they separated in 1964. The couple reconciled and Marie devoted herself to being a homemaker. She also planned to start her own cosmetics line. On October 20, 1965 Marie was in good spirits and went to bed at 9:30 PM. The next morning Donald found her slumped over a dressing table in their bedroom. He carried her to the bed and called an ambulance but it was too late. Marie had died from an overdose of percodan. She was just forty-two years old. Her death was ruled an accident but many people believe that she actually committed suicide. She was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Donald was inconsolable after Marie's death. Tragically on January 2, 1966 he killed himself with an overdose of barbituates in the same bedroom where she had died. A beautiful body and notorious scandals made Marie a star but she was much more than that. Marie's fans know that she a talented actress, a gifted singer, and a devoted mother to her three children.

Courtesy of Sloan

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Living In A Big Way

In 1947 Marie starred in the musical Living In A Big Way. She plays Margo Morgan, a beautiful model who marries a soldier going off to war. Gregory LaCava directed and produced the movie. The cast includes Gene Kelly, Phyllis Thaxter, and Spring Byington. Marie and Gene did not get along with each other during filming. Unfortunately Living In A Big Way got mixed reviews and was not a hit. Marie said "Nobody saw that picture except my husband and mother. It was a great script we had. Then it was torn in half and thrown out the window by a genius at Metro." You can watch some clips here ...

Gene Kelly and Marie
Gene Kelly and Marie

 Marie and Gene Kelly
With director Gregory LaCava

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tell It To The Judge

In 1949 Marie had a supporting role in the comedy Tell It To The Judge. She plays Ginger Simmons, a witness who is going to testify at a gangster's trial. The cast includes Robert Cummings, Rosalind Russell, and Gig Young. You can watch a scene here ...

Robert Cummings and Marie

Thursday, July 9, 2015

See The Body

Marie had one of the most famous figures in Hollywood. She was 5 feet, 6 inches tall with measurements of 36 1/2 - 22 1/2 - 35. The press originally nicknamed her "The Body Beautiful" then shortened it to "The Body". She said "When I would come on the set the grips used to make with the wolf whistles; and one day guy yelled 'Get a load of that body'. And then the publicity boys went to work." During the 1940's she posed for an endless amount of pin-up photos.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Vintage Clippings & Ads

Marie was one of the most talked about women in Hollywood. Here are some magazine clippings and vintage ads she was featured in ...