Ann Sheridan would overcome Warner Bros.'s silly "Oomph Girl" publicity campaign by sheer determination and Lana Turner eventually discarded MGM's "Sweater Girl" designation. Paramount's Marie "The Body" McDonald, a blond former beauty queen and chorus girl, was not so fortunate and the silly tag remained her biggest claim to fame along with a seemingly endless parade of husbands and failed opportunities. While she did turn up in various low budget escapist fare, and exhibited a finely-tuned flair for comedy in GETTING GERTIE'S GARTER (1945), McDonald is really a case of what might have been. Among the many opportunities she subsequently missed was playing Billie Dawn in BORN YESTERDAY (1950), a great role that actually mirrored her own brief involvement with gangster Bugsy Siegel. That liaison, however, had turned violent, and violence seems to have been part of her psychological makeup. McDonald's relationship with her third husband, shoe magnate Harry Karl (whose high living would later bankrupt another screen-actress wife, Debbie Reynolds), proved especially rocky with numerous public breakups and reunions. Her screen work soon took a decided backseat to her private battles, and in January of 1957 she staged her own kidnapping to bolster whatever acting career was left. And, she later admitted, to get back at Karl, from whom she was once again estranged. Several failed marriages followed their divorce in 1964, all of them of startlingly brief, and a series of nervous breakdowns necessitated prolonged hospitalizations. Her death in 1965 from an overdose of Percodan was officially ruled accidental but was most likely suicide. She was 42. Tragically, her seventh and final husband joined her in death in the identical manner little more than a year later.
The final film of Marie McDonald:
PROMISES! PROMISES! (NTD, 1963) D: King Donovan. CAST: Jayne Mansfield, Marie McDonald (Claire Banner), Mickey Hargitay, Tommy Noonan, Fritz Feld, T.C. Jones. When buxom Mansfield fails to get pregnant by hubby Noonan, the couple go on a boozy cruise with McDonald and Hargitay (Mansfield's real-life husband at the time). Both wives end up expecting but who fathered what child? McDonald replaced Mamie Van Doren in this tasteless "comedy" best known for Mansfield's frontal nudity, a Hollywood "first," and the on-the-set battles between the two leading ladies. PROMISES! PROMISES! was co-produced by actor Tommy Noonan and Donald F. Taylor, who became McDonald's last husband the following year.