Marilyn Nash, Charles Chaplin’s young leading lady in the critical and box office disappointment Monsieur Verdoux, has died. She was either 84 or 85, according to the IMDb. Author Jeffrey Vance announced Nash’s death on his Facebook wall.
Like most of Chaplin’s discoveries – Paulette Goddard and Claire Bloom are two glaring exceptions – the Detroit-born (Oct. 1926) Nash didn’t have much of a career in motion pictures. In fact, she had only one other screen credit, as a doctor in Terry O. Morse’s 1951 sci-fier Unknown World. As herself, she was interviewed in Jeffrey Schwarz’s 2007 documentary Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story. (Nash was friends with William Castle, whom she met through her first husband, screenwriter Philip Yordan, whose credits include Detective Story, Johnny Guitar, and El Cid.)
In addition to her couple of movies, Nash also made a couple of television appearances in the ’50s. She later settled in Oroville in Northern California, where she at times acted as a casting director for movies shot in the area. She also wrote a book, Secrets of Hollywood Heydays, in which she “shares Hollywood secrets, and reveals her diet and healthy living programs.”
According to her Secrets mini-bio, “most recently, Marilyn Nash reviews movies for newspapers, is an interior and exterior designer, a graduate of the Gemological Institute of America, involved with the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic, a co-founder of Birdcage Theatre, active with Friends of the Parks and the Chinese Temple in Oroville. She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.”
Nash was one of two Charles Chaplin leading ladies still alive. Paulette Goddard (Modern Times, The Great Dictator), Mabel Normand (Tillie’s Punctured Romance), Marie Dressler (also Tillie’s), Virginia Cherrill (City Lights), Georgia Hale (The Gold Rush), Merna Kennedy (The Circus), Edna Purviance (The Kid and numerous shorts), Martha Raye (Monsieur Verdoux), Dawn Addams (A King in New York) are all dead. Claire Bloom, Chaplin’s leading lady in the 1952 comedy-drama Limelight, is the only one still alive. Bloom was recently seen as the Queen Mother in the Best Picture Oscar winner The King’s Speech. (Sophia Loren and Tippi Hedren were featured in Chaplin’s A Countess from Hong Kong, but they were not his leading ladies. Marlon Brando starred in that poorly received romantic comedy.)
A Marilyn Nash tribute can be found at the William Castle website. She’s referred to as “our own Auntie Mame.”
Monsieur Verdoux picture via the BFI.