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Marianne (Marion V. Loris) Lawson
April 11, 1925 ~ January 4, 2018 (age 92) 92 Years Old
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Marianne Loris Lawson of Burbank, California, born April 11, (born Marion) and raised in Ashland, Ohio, next to the youngest of five sisters and a brother, by Paul and Effa Loris. Passed away at 92 on January 4th of age-related causes.
Graduated high school 1943, she soon moved to Los Angeles to join two sisters, where she began studying theater at LACC and the L.A. Actors' Studio. She briefly moved to New York City to pursue acting and further training. At both, she received coaching from renowned acting teachers Lee Strasburg, Stella Adler, and Elia Kazan, all original proponents and adapters of Stanislavski, or “Method” acting. Fellow students included Lloyd Bridges and John Cassavetes. She did some stage work, including a short-lived Broadway play called “All You Need is One Good Break,” that included J. Edward Bromberg and debuted Lee Grant.
She crossed paths with many actors, writers, and directors who would go on to fame. Read for parts with James Dean, famed writers Lillian Hellman and Clifford Odetts (became a pal), and competed with Cloris Leachman and Julie Harris. She was inspiration for character “Marianne Lorress” in 1950 film Lady Without a Passport played by Hedy Lamarr (with whom, along with Jane Russell, she was often compared). She dated Charlie Chaplin Jr., becoming a regular guest at the home of his legendary father, Charlie Chaplin, Sr., where she socialized with Greta Garbo, Shirley Temple, Kirk Douglas, among many actors. She would “babysit” Geraldine Chaplin.
Returning to California she reconnected with her soon-to-be husband, big band saxophonist Robert Lawson, of the Jimmy Dorsey Band. They had previously met when she attended big band concerts at the Hollywood Palladium in mid-1940s, which featured Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, and Frank Sinatra. They had three children together, Heidi, Jodi, and James. Their marriage lasted until the early ‘60’s.
In 1961, she began working as a secretary for Marlon Brando, Sr. at Pennebaker Productions, begun by his son, acting legend Marlon Brando, Jr. While also working for company film producer Walter Seltzer (Soylent Green), he introduced her to his brother Julian Seltzer, Director of Advertising, 20th Century Fox, to whom she was later married until his death. The Seltzer brothers were close friends with Charlton Heston, Victor Mature, and Diana Douglas (Michael’s mother and formerly married to Kirk) with whom they all spent much private family time over the years.
Later, she became secretary to top senior executives at MCA/Universal. She then worked for Charles “Bud” Dant, award-winning composer and producer at Decca Records, when he guided the recording of The Irish Rovers, “The Unicorn Song,” recordings of Earl Grant, and U.S. issue of The Who's ground-breaking rock opera “Tommy.” Her knowledge of music industry led to a position at the Musician’s Union in Hollywood. Her career culminated as Office Manager/Secretary for Kings County Development Corporation in North Hollywood, a long time private land/mineral holdings trust in California with roots to the early railroad and other prominent industrial families.
Among her favorite things were: Shirley Temple, skater Sonja Henie, Judy Garland, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy; history, especially the Titanic, John Muir, Albert Einstein, the space program, and Sequoia National Park, where she loved to walk through the “big trees.”
She got to experience a lot of history, including a parade in the ‘40’s through downtown L.A. that featured war hero General George S. Patton (riding on a tank), and a ‘50’s motorcade through Burbank by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. She won a beauty contest in Hollywood as well. She also attended the Indianapolis 500 in 1954 and attended several Academy Awards. Her music connections allowed her to take her family to two Beatles concerts, one at the Hollywood Bowl and another at Dodger Stadium in the ‘60’s.
She retired and continued living at her home of 55 years in Burbank. She passed away peacefully at Providence St. Joseph Hospital. She is survived by her three children, Heidi Lawson Brennan (Arlington, VA), Jodi H. Lawson (Burbank), and James C. Lawson (Redondo Beach), six grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and twelve nephews and nieces. In lieu of a funeral, her family will reunite to celebrate her life this spring. Donations may be made in her memory to Providence Saint Joseph Foundation, Burbank, CA.