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An Interview With…
        - Marie Harmon
        - Helen Talbot
        - Peggy Stewart
        - Caren Marsh
        - Eleanor Stewart
        - Audrey Totter
        - Marion Shilling
        - Lois Hall
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        - Beverly Garland
        - Maureen O'Hara
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        - Noel Neill
        - Jane Greer
        - Lisa Gaye
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Marie Harmon.MARIE HARMON

“I would say I started entertaining at age five, speaking little pieces especially for my favorite uncle Lloyd. He made me the lead star at each family reunion and told everyone one day they would see my name in lights. Unfortunately, he was killed when a train hit his car coming around a blind corner. I was 13 years old. I always hoped when I succeeded, Lloyd would be watching from ‘way up there’.”

The beautiful, blonde Marie Harmon was born October 21, 1923, in Oak Park, Illinois, the only girl to five brothers, four older, one younger. “My Mom gave me elocution lessons so I could perform for the Kiwanis and Elks after their meetings. It gave me the experience of being in front of adult audiences. I enjoyed comedy to make people laugh. Our Carol Playground had a little theatre group and, fortunately, I was able to get most lead parts in the summer plays such as ‘Pocahontas’ (I had to scream a lot) and ‘Snow White’. When I attended Oak Park High I became a small fish in a big pond! I was turned down when I read for a school play which really hurt my feelings. To succeed, I had to show them what a mistake they’d made. I continued to do leads in the playground theatre group and received notable publicity in OAK LEAVES, an old established Village news magazine. The war started in December, ‘41, and I entered a contest for ‘The Perfect Blind Date for a Serviceman’ in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE and won!”

With an “eye on Hollywood”, Marie soon figured out working in an office for Coca-Cola in Chicago wasn’t the way west. Switching to a waitress job in a bar, she made much more money to finance her way to California. “One evening before work I met a girl in another club taking photos of patrons as they had a few drinks. She told me she was leaving shortly for California riding with a couple who were driving new cars west to be sold by car dealer Mad Man Muntz in Hollywood. I immediately asked my Mom if I could go too. I would work in Hollywood but attend acting classes on the side. She helped me convince my Dad it would be safe and we, my new friend, Winnie, and I could get an apartment together and share expenses. We left Chicago in March, ‘42, and arrived five days later in Hollywood and found a modest hotel in the heart of town.”

Martha O'Driscoll and Marie in "Her Lucky Night" ('45 Universal).“Winnie got a job photographing couples in a club, the Florentine Garden, in the evening and I was hired as a car-hop at Roberts Drive-In on Sunset Blvd. One evening, LaVerne Andrews of the Andrews Sisters came in with friends, of which one was a frequent customer, and they invited me on a double date. I had a great time because LaVerne took all of us home to meet her parents. Much to LaVerne’s and my surprise, I would have the second lead in one of their movies a year and a half later at Universal, ‘Her Lucky Night’ (‘45).”

Situations changed fast back in those days and Marie found she must work nights if she was to have acting exposure. “I did plays in the daytime and became a cigarette girl in an after-hours private club in the late evening. I changed from the drive-in to Eugene’s on the Sunset Strip which catered to the studio crowd. I met Orson Welles one evening when he tipped me $10 for a deck of cards. Brian Donlevy came to sit-out the wait of the birth of his baby. Busby Berkeley came in frequently when he wasn’t shooting a musical. George Raft flirted with me one evening to the distaste of beautiful Betty Grable. Being a cigarette girl had its drawbacks. Some patrons seem to think cigarette girls should be available and I was not. So I left.”

“Winnie heard Lou Costello was opening a new club called the Bandbox, so we both applied for a job of hostess, where we would do the seating for the shows. Lou was a sweet boss and he too was surprised a year later when I was cast in a bit part in one of his movies…but I ended up on the cutting room floor. We were friends right up to the time he died in the late ‘50s.”

During this time Marie obtained a good part in “Geneva” at the Bliss-Hayden Little Theatre in Beverly Hills, owned by Lela Bliss and Harry Hayden, established actors in film. “I will always be grateful to Harry for giving me that break because I had calls from Universal, Columbia and Warners when I closed. Universal put me in Deanna Durbin’s picture, ‘Hers to Hold’ (‘43), the very next week. That was my start and I would go back to the Bliss-Hayden Theatre to guest star in other plays.”

“I went on to work with Loretta Young in ‘Ladies Courageous’ (‘44) doing only a bit part, but later to have my part rewritten through the script after doing one scene. Casting scout Milly Gussey was the one to discover me and went to bat to suggest me for different parts at Universal. She was my guiding light! I turned 20 during the filming of ‘Ladies Courageous’ in ‘43 and they gave a surprise birthday party for me after we were through shooting for the day. Many years later the photo of the cast with me and the cake appeared in my home town paper, which I hoped would show my high school that I did make the grade after all. As I said, I was turned down in our school play many years back.”

