You’re probably scratching your head. Who?
Well, chalk this selection up to our combined fascination of Forties stars who often played better in the pages of Photoplay and other period fanzines than on the big screen.
Our woman of the week, who really was a star in the mid-1940’s — determined by over-the-title billing if not by actual acting ability — was perhaps better known for her marriage to a famous actor. At least that is how we first got to know her.
Fact is that for three decades, Brenda Marshall and William Holden formed one of Hollywood’s best looking married couples. But, despite its apparent durability their union (1941 to 1971) was far from happy, marred by multiple separations and infidelities on both sides. No question, though. They were a handsome sight to behold.
Marshall, born Ardis Ankerson in 1915, held up her end of the equation. Blessed with a lean angular figure and dimpled aristocratic facial features, Marshall performed with utilitarian style in several movies including 1940’s The Sea Hawk opposite Errol Flynn, 1948’s Whispering Smith with Alan Ladd and opposite George Raft in 1943’s Backround To Danger.
Because she eventually retired to take on the role of Mrs. Holden, Marshall’s 11-year movie career ending in 1950 covered just some 20 pictures, mostly at Warner Brothers. Not many are memorable but one that supposedly is has become a “cult classic,” 1946’s Strange Impersonation directed by that accomplished helmer of several durable noir titles, Anthony Mann, for Republic Pictures.
The film’s print — recently restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive but still looking muddy on DVD — shows that Marshall could carry at least a grade B- movie. The plot is a jumbled mess (about a medical researcher’s experiment gone wrong; it blows up in her face) and centers on the quest by two woman for the love of a mild-mannered, doctor blandly played by William Gargan.
Marshall faces off with villainess Hillary Brooke, a mid-Forties beauty (she costarred in 1945’s Sherlock Holmes outing The Woman In Green starring Basil Rathbone) who displays a bracingly cold, mean streak. Although Marshall holds her own, Brooke almost steals the show.
Marshall died of cancer at age 76 in 1992, 11 years after Holden’s death. He left a share of his estate to her and their two actor sons. (After their divorce, he never remarried.) For a while there, Marshall and Holden were Hollywood’s image of an all-American couple.