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(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)
Marion Shilling

Real name:
Marion Helen Schilling

1911? - 2004

(From Old Corral collection)

Above - Fred Scott, the Silvery-Voiced Buckaroo, and heroine Marion Shilling in Scott's first western, ROMANCE RIDES THE RANGE (Spectrum, 1936). Shilling's screen work was confined to the 1930s, and her western appearances were with Scott, Tom Keene, Big Boy Williams, Reb Russell, Buck Jones, Tim McCoy, Tom Tyler, Rex Bell and Hoot Gibson. ROMANCE RIDES THE RANGE was one of Shilling's final film roles - she retired around 1936 and married Edward Cook in 1937.

Special thanks to Hans J. Wollstein for the bio on Marion Shilling.  Hans is a former actor turned entertainment writer. His first book, Strangers in Hollywood (Scarecrow Press, 1994) was followed by Vixens, Floozies and Molls (McFarland, 1999). An associate editor of the All-Movie Guide, he contributed more than 3000 essays, mainly on silent films, early talkies and Westerns. After many years in the U. S., Hans now resides in a 200 year old country cottage near his hometown of Copenhagen, Denmark.

A favorite Western heroine of the early 1930s, dark-eyed Marion Shilling hailed from Denver, Colorado (born there December 3, 1910, 1911 or 1914, depending on the source) and paid her dues on the stage in 'Miss Lulu Betts', 'Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch', 'Lord Byron of Broadway', and, notably, 'Dracula' before entering films in 1930. She made what should have been an auspicious screen debut recreating her role as the jilted vaudeville performer in the screen version of LORD BYRON OF BROADWAY (MGM, 1930). Charles Kaley and Ethelind Terry (as the faithless partner and glamorous interloper, respectively) were also carry-overs from the Broadway production but the dialogue was considered hopeless and the entire cast was summarily dismissed by the critics.

Undeterred by the bad notices, Shilling did a couple of supporting turns before signing a contract with up-and-coming studio RKO. That company ran her name in the yearly WAMPAS sweepstakes and she was voted one of the most promising starlets of 1931, along with, incidentally, Joan Blondell and Frances Dee. Stardom, alas, proved elusive as Marion, June MacCloy and Gertrude Short were unceremoniously shoved into six 2-reelers released under the umbrella title of 'Gay Girl Comedies'. Three of the little films were directed by none other than the disgraced Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, forced to work under the pseudonym William Goodrich since being acquitted in the mysterious death of starlet Virginia Rappe.

Luckily, Marion quickly escaped the 2-reel comedy realm for the wide open spaces opposite the personable Tom Keene in SUNDOWN TRAIL (RKO, 1931). It was the first of many sagebrush adventures for Shilling. THUNDER OVER TEXAS (Beacon, 1934) starred brawny Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams and was directed (under a pseudonym) by future noir expert Edgar C. Ulmer. This pseudo Western featured comedy reliefs Vic Potel, Benny Corbett and Tony Skelton imitating famous radio personalities while 'Big Boy' and heroine Shilling protect a toddler from the bad guys.

Less off-beat but equally satisfying was THE RED RIDER (Universal, 1934), a good Buck Jones serial that benefited from a popular theme song, 'The Red Head from Sun Dog', and a fine supporting cast filled with veterans such as William Desmond and Olympic Champion Jim Thorpe. Shilling enjoyed working with Jones, whom she found to be an "exceptionally good actor who always tried to be a perfectionist and always demanded the best from his co-workers".

She went from the experienced Jones to 'The Silvery Voiced Baritone' alias newcomer Fred Scott. The vehicle was ROMANCE RIDES THE RANGE (1936) and Scott retained fond memories of his leading lady. "She was a wonderful actress", he told B-Western enthusiast Mario DeMarco many years later. "She always wore her familiar riding clothes and could really ride a horse which was unlike some of the other actresses who played in westerns."

Despite her newfound success in B-Westerns, Marion Shilling packed her riding outfits and hung up her spurs in late 1936, opting instead for marriage and motherhood. Living in retirement in beautiful Palo Alto, California, Miss Shilling returned to the limelight via the popular Western memorabilia shows, including guest-of-honor at the annual Rochester, New York, Buck Jones festival.

Marion Shilling received a Golden Boot award at the 2002 awards ceremony.

She passed away on November 6, 2004 at the Torrance, California Memorial Medical Center.

Marion and family in the census:

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Marion Shilling:

Death notice for 93 year old Marion Shilling in the December 4, 2004 Los Angeles Times newspaper. She passed away on November 6, 2004 at the Torrance, California Memorial Medical Center. There's several errors including a mention that she was in Buck Jones' serial "Red Ryder" ... should be THE RED RIDER:

Find A Grave website has information that Marion Shilling was cremated:

Above - Hooper Atchley and Marion Shilling in a screen capture from Tom Keene's SUNDOWN TRAIL (RKO, 1931). This was her first western.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Frank Yaconelli, hero Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams, Marion Shilling and Wally Wales in a still from GUN PLAY (Beacon/First Division, 1935) (alternate title: LUCKY BOOTS).  While 'Big Boy' Williams is most often recalled for his comedic or oafish roles, often as an assistant to the hero, he was the lead in several low-budget oaters in the mid 1930s.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Marion Shilling, Frank Yaconelli, 'Big Boy' Williams, Roger Williams, Wally Wales (Hal Taliaferro) and George Morrell in another still from GUN PLAY (alternate title: LUCKY BOOTS) (Beacon, 1935).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Marion Shilling, Rocky Camron/Gene Alsace, Roy Bucko, Ed Carey, Lew Meehan and Buck Bucko in GUNSMOKE OVER THE GUADALUPE (Willis Kent, 1935), Camron's only starring oater and he was billed in this film as 'Buck Coburn'.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

It was Rex Lease, Marion Shilling, and Tarzan, the Police Dog vs. Philo McCullough and Charlie King in the "Melodramatic Thriller" INSIDE INFORMATION (Bert Sternbach/Stage & Screen, 1934).

(From Old Corral collection)

(THE AMAZING EXPLOITS OF) THE CLUTCHING HAND (Weiss/Stage & Screen, 1936) starred Jack Mulhall, Rex Lease, Mae Busch, Ruth Mix, William Farnum, and Marion Shilling. Above are Marion and Rex Lease in a chapter 1 lobby card.

(Courtesy of Ed Tabor)

Above is a great crowd scene from the IDAHO KID (Colony, 1936). The heroine providing first aid to the prone Rex Bell is Marion Shilling. Several crops / blowups below.

Leftside blowup of the IDAHO KID shot above: from left to right are Earl Dwire, Jack King, Dave Sharpe, Sherry Tansey, Charlie King, Lane Chandler, Buck Morgan, and Marion Shilling in the bottom right corner. In the back with the mustache and white hat is Herman Hack.

Rightside blowup of the IDAHO KID shot above: George Morrell restrains Lafe McKee; and Phil Dunham to the right of McKee.

Crop from IDAHO KID still of Marion Shilling and Rex Bell.

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