Marjorie Woodworth certainly fits into this blog when measured by her obscurity. The number of people who can name her are far and few between. Yet, unlike many other obscure actresses who were never properly billed, she was a leading lady to a few respected leading men. Heck, broadly speaking, her career wasn’t even that “bad”. So, how did she fall into this category? It’s hard to say exactly, but she did not do the magical “must” for every star – enchant the public so much they want more, more and more.
In a nutshell: She was given a very good chance (which only a few get in Tinsel Town), failed to make a lasting impression, her career was cut short and was quickly forgotten. A very frequent story in Hollywood.
Marjorie Flora Woodworth was born on June 5, 1919, in Inglewood, California, to a distinguished family: her father was Clyde Cyril Woodworth, city attorney of Inglewood, Manhattan Beach and other beach towns. Clyde attended Occidental College 1 year then the University of Southern California Night Law School. In 1913 he became the youngest Inglewood City Attorney. Her mother, Flora Marguerita Zier, was the daughter of German and Norwegian parents. She was their only child. In 1920, the family lived with her maternal grandparents,Joseph and Lena Ziers in Inglewood.
Marjorie attended University of Southern California. It was there when, during an amateur thespian assignment, she got noticed by a movie scout. Thrilled to find a girl who looks so such like the late and never forgotten Jean Harlow, she was signed right away by Hal Roach Studios, located in Culver City. Her path to Hollywood had just started…
To say that Marjorie Woodworth was a zero for Hollywood would still be a gross understatement. Despite her marginal worth to movie history, she was an actress who acted opposite screen heavy weights like Victor MacLagen and William Bendix .
Hal Roach obviously saw great promise in the girl, and conspired to make her a star right off the bat. While this strategy – a older, powerful and experienced producer pushes a young and inexperienced actress to stardom – had been repeated through Hollywood history (famous example, David Selznick and Jennifer Jones) with varying degree of success, often it ended on a sour note and broke up the union. One can only guess what Roach saw in Marjorie, but he obviously believed in her and wanted her to become the next big thing so much he became too forceful in trying to promote her. Typical mistake. She was constantly in the newspapers, often compared to Jean Harlow.
Jimmie Fidler, the brittle tongued columnist, wrote as early as april 1941 “that If ever I saw a new career launched in bad taste and with minimum good Judgment, 19 year-old Marjorie Woodworth, Hal Roach “find,” is getting such a sendoff.”
Marjorie, an unknown with only minimal experience, was put as the lead in a screwball comedy, Broadway Limited. Now, while total beginners can make splashes in Hollywood when given the right material, screwball comedy is quite wrong for that purpose. It’s a genre that asks for somebody who knows their comedic timing -and it’s more experience and some latent ability than looks and pure talent. After watching the movie, what I can say is: While Marjorie looked like a knockout, her skills were not on par.
She suffered from a predicament often pinned to classical actresses in comedies – they are simply too beautiful and regal to be truly funny, and everybody and everything overshadows them. She has strong support from top notch character actors (Patsy Kelly, the fabulous Leonid Kinskey, the solid Dennis O’Keefe) who completely chew the scenery, something she neither could nor had the chance to do. Only a few actresses actually realized this and managed to both play comedy and remain beautiful (Carole Lombard, Claudette Colbert, Barbara Stanwyck). The movie is by no means a bad one, but it tanked at the box office.
Contrary to the popular “one bomb and you’re dead”, she was still given leads in further Roach productions. Niagra Falls, Brooklyn Orchids, Dudes are Pretty people, Flying with music were all her vehicles, but neither movie made any real impact with the public. She stayed with Roach until 1943, but not by playing main but second lead roles. By that time her moment of fame was gone.
Marjorie continued to make movies all the way until 1947, but “post-Roach” (1944-1947) she was only playing supports. While her filmography has several very good movies, (Alan Ladd movie, Salty O’Rourke, an obscure but very good film noir, Decoy, and a great Ronald Colman movie, A Double Life), her status as a second banana did not warrant her further movie offers. IMHO, if she wanted, she could have resumed her career and become a character actress, but she obviously decided against it and opted for retirement. Her last appearance in 1947 was uncredited.
Marjorie was, surprisingly, very low key in this segment of her life. For a starlet who thrived on publicity, this was quite out of step. When she arrived in Hollywood in 1940, she was often featured in newspapers, but mostly as a model for cosmetics (she was a Maybelline gal of the 1940s). She was also quite the fashion plate, modeling newest trends in papers every so often.
She was a good friend of columnist Walter Winchell and even wrote several columns for him during WW2. She wrote about the US Navy. TO add to her war effort, she and Chill Wills entertained boys in the Camp Huachuca, Arizona, in 1943.
She was not really connected to anybody in Hollywood, and later I found out why – she had been dating her University of Southern California beau, Michael C Kosturick, since the freshman year. They married on Februrary 13, 1947, in Los Angeles. Michael was born two years prior to Marjorie, on July 20, 1917, and he was drafted in WW2 in 1941. A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he was an actor when they married.
Marjorie’s dad, Clyde, served as attorney for 43 years, retiring in 1956. Two years before Clyde retired The Clyde Woodworth Elementary School was dedicated in his name. The school still stands today. He also has a street named after him in Inglewood.
There are no records of a divorce, and when Marjorie died on August 23, 2000, she died under the name of Marjorie F. Kostrucik, thus I assume the two were still married. I could also not find any information about children.
Michael outlived Marjorie for only two years, and died in February 2002 at age of 85.