Because of the fifty-year anniversary of her death, you’ve probably noticed a lot of articles lately about a certain film legend, but we featured Marilyn Monroe this time last year. Instead, I thought I’d offer the story of Marilyn Maxwell, one of several actresses who were sometimes compared to her and one whose name was just as alliterative as Monroe’s. In fact, her full birth name — Marvel Marilyn Maxwell — was even more so.
Mostly remembered now as an actress, Marilyn Maxwell originally broke into show business as a singer, appearing on radio in the late 1930s. Still in her teens but tall and attractive, the Iowa native soon managed to land a Hollywood deal and began appearing in a number of movies during the war years, gradually building her fame and becoming a well-liked part of the Hollywood ‘in’ crowd.
But she was still a singer too, and a good one. She was able to demonstrate her singing voice in many of her films, and also kept busy with regular appearances on Bing Crosby’s Kraft Music Hall on radio. In addition, she often entertained in night clubs and was a popular part of many of Bob Hope’s USO tours. (And was reportedly the married star’s not-so-secret girlfriend for years.)
In the 1950s and later she continued to make the occasional movie and also began showing up regularly on TV, not only in musical appearances but also acting in a number of supporting roles. She even starred in her own ABC drama, Bus Stop, in the early 1960s, but roles eventually began drying up for her, and as the years passed her health worsened. She died from a heart attack in 1972, just 50 years old. Her good friend Rock Hudson (for whom she’d earlier provided romantic ‘cover’) helped with arrangements, and pallbearers included not only Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, but also Frank Sinatra and Jack Benny.