Alan Marshal (actor)

Alan Marshal (29 January 1909 – 9 July 1961) was an actor who performed on stage in the United States and in Hollywood films. He was sometimes billed as Alan Marshall or Alan Willey.

Alan Marshal
Marshal in House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Born(1909-01-29)29 January 1909
Died9 July 1961(1961-07-09) (aged 52)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)
Years active1923–1961
Spouse(s)? Marshal (?-?) (divorced) 1 child
Mary Grace Borel (1938–1961) (his death) 1 child


Early life

Born Alan M Willey in Sydney, Australia, he was the son of popular Queensland stage actress Irby (Agnes) Marshall and English actor-producer Leonard Willey. The family left Australia in mid 1914, when he was five years old.[1][2]

Willey and Marshal appeared in several Australian films made in 1912 – including The Strangler's Grip (1912) and The Mystery of the Black Pearl (1912), both directed by Franklyn Barrett.[3]

Irby and Leonard continued their successful careers on the stage in the United States, first in San Francisco then in New York.[4]

Early acting career

Alan reportedly first appeared on Broadway in The Swan (1924), at age 15 as "Alan Willey".[5][6]

He went on to appear on Broadway in The Merchant of Venice (1928), The Game of Love and Death (1929–30), Michael and Mary (1930), and Death Takes a Holiday (1931).

As "Alan Marshal", he had roles on Broadway in Foolscap (1933), Going Gay (1934), While Parents Sleep (1934), Lady Jane (1934), The Bishop Misbehaves (1935) and On Stage (1935).

Film career

According to his son, Kit, Marshal was spotted by a studio scout while performing in a play in New York and was asked to do a screen test for Selznick International Studios.[7]

Selznick cast him in a supporting role in The Garden of Allah (1936) with Charles Boyer and Marlene Dietrich.

Marshal was loaned to MGM where he was in After the Thin Man (1936). That studio liked him and gave him a good part in Night Must Fall (1937).

Marshal was used by MGM for key roles in prestige pictures: Parnell (1937), playing William O'Shea who was cuckolded by Clark Gable and Myrna Loy; and Conquest (1937) with Greta Garbo and Boyer, playing Philippe Antoine d'Ornano.[8]

Walter Wanger borrowed him for I Met My Love Again (1938), billed fourth.

Marshal's first lead role was in a B picture at Republic Films, Invisible Enemy (1938). He went back to support parts for The Road to Reno (1938) at Universal, then was the romantic male lead in Dramatic School (1938) with Luise Rainer at MGM, a big flop.[9]

He played a similar sort of part in Four Girls in White (1939) then was Anna Sten's co star in Exile Express (1939) made at Grand National Pictures.

Marshal had a strong role in 20th Century Fox's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939) supporting Basil Rathbone and Ida Lupino.

At RKO Marshal had a support part in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) and the lead in a B picture, Married and in Love (1940), directed by John Farrow.[10] He supported Anna Neagle in Irene (1940) at RKO and Loretta Young in He Stayed for Breakfast (1940) at Columbia.[11]

Marshal stayed at Columbia for The Howards of Virginia (1940) with Cary Grant then went back to RKO to play one of Ginger Rogers's suitors in Tom, Dick and Harry (1940), a big hit. He was second billed to Merle Oberon in Lydia (1941). In 1942 Selznick sold many of his contracts to 20th Century Fox including Marshal's.[12]

Marshal was second billed to Irene Dunne in The White Cliffs of Dover (1944) at MGM, a huge hit.[13][14] He was top billed in Bride by Mistake (1944) with Laraine Day, another box office success.[15] "It's the third time I've been discovered", said Marshall, who was set to star in Claudia (1945).[16]

However Marshal had a nervous breakdown and did not act for a number of years.[17] During his 1953 divorce, his wife claimed that Marshal became depressed, turned down many roles, and showed no willingness to work.[18]


Marshall was announced for Three Came Home (1950) but did not appear in the final film.[19] It was reported he withdrew due to illness.[20]

Marshal concentrated on television in the 1950s, appearing in episodes of Lights Out (1950) ("The Dark Corner"), The Clock (1951) ("Last Adventure"), Robert Montgomery Presents (1952) ("Claire Ambler"), and Climax! (1956) ("The Hanging Judge", directed by John Frankenheimer).

Marshal returned to movies with a small role in The Opposite Sex (1956). He was more commonly found on TV, such as in Playhouse 90 (1957, "The Greer Case"), Perry Mason (1958, "The Case of the Terrified Typist"), Buckskin (1958, "The Ghost of Balaclava"), General Electric Theatre (1958, "Battle for a Soul", directed by Ray Milland), Wagon Train (1958, "The Doctor Willoughby Story", with Jane Wyman), The Ann Sothern Show (1958, "The Countess of Bartley"), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1958, "Murder Me Twice"), Rawhide (1959, "Incident on the Edge of Madness", with Lon Chaney Jr), 77 Sunset Strip (1959)("In Memorandum"), M Squad (1959) ("Ghost Town"), Sugarfoot (1959, "The Vultures"), Bourbon Street Beat (1959, "Invitation to a Murder") and Surfside 6 (1960, "Spinout at Sebrin").