“South of Dixie” with Anne Gwynne and David Bruce followed. Then, trying to get a solid foothold on a career, Marie went out on everything just for the experience. “I made my first Western, ‘Springtime In Texas’, with Jimmy Wakely at Monogram in ‘45. My agent told the director I would do my own riding. On location there were doubles for all the male actors—but none for me. As we were shooting a scene with all of us on horses, Jimmy’s double jumped from a porch onto his horse next to mine and accidentally knocked my saddle loose and my foot out of the stirrup. That caused a stampede. All the horses took off in a heated run with me holding on to my horse’s neck as my saddle slid around with me slipping down and watching the ground coming up close. I truly thought it would be the end and I would be trampled to death. The good Lord opened the eyes of all the other cowboys and, fortunately, the stampede was brought to a halt. I was in shock and have never forgotten the experience.”

Marie smailes approvingly at Dennis Moore, Jimmy Wakely, Lee "Lasses" White and Budd Buster in Monogram's "Springtime in Texas" ('45).

Then it was on to Republic to play opposite Sunset Carson in “El Paso Kid” (1946). “I loved that studio because it seemed like home, just like Universal. Herb Yates called my agent in to talk contract, so she brought me along—a mistake! I signed a contract that day for $150 a week. I understood more money would be discussed after he saw how the picture and I were received. When time passed and nothing more was offered, I went to the Screen Actor’s Guild to break the contract. Milly Gussey, my ‘guiding light’, said I should never have done that. $150 was good money, but it was too late. I was ‘blackballed’ and didn’t work anywhere for a whole year.”

Sunset Carson and Marie in "El Paso Kid" ('46 Republic).

Marie poses with Roy Rogers.Then Republic called me back to work—this time with Roy Rogers in ‘Night Time In Nevada’ (‘48). Roy had just married Dale Evans. Since a cowboy may kiss his horse but must never kiss his girl on screen, the studio thought the public would never accept a married couple as leads in a Western, Roy therefore needed a new leading lady and I was brought in to step into Dale Evans’ shoes. Working with Roy was super—such a down-to-earth thoughtful man, who was so happy with Dale. I told Roy I couldn’t sing—not even carry a tune—but he said not to worry, my voice could be dubbed in. As it were, the part I had did not require any singing. Somewhat later, all the fans made it clear they would be happy to see Roy and Dale together again, so this opportunity disappeared.”

After a few more auditions, Marie started to feel like “…a has been. After all, I was 24 and all the young girls coming in were in their teens, just as I was when I first started. I thought it was time for me to move on to other things. In 1951, I met and married a wonderful man, Don Currie, with an easy going manner and a beautiful sense of humor. He was open to new ideas, so when I suggested a dress business, my other teenage dream, he was game and we opened the Dona-Rie Shops, selling ladies ready-to-wear in Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley for the next 23 years. We had four children, Sondra, my twins—Marie and Cherie—and a son, Don Anthony Currie. The girls have all appeared in films and on television. Sondra is well established working in many more pictures than I even came close to. My three daughters have all married into the entertainment field with Marie being the first, marrying Steve Lukather, the lead guitarist of ToTo fame, while Sondra married producer/director Alan J. Levi and Cherie tied the knot to Robert Hays, the star of ‘AirPlane’ (‘80) and other films. My son, Don, is a mortgage banker. In 1972 my husband and I decided to go our separate ways after 21 years of marriage. He has since passed away.”

Sunset Carson and Marie cradle a wounded Hank Patterson in Republic's "El Paso Kid" ('46).

“In 1975 I married Dr. Wolfgang Kaupisch, a senior industrial advisor to the Government of Indonesia for the World Bank. We were stationed in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia for three and a half years. While in Jakarta, I produced and directed plays for both the Women’s International Club and the American Women’s Club.”

Upon their return to the States and her husband’s retirement, “We met Roy Rogers (in 1981) when we found a photo of me among his leading ladies in his museum in Victorville. When Roy learned of my presence, we were invited to his private office above the museum by his secretary. Roy and my husband found a common interest: East Africa where Roy hunted big game and my husband acted as economic advisor to the government of Tanzania. As we were about to leave, Roy entertained us by playing his guitar, singing and yodeling, all the while his German pointer yodeling along with him! What a charming man.”

Marie was a Mexican girl for the filmed-on-the-cheap-outside-Las Vegas, NV "Gunsmoke" (aka "Gunsmoke Killers") ('46 Standard) starring Nick Stuart.

 

Marie’s Western Filmography


Movies: Springtime In Texas (1945 Monogram)—Jimmy Wakely; El Paso Kid (1946 Republic)—Sunset Carson; Gunsmoke (1946 Standard)—Nick Stuart; Night Time In Nevada (1948 Republic)—Roy Rogers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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