Okay, folks, we’re going to deviate somewhat from my usual methodology with this type of post…
This Past Imperfect is one that has languished on “Crusty Pie” without being revised and shared on Bonnywood. I’m not a fan of the original micro-story I scribbled, yet I’ve been unable, over the years, to find just the right inspiration to make it better. (In my archives, wherein I store everything, even the messes that will never see the light of day, I can see that I have attempted to resuscitate this entry multiple times over the years. It was all crap, frankly.)
Just a bit ago, I tried to take another run at this one. Still stymied, unable to find that tiny, twisted click that usually launches my subversive reinterpretations of faded photos, I decided to google the actress in the image. (I vaguely knew that Marie McDonald was a pinup starlet at one time, but I knew little else.) I landed on her Wikipedia page, not really expecting to find anything of interest. I was wrong.
Holy cow. This woman had a fascinating, albeit questionable life. You can read much more detail on that Wikipedia page, but herein I’ll present my personally curated highlights:
Cora Marie Frye was born in Burgin, Kentucky in 1923. Her mother, Marie Taboni (birth surname “McDonald”, keep that in mind) was a performer in the Ziegfeld Follies. The parents eventually divorced and Cora moved with her mother to Yonkers, New York.
At the age of 15, she joined the beauty pageant circuit and quickly won the titles of “Miss Coney Island”, “Miss Yonkers”, and “Miss Lowe’s Paradise”, among others. At 16 she was crowned “Miss New York State”. At 17 she was appearing on Broadway in “Earl Carrolls’s Vanities”, a hugely popular show at the time. (And what had you accomplished at that age? Yeah, me neither.)
Cora moved to Hollywood and, still 17, joined Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra as a vocalist. (Dorsey is the one who prompted Cora to change her name to that of her mother, Marie McDonald. She did so.) By the age of 19, she was under contract at Universal and began appearing in movies. She was never a huge star, but she worked consistently for many years.
Now, the personal-life side of things, where it gets really eye-opening.
Marie married 7 times, twice to the same man, giving her a total of 6 husbands. (One of the unions only lasted three weeks. Marie was a very busy girl, apparently.) The man she married twice was Harry Karl, who would move on from the double-nuptials and eventually marry Debbie Reynolds. (Yes, that Debbie Reynolds. Keep this in mind as well.)
In between these various marital excursions, Marie also dated Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. (With the way she was working her way through the male population, it was inevitable that Marie would hook up with a Vegas mobster at some point.) She also had an affair with actor Michael Wilding, otherwise known as Elizabeth Taylor’s second husband. (If the facts align correctly, this trysting occurred after Liz and Mikey had just divorced, but who knows.)
In early 1957, a truck driver found Marie on the side of a highway, wandering about. She claimed that she had been beaten and kidnapped and somehow managed to escape. This became a huge news story, with reporters swarming about and dramatic reenactments of the goings on. But Marie’s story kept changing and the police grew suspicious. End of day, a grand jury refused to indict anyone because nothing made sense. It all eventually smelled of a publicity stunt.
We go a bit dark here, so skip this part if you’re not in the mood.
In 1965, Marie’s sixth husband (seventh marriage, if you’re keeping score) found her body in their home, the result of an overdose. An investigation ensued (accidental? suicide?), with a final verdict of accidental, though many have questioned this conclusion over the years.
She was 42. That much life, crammed into just four decades.
Three months after her death, the sixth/seventh husband took his own life via Seconal.
Shortly thereafter, Marie’s father took his life as well, a boomerang of mad consequence.
Marie’s three children? They were raised by Harry Karl (husband three/four) and Debbie Reynolds. The waves crash in different waves, eh?
This should be a movie, in my opinion. Or maybe it has been, and I just never noticed. Sometimes I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed.
And if you still have any interest, at this point, here’s the original micro-story that I penned for this photo:
“In one respect, this photo celebrates a love for the outdoors, the harvesting of crops, and a creative use of random props. On the flip side, this is probably the pivotal moment in American history when most men stopped wearing boxer shorts, lest they be associated with former nuns who have developed an affinity for Elmer Fudd weaponry and the straddling of fake mountain-tops.”
It still doesn’t taste right.
But maybe there’s a reason why I could never flesh this one out, properly. Maybe we’re meant to find paths that we didn’t expect, maybe we should take the time to explore things we haven’t considered. And I’m all for that.
Categories: Past Imperfect