Marshall had a supporting role in House on Haunted Hill (1959) starring Vincent Price and directed by William Castle, and the western Day of the Outlaw (1959).[21]


Year Title Role Notes
1936The Garden of AllahCapt. De Trevignac(film debut)
1936After the Thin ManRobert Landis
1937Night Must FallJustin
1937ConquestCaptain d'Ornano
1938I Met My Love AgainMichael Shaw
1938Invisible EnemyJeffrey Clavering
1938The Road to RenoWalter Crawford
1938Dramatic SchoolMarquis Andre D'Abbencourt
1939Four Girls in WhiteDr. Stephen Melford
1939Exile ExpressSteve Reynolds
1939The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesJerrold Hunter
1939The Hunchback of Notre DameCaptain Phoebus
1940Married and in LoveDr. Leslie Yates
1940IreneBob Vincent
1940He Stayed for BreakfastAndre Dorlay
1940The Howards of VirginiaRoger Peyton
1941Tom, Dick and HarryDick
1941LydiaRichard Mason
1944The White Cliffs of DoverSir John Ashwood
1944Bride by MistakeCaptain Anthony Travis
1956The Opposite SexTed
1959House on Haunted HillDr. David Trent
1959Day of the OutlawHal Crane(final film)


Marshal eloped with socialite Mary Grace Borel (born 31 October 1915, San Francisco – died 18 May 1998, Los Angeles) in 1938. Their son, Kit Marshal, was born on 2 December 1939.


He died from a heart attack while appearing in Chicago with Mae West in a production of her play "Sextette" at the Edgewater Beach Playhouse. He suffered a heart attack during the play but finished the performance. He was found dead in his bed at the Edgeware Beach Hotel. Marshal's son Kit was also performing in the show. Marshall was 52 years old.[22][23]

His interment was at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.


  1. Truth (Brisbane, Qld. : 1900–1954), 27 September 1914 Page 2 "In and Out of Society" Accessed 12 January 2017
  2. "Another Discovery". The Telegraph. Brisbane. 15 August 1936. p. 15. Retrieved 4 January 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  3. Andrew Pike & Ross Cooper (1980) Australian Film 1900–1977 pp. .43-45. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0 19 554213 4
  4. "Australian Conquests in Hollywood". The Advertiser. Adelaide. 28 November 1936. p. 13. Retrieved 4 January 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  5. News (Adelaide, SA), 9 March 1939 Page 14 "Actor From Australia" Accessed 12 January 2017.
  6. "Actor From Australia". The News. XXXII (4, 875). Adelaide. 9 March 1939. p. 14. Retrieved 4 January 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  7. Alan Marshal Biography. Kit Marshal Accessed 12 January 2017
  8. "Film Notes". The West Australian. 61 (18, 373) (Second ed.). Western Australia. 1 June 1945. p. 9. Retrieved 4 January 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  9. "Hollywood Parade". The Advertiser. Adelaide. 12 November 1938. p. 13. Retrieved 4 January 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  10. ""I'll Be Back Someday"... Says Australian Alan Marshal from Hollywood". The Australian Women's Weekly. 7 (35). 3 February 1940. p. 2 (The Movie World). Retrieved 4 January 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  11. The life story of Alan Marshal. (11 January 1941). Picture show, 44, 16. Retrieved from
  12. 20th in deal with selznick. (16 November 1942). Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from
  13. Glancy, H. Mark "When Hollywood Loved Britain: The Hollywood 'British' Film 1939–1945" (Manchester University Press, 1999)
  14. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study
  15. Richard B. Jewell, Slow Fade to Black: The Decline of RKO Radio Pictures, Uni of California, 2016
  16. "Australians Win Film Fame". Sunday Times (Perth) (2426). Western Australia. 13 August 1944. p. 4 (Supplement to the Sunday Times). Retrieved 4 January 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  17. "Biography". Alan Marshall.
  18. Mrs. alan marshal wins divorce from film actor. (9 July 1953). Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from
  19. Schallert, E. (31 March 1949). Alan marshal to star with Claudette Colbert; Kazan takes over 'Pinky'. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from
  20. Schallert, E. (13 May 1949). Wilding deal settled; lundigan 'doctor' lead; hope, ball duo favored. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from
  21. Scheuer, P. K. (6 November 1958). Nick of all parts—that's persoff! Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from
  22. Alan Marshal, Actor, 52, Dead. (10 July 1961). New York Times. Retrieved from
  23. West, J. C. (16 October 1966). An Understudy Is Always On Stage. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from

Further reading

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