Thursday, November 30, 2017

Ziegfeld Dancer Marion Elizabeth Benda 1951 Woodlawn Cemetery

Marion Elizabeth Wilson Benda (October 14, 1904 - November 30, 1951) was a Ziegfeld dancer and the last lover of Rudolph Valentino. Born in New York, Marion appeared in several Ziegfeld productions during the 1920's including the Ziegfeld Revue No Foolin' (1926), Rio Rita (1927), and Rosalie (1928). 

Marion was with Rudolph Valentino at a party given by Barclay Warburon, Jr. when the actor became ill on August 14, 1926. After Valentino died, Marion was though to be the "Lady in Black." She suggested she and Rudolph had been secretly married, but the Valentino family contested this.

There has long been a confusion over the identities of the two public figures named Marion Benda:
"When Zeppo Marx's first wife Marion Bimberg and Rudolph Valentino's last lover Marion Wilson both chose the stage name Marion Benda in the early 1920s, it generated confusion that has continued to this day. Both were performers on the Broadway stage concurrently, Zeppo's girl as an actress and Valentino's as a Ziegfeld Follies dancer billed as the most beautiful redhead in the world. After the Follies showgirl caught Valentino's eye and was with him on the night he fell fatally ill, she shot to fame and eventually became known as a Valentino Lady in Black. Meanwhile, Zeppo's Marion became Barbara Stanwyck's best friend and they founded a horse ranch in the San Fernando Valley. In addition to exploring all four marriages of the two Marion Bendas, this dual biography touches on Zeppo's strange role with the Marx Brothers and the intriguing Lady in Black phenomenon."   
-- Mallory Curley, Zeppo's Marion Benda and Valentino's Marion Benda: A Legacy of Confusion (Randy Press, 2016), p. 23.

Marion married Dr. Blake H. Watson with whom she had a child named Blake Arthur Watson (1944-1947). Impoverished and suicidal, Marin Benda died of an overdose of barbiturates on November 30, 1951. 

Her cousin Perry Combs found her body in her Hollywood apartment at 1825 North Wilcox Avenue. She is buried in Santa Monica's Woodlawn Cemetery.

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