No one of a certain age (or for that matter , much younger) could fail to be impressed by the acting ability of the young Connie Marshall in her first film "Sunday Dinner For a Soldier, 1944. She captivated her audience with those piercing eyes and her adoring charm, but with an acting ability beyond her years. Her subsequent films displayed the full extent of this young actress' talent.
For many fans, a new child star had been founded, with much promise for the future. Yet, after 1956 she was never to be seen on the screen again and from 1958, nothing more of her was to be heard. Connie enjoyed reading murder mysteries and, although thankfully, there was no murder involved, her disappearance from the screen , both big and small, remained a mystery to her true fans. It was not until 2007 that we sadly learned of her death six years earlier and part of that mystery was to be unravelled.
Constance Beekman Marshall was born in New York City on 28 April 1933, the second daughter of John Trumbull Marshall and Catharine Van Dyke Bull. Still the enigma continues:numerous newspaper and magazine reviews of her films imply that she was born in 1938 and thus would have been six years of age in her first role as Mary Osborne, in "Sunday Dinner For a Soldier". She certainly looked that age and could carry off the part of a youngster well, but that was hardly surprising for a diminutive young girl, who as an adult, was only four feet eleven and a half inches tall. The Los Angeles Times reports from an interview with her, that she was "...a pint sized blonde with a pony tail and big blue little-girl eyes. Without make-up she could be mistaken for a teenager. A very young teenager. Actually, she is 24 years old...",(1) with a 19 month old baby.
Her death was not reported nationally and neither were any of her fellow actors present at the private memorial at the family home. In fact, her memorial was held on the opening day of performances at Santa Rosa Summer Repertory Theatre (Luther Burbank Theatre), so her family and the artistic director, Frank Zwolinsky, agreed that Connie would have wanted the .."show to go on." The SRT 2001 season was dedicated to Connie.
Connie was a private person, for whom her family was the keystone of her life and her most important role.
Connie's lineage was particularly impressive:her father, John Trumbull Marshall, a member of the Allied Military Government in Europe in the 1940s, was a descendant of both Justice Marshall (2) and Jonathan Trumbull Marshall, first Governor of Connecticut (1769-1784), (a personal friend and adviser to George Washington). Trumbull College at Yale is named after him, as is the town of Trumbull in Connecticut. Jonathan Trumbull Jr. continued the tradition, becoming Governor of Connecticut (1798-1809), whilst his younger brother was a painter of the American Revolution.(3) John Alden and Priscilla Mullens, who sailed from England on The Mayflower in 1620 and married two or three years later, were direct ancestors of the Marshall family(4) whilst the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow(5) was a direct descendant of John and Priscilla. On her maternal side, Catharine Van Dyke Bull was descended from Jan Thomasse Van Dyke, founder of New Utrecht(6) with a link to the Wright brothers, the aviation pioneers(7) and of Geradus Beekman, 1st Colonial Governor of New York. Her mother, Catharine, headed "Modern Mothers", an organisation for better parenting in the 1940s.(8)
With such notable ancestors and an IQ of 135, it is hardly surprising that Connie displayed such talent and an eagerness to learn.
From the age of 5 years, Connie joined the Harold Conover Modelling Agency and was managed by Hal Finley. She appeared in a portrait by Norman Rockwell, which featured in an edition of Good Housekeeping in 1942.
Whilst at the Gardner School, New York she performed in various plays, gaining her opportunity when the lead fell ill and Connie, who had memorised all the lines, was able to step in at the last minute. (9) Having been seen by a talent scout, who identified her promise, Connie's mother (her husband was in Europe at the time) moved the family from New York to Los Angeles. A screen test was seen by LloydBacon, who happened to be casting "Sunday Dinner For a Soldier" and thus Connie was cast in her first role as Mary Osborne, in which she made a strong impression, presenting the role with a natural ease and flair. Who could ever forget Mary's concern for Miss Easter (played by Henrietta), the chicken for the dinner, which she believed was her prize pet. Strangely enough, Connie was frightened of chickens after one bit her on the knee, from whichshe bore the scars!(10)......was it Miss Easter who did the shameful act? Who is to know?........is it too presumptuous to believe so?
