Marie Harmon, Actress in 1940s Westerns, Dies at 97

Marie Harmon
Courtesy Everett Collection

Marie Harmon

A contract player at Republic Pictures, she worked alongside the Andrews Sisters, Roy Rogers and Mickey Rooney.

Marie Harmon, a starlet in 1940s Hollywood who starred with Roy Rogers in Nighttime in Nevada and with Sunset Carson in The El Paso Kid, has died. She was 97.

Harmon died Monday of natural causes in Los Angeles, one of her daughters, actress Sondra Currie, said.

A contract player at Republic Pictures, Harmon also appeared in other features including The Sailor Takes a Wife (1945) opposite Robert Walker, Her Lucky Night (1945) with the Andrews Sisters, Killer McCoy (1947) with Mickey Rooney and Not Wanted (1949) with Sally Forrest.

One of seven children, Harmon was born on Oct. 21, 1923, in Oak Park, Illinois. She entered a contest in the Chicago Tribune to become "The Perfect Blind Date for a Serviceman" shortly after the start of World War II and won.

She came to Hollywood in 1942 as worked as a car-hop at a drive-in, a cigarette girl — "George Raft flirted with me one evening, to the distaste of Betty Grable," she said in an undated interview for the website Western Clippings — and a hostess for a nightclub owned by Lou Costello.

Spotted by a Universal Pictures executive while appearing in a play in Beverly Hills, she was given a role in Hers to Hold (1943), starring Deanna Durbin and Joseph Cotten, and her career was off and running. However, she gave up her acting in the 1950s to launch a dress business.

In addition to Sondra Currie and her husband, producer-director Alan J. Levi, survivors include her twin daughters, Cherie Currie (former lead vocalist of The Runaways and ex-wife of actor Robert Hays) and Marie Currie (also a musician and ex-wife of Toto guitarist Steve Lukather); her son, Don; and grandchildren Tina, Trevor, Jake and Grace.

Her husband of 35 years, Wolfgang Kaupisch, died in 2010.

Harmon was portrayed by Tatum O'Neal in The Runaways (2010), which starred Dakota Fanning as Cherie, Riley Keough as Marie, Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett, Scout Taylor-Compton as Lita Ford and Stella Maeve as Sandy West. The movie was based on Cherie's 2010 book, Neon Angel.