BEVERLY HILLS, CA--Marie Windsor, who, in her six decades in show business, appeared in scores of movies, often playing flinty, tough-talking molls, died here Dec. 10, 2000. Dubbed "The Queen of the Bs," MSTies will remember her as hard-edged prison escapee Josie in episode 503- SWAMP DIAMONDS. She died one day before her 78th birthday. Born Emily Marie Bertelson in Marysvale, Utah, one of her earliest memories is of her maternal grandmother taking her to silent movies. Soon little Marie was putting on plays for her family, who encouraged her by enrolling her in acting classes. She attended Brigham Young University for two years before setting out on her show business career.
She won a series of local beauty contests and in 1940 was accepted as a student of famed acting coach Maria Ouspenskaya. Living at the famed Hollywood Studio Club (other residents have included Donna Reed and Marilyn Monroe), she first found work as a model for pinup legend Alberto Varga and as a cigarette girl at The Mocambo, a popular Hollywood watering hole. In 1941, she was spotted there by Hollywood producers, who got her first role in Hal Roach's "All-American Co-Ed." She had a number of other small and unfulfilling parts and in 1943, she agreed to tour the country with a comedy stage show. The show closed after only a few dates, but the connections she made doing the show led her to several years in radio in New York. That led to work in stage plays, where she was spotted by an MGM talent scout who signed her to a studio contract.
She was given more dull and unmemorable roles and in 1948, she broke free of the studio system and began to get better parts, including roles opposite George Raft, William Elliott, John Wayne, Joel McCrea Shelley Winters, Lloyd Bridges and John Ireland.
In 1952, she landed the lead in what was to be one of her most memorable movies, the film noir, "The Narrow Margin."
"My agent climbed through the window of the casting director with a test that I had made out at 20th Century Fox -- and that was it," she later recalled. "We certainly made a lot of noise with that picture. It ran with all the top pictures and we got all the reviews." It is still recalled by many as one of the very best B films ever made." It was followed by a role in Stanley Kubrick's classic noir, "The Killing." Indeed, Kubrick delayed the start of filming so that Windsor could complete her work with Roger Corman on the movie that would make her memorable to MSTies, "Swamp Women" (later retitled "Swamp Diamonds").
"God, it's just such a corny picture," she later recalled. "We had such a rough location on it. We were treading around in mud up to our waists. It looked like there was only about a foot of water and then you'd step down and just keep on going. We saw many poisonous snakes swimming around us and I daresay there were many we didn't see! On dry land, we had to jump off trucks and perform activities usually done by stunt people, of whom there were none in this company."
Windsor also had fond memories for her co-stars Beverly Garland and Mike Connors. "Terrific. Darling people," she said several years ago. "We [still] exchange Christmas cards -- and Beverly just called me a couple of days ago."
In all, Windsor appeared in more than 70 movies, including: 1947's "Song of the Thin Man"; 1949's "The Fighting Kentuckian" (the first of her three films with John Wayne); 1950's "Dakota Lil"; 1954's awful 3-D "Cat-Women of the Moon" ("Oh gosh, it's almost embarrassing," she later said of the film); 1955's "Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy"; 1957's "The Girl in Black Stockings" (with Mamie Van Doren); 1963's "The Day Mars Invaded Earth"; 1971's "Support Your Local Gunfighter" and 1979's "Salem's Lot." She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1983. She also more than 200 guest appearances on TV shows including "Perry Mason," "Maverick," "77 Sunset Strip," "Rawhide," "Charlie's Angels," "Simon and Simon," "Fantasy Island" and "Murder, She Wrote." On stage, she won a Los Angeles Drama Critics best actress award for her performance in "The Bar Off Melrose" in 1987.
A longtime activist in the Screen Actors Guild, she received the union's Ralph Morgan Award for 25 years of distinguished service in 1990. SAG also voted her a Lifetime Membership on its board of directors. By 1992, Marie had resigned from the board, but she also was named Honorary Chairperson of the SAG Film Society, which she co-founded with Barbara Barron several years earlier.