"Queen of the Pigtails"(11) (who would sleep in metal curlers, if she wanted to look glamorous) was a great animal lover. In a newspaper interview circa 1946, Connie refers to her pets as "..two goldfish, a snail and a canary, but (she) be owning dogs and cats too as soon as her father ....comes home from Europe and they find a house with a yard..."Connie was a true animal lover, owning cats and dogs throughout her life, even taking in strays. On one occasion she rescued a scraggy, stray dog from Mexico, which she called Pepito (little dog) and saved her black Labrador Lizzie, whom she found in pain and adopted her as her own. She would sleep on Connie's bed and drag her around, when taken for a walk. Lizzie's collar was fittingly placed on Connie's gravestone.
In 1948, Gene Handsaker(12)reported "Connie Marshall will capture your heart in the ....tear filled "Sentimental Journey", whilst The Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune asserted "...it is for little Connie Marshall that extra special garlands must be reserved. In what is by any standards a very difficult role, the wondrously talented youngster has acquitted herself in true star fashion, carving for herself a sure niche, high amongst the great child actresses of the screen. You'll be seeing a great deal more of Connie from now on."(13)
Between 1946 and 1950 Connie made nine further films (ten, if "Down to the Sea in Ships" 1949, in which her scenes were deleted, is counted):including "Sentimental Journey", four were released in 1946 and two in 1947, each with prominent roles. Connie was a prolific reader, (enjoying books such as Paul de Kruif's 'Microbe Hunters', which had been brought home by her sister(14)), but memorising lines and the direction, whilst getting into character for a series of films in quick succession, must have been no mean feat. All this whilst attending academic lessons, when off set and at the Fox Studio School. She remembered fondly that Vincent Price called for a break during the film "Dragonwyck", after seeing that she looked tired.
In each of her roles, she brought some memorable actions and talent - the coy side-long glance at John Payne in the opening sequence of "Wake Up and Dream", when Jeff tells her she is jealous; or the scene in "Home Sweet Homicide" where she throws a tantrum on the floor, saying ...."that man is frightening me..." to avoid answering the detective's questions; the "Chewing Gum " song in "Mother Wore Tights" or the moving search for Julie towards the end of "Sentimental Journey"....everyone will have their own lasting recollections.
Like any young child, Connie had a special prized possession - a charm bracelet, with each charm representing a step in her film career - a ring given to her by the actor with whom she made her screen test, a chicken for "Sunday Dinner For a Soldier", a goat for "Dragonwyck" and a ship from "Wake Up and Dream".(15) It also contained a marriage licence. What might this have represented?
In 1953, Connie played her last major film role in "Saginaw Trail", although she appeared in, but was not credited, In "Rogue Cop" 1954 and was seen in some TV series. Her television shows are listed on her screen page and are up to date as Oct 2009.
In 1950, she continued to improve her dramatic abilities, when she gained a place at UCLA. It was here, in a drama class, that she met her future husband, "a big handsome guy named Frank Geldert who was studying Business Administration"(16) and, who was to become a Marine Corps pilot, fighting in the Korean War. They married on 23 August 1953 at All Saints Episcopal Church, the same year in which she appeared in "The Twonky" and "Saginaw Trail".
Was acting now taking a back seat to her role as a wife? Perhaps! Was the "marriage licence" charm to represent her most defining role? In an interview after "Sunday Dinner For a Soldier", Connie passionately outlined her philosophy of life: "I don't think one family is big enough for two careers, so I am going to give up acting to make a home for my husband when I get married. I'd like to have four or five children".(17)
So this was Connie's "Hollywood Dream"- her prophesy for the future: she did have four children - 3 daughters and one son - and was not to be seen on the screen after 1954, although she did appear in commercials until 1956.
Connie tried so hard to fit into the mould of a 1950s wife and mother - she made jams, chutneys and pickles; she baked AWESOME pies and cookies and made "damn good" baked ham, smothered in marmalade and studded with cloves; she sewed outfits for the children and knitted and crocheted "granny square" blankets in beautiful colours. At one point, Connie taught her eldest daughter to knit argyle socks, which is hard enough to learn, let alone teach, especially when one is left handed. She taught her daughter by sitting in front of her, so that her movements could be matched.
