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Marion Shilling (Early Western Actress) & 'Cyrano de Bergerac' Producer René Cleitman Have Died

Marion Shilling B Western actress in 40+ movies from B thrillers to MGM backstage musical flopMarion Shilling: B Western actress was seen in more than 40 movies of the early 1930s, including B thrillers and an MGM backstage musical.

Marion Shilling: Early talkie & B Western actress dead at 93

In early December, it was made public that Marion Shilling, an early talkie actress and leading lady in a few dozen B Westerns of the 1930s, had died of “natural causes” on Nov. 6 '04 at Torrance Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles County. Shilling (born Marion Helen Schilling on Dec. 3, 1910, in Denver, Colorado) was 93.

Initially a stage performer – she had a supporting role in the Los Angeles production of Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi – Marion Shilling began appearing in movies right at the dawn of the sound era.

As found on the IMDb, her film debut took place in a supporting role in E. Mason Hopper's Wise Girls (1929), toplining minor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer leading man Elliott Nugent.

Shilling and Hopper (no connection to gossip columnist Hedda Hopper) would work together again on two more minor efforts: the B Pre-Coder Shop Angel (1932) and the B murder mystery Curtain at Eight (1933).

'Lord Byron of Broadway'

As a nominal leading lady, Marion Shilling's most important movie of the period was Harry Beaumont and William Nigh's MGM backstage musical Lord Byron of Broadway (1930), which came out the year after Beaumont's wildly successful The Broadway Melody.

Although cast as the romantic interest of the (little-known) male lead, Charles Kaley, Shilling had what amounted to a nondescript supporting part. The film itself – a flop that ended her association with the studio – is notable for one reason: a fantastic two-color musical number featuring Broadway star Ethelind Terry.

More Marion Shilling movies

The early 1930s were a difficult time for Marion Shilling, following the sudden death of her trusted agent. Among her other non-Western movies in those years were:

  • Louis J. Gasnier's crime drama Shadow of the Law (1930), in which good girl Shilling and greedy villainess Natalie Moorhead vie for the attention of a pre-stardom William Powell.
  • Paul L. Stein's Paris-set, Pre-Code romantic melodrama The Common Law (1931), starring Constance Bennett as a nude model who falls for American painter Joel McCrea.
  • Fred Niblo's anti-drugs drama Young Donovan's Kid (1931), starring Richard Dix, who that same year was seen in Wesley Ruggles' Academy Award-winning blockbuster Cimarron, and The Champ child star Jackie Cooper. “When [Dix] made his entrance on the sound stage each morning was an event,” Shilling would recall decades later in Boyd Magers and Michael G. Fitzgerald's Westerns Women. “Following him was a parade: stand-in, valet, secretary and several musicians, along with a big ego.”
Marion Shilling Western actressMarion Shilling: B Western actress seen here in non-Western garb. Marion Shilling was featured opposite a number of 1930s cowboy stars, including Hoot Gibson, Buck Jones, Tom Tyler, Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams, Tim McCoy, and Rex Bell.

B Western actress

Marion Shilling was first featured in a horse opera in 1931: Robert F. Hill's Sundown Trail, opposite B cowboy star Tom Keene.

Among her other buckaroo leading men during that period were:

  • Hoot Gibson in A Man's Land (1932) and Cavalcade of the West (1936). In Westerns Women, Shilling recalled Gibson as “a really 'nice guy.' A true professional, always on time, always knew his lines.”
  • Buck Jones, in the serial The Red Rider (1934) and Stone of Silver Creek (1935). As found in Westerns Women, Jones was Shilling's favorite actor.
  • Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams in Thunder Over Texas (1934) and Gun Play (1935), in addition to the comedy Society Fever (1935), toplining Lois Wilson and Lloyd Hughes, both of whom had enjoyed successful careers during the silent era.
  • Tim McCoy in The Westerner (1934; no connection with the 1940 A-grade Gary Cooper Western of the same name). McCoy and Shilling also saw each other off screen, but according to her things went south after she was invited to a Palm Springs weekend where he would “teach me all about life.”
  • Rex Bell in Idaho Kid (1936). Also known as Clara Bow's real-life husband, Bell had previously been Shilling's leading man in Richard Thorpe's Hollywood-set 1931 drama Forgotten Women, also featuring veteran Beryl Mercer.

At age 25, Shilling quit Hollywood in 1936. In the previous seven years, she had been seen in about 40 films, most of them either B Westerns of B thrillers.

The year after her retirement, she married a real estate mogul. Their marriage would last until his death in 1998.

The Horseman on the Roof Juliette Binoche Olivier Martinez: Old-fashioned romantic period adventureThe Horseman on the Roof with Juliette Binoche and Olivier Martinez. Old-fashioned, romantic period adventure is one of recently deceased producer René Cleitman's best-known films.

'Cyrano de Bergerac' producer dead at 64

Following Marion Shilling, here's another brief obit: Producer René Cleitman, whose credits include the Jean-Paul Rappeneau-directed Cyrano de Bergerac, died of cancer at a Paris hospital on Dec. 14. He was 64.

Cleitman produced more than 20 feature films, but in terms of international popularity Cyrano de Bergerac (1990) was his most notable effort. The period piece stars Best Actor Academy Award nominee Gérard Depardieu, Anne Brochet, and Vincent Perez.

Other René Cleitman film credits in various producing capacities include the following:

  • Patrice Leconte's well-regarded crime drama Monsieur Hire (1989), with Michel Blanc and Sandrine Bonnaire.
  • Nikita Mikhalkov's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee Close to Eden / Urga (1992).
  • The old-fashionably romantic The Horseman on the Roof / Le Hussard sur le toit (1995), with Juliette Binoche and Olivier Martinez.

Additionally, Cleitman appeared as himself in Terry Gilliam's documentary Lost in La Mancha, about Gilliam's failed attempt to make “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” with a cast that might – or might not – have included Jean Rochefort, Johnny Depp, Vanessa Paradis, and Miranda Richardson.

René Cleitman's last film, Jérôme Bonnell's Les yeux clairs (“Light Eyes”), is scheduled for a March 2005 release.


Marion Shilling image: Publicity shot ca. 1930.

Juliette Binoche and Olivier Martinez The Horseman on the Roof image: AFMD / Miramax Films.

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