In 1952, Connie appeared in a television series "Doc Corkle". The producers obtained an insurance policy on Connie, which covered almost anything that might happen to a young actress, "....against her getting married, maturing too quickly, outgrowing her role, gaining more than seven and a half pounds, having a change in voice or suffering any physical impediment."(18) The programme was withdrawn by the sponsors after a few episodes, at a time when Connie must have seriously contemplated or decided upon her marriage.
In 1956 Connie contracted polio, complicated by the fact that she was pregnant with her first child Pamela. The determination which she displayed as a youngster was to shine through again "...I was determined that I was going to get out of that respirator before my baby was due. I couldn't bear the thought of not being able to care for my baby myself ....I didn't want my illness to ruin my chances for my family."(19) In good Hollywood tradition, Connie recovered sufficiently to leave the respirator before the birth and went on to have three more children. Her priorities were now her family. She passed on her love of the theatre and the arts, including both classical and popular music, (The Beatles, The Moody Blues, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Carole King) to her children and, subsequently her grandchildren. She enjoyed travel, with the Russian River and surrounding areas holding a special attraction for her.
Connie took regular work, after her divorce, in health and AIDS clinics and as a legal secretary, but she continued to be involved in the performing arts and community theatre throughout her life, working in repertory groups. For at least 10 years, she did voluntary work at Santa Rosa Junior College, where she was involved in costume, make-up and stage management. She had her own special chair in the Luther Burbank auditorium,H7, directly on the aisle, which gave Connie a clear view of the stage.(20) Many young amateur drama students clearly owe a great debt to her participation in these activities.
Connie died of cancer at home, with her family at 8am on 22 May 2001. Her passing left a huge gap in the lives of her family, who were unaware of the impact that their mother had on her audiences.
Connie Marshall was a truly remarkable actress and mother, who brought joy into the lives of others and still continues to do so. We have a garden in California called Connie's corner, where the family have planted lovely flowers and seeds from the founder of this society's home in London, England.
The founder of this site is continuing along with Connie's daughters to still find out about Connie and her life to the public. Since publishing this site we now know that Connie was working backstage at a theatre in Santa Rosa helping new students run their shows up until the year 2000. None of these people knew that she once starred with the greatest stars on screen. Besides this site and a tribute on www.Findagrave.com set up by Malcolm James please,please keep her name alive. Thank you all.
Gone but never forgotten.
Copyright 2007/8/9/10 CMS.
(1) Los Angeles Times, 19 January 1958
(2) Time Magazine, 8 November 1926
(4) Time Magazine, 8 November 1926
(6) Time Magazine
(7) The New Netherlands Ancestors
(8) The Fresno Bee, 16 January 1949
(9) Information provided by the Marshall family
(10) Information provided by the Marshall family
(11) a reference to Connie's modelling days
(12) Ironwood Daily Globe,Michigan, 1 May 1946
(13) The Chillicothe Constitution -Tribune, Missouri, 15 August 1946
(14) Newspaper article c. 1946 unaccredited
(15) Newspaper article c. 1946 unaccredited
(16) Los Angeles Times, 19 January 1958
(17) Los Angeles Times, 19 January 1958
(18) Humboldt Standard, California, 3 October 1952
(19) Los Angeles Times, 19 January 1958
(20) Information provided by the Marshall family
Valuable Family Information and photo's provided by Pamela, Allison and Leslie of the Marshall family with thanks.
Historical Biography and research
by Mrs Jackie James B Sc(Econ)
Web display by Mr Richard James.
Portraits by Christine Morton, Resident CMS. Artist.
Founder, researcher and publisher was Malcolm James: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Connie Marshall Society. (CMS) was founded in October 2007 in London, England and California, USA
If you wish to use any material on this site along with photographs please credit this site for being able to do this.
Thank you all for taking the time to read about Connie Marshall.
We are not associated in any way with any other site bearing the "Connie Marshall" name.