Joyce Mackenzie: Marilyn’s ‘Tomahawk’ Co-Star

Former actress Joyce Mackenzie – who played chorus girl Ruby opposite Marilyn (as Clara) in A Ticket to Tomahawk (1950), has died aged 95, the Hollywood Reporter announced.

Joyce was born in Redwood City, California in 1925. Her father was a doctor. During World War II, she worked as a carpenter’s assistant at the Western Pipe and Steel shipbuilding company (earning her nickname, ‘Joyce the Joiner.’)

She used her wages to help pay for acting classes, and after the war ended, she sold tickets and performed at the Pasadena Playhouse, where she was spotted by Orson Welles. He suggested her for a small part in the film he was currently making, Irving Pichel’s Tomorrow is Forever (1946), which also starred Claudette Colbert and a young Natalie Wood.

In 1948, Joyce was ‘discovered’ by a talent scout and secured a permanent contract at Twentieth Century Fox. Her first role at the studio (albeit uncredited) was as a nurse in the war film Twelve O’Clock High (1949), where she was the only female in the cast.

A Ticket to Tomahawk was filmed over five weeks in 1949, although it wouldn’t see the light of day until April 1950. It was Joyce’s sixth screen credit, and Marilyn’s fifth. Neither would receive screen credit. In this enjoyable comedy Western – starring Dan Dailey and Anne Baxter, and directed by Richard Sale – Joyce and Marilyn were part of a travelling troupe, which also included Marion Marshall and Barbara Smith, joining Dailey for a saucy musical number, ‘Oh, What a Forward Young Man You Are!’

The film was made in Technicolor, on location in Durango, Colorado in the Rocky Mountains. Fox contracted the Rio Grande and Western Railroad to film on their track, running from Durango to Silverton, Colorado. A Ticket to Tomahawk cost $1.9 million to produce, but fell short of recouping its budget with a $1.3 million box-office intake. Some blamed the prior failure of The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend, a similarly-themed picture starring Betty Grable, for Tomahawk‘s disappointing reception. (At one point, Fox had considered changing the title to The Sheriff’s Daughter, which only added to the confusion for exhibitors.)

For Marilyn, the film marked her return to Fox after her first, year-long contract was not renewed in 1947. After a few more roles (including the acclaimed All About Eve), the studio would welcome her back in late 1950.

In the same year, Joyce played another bit part as a telephone operator in Otto Preminger’s notable ‘film noir’, Whirlpool, with Gene Tierney. She then won her second credited role in the comedy, Mother Didn’t Tell Me. This was followed by her first lead role in Destination Murder, on loan to RKO. In this crime drama, she played a young woman determined to track down her father’s killer.

She was reunited with Tomahawk‘s Marion Marshall in Stella, and played a small part in Broken Arrow, a Western with James Stewart. In 1951, she appeared in the musical comedy, On the Riviera; with Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell in His Kind of Woman; followed by a more substantial part in another Mitchum film, The Racket.

Joyce’s next sizeable role was in Deadline (1952), starring Humphrey Bogart, followed by Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie. Marilyn had tested for the female lead, which went to Jean Peters. She and Joyce would then share another screen credit in the anthology film, O. Henry’s Full House. While Marilyn and Charles Laughton headlined its first segment, Joyce appeared in the second, ‘The Clarion Call,’ a crime story featuring Dale Robertson and Richard Widmark.

She rounded off 1952 with a fourth-billed role in Roy Ward Baker’s Night Without Sleep, and began 1953 with an uncredited part in The I Don’t Care Girl, a musical vehicle for Mitzi Gaynor. She then became a leading lady for the second time, in Tarzan and the She-Devil, starring opposite Lex Barker in his fifth and final turn as the jungle hero. Joyce was the 11th actress to play Tarzan’s true love, Jane, on the screen (with Monique Van Vooren as the She-Devil.)

A small part in The French Line came next, reuniting Joyce with Jane Russell, followed by another Western, Rails Into Laramie. Joyce, who jokingly called herself ‘the poor man’s movie star,’ began working in television.

She married real estate mogul Walter ‘Tim’ Leimert in 1952. They had two sons, but divorced in 1960. Interestingly, Marilyn would pose for one of her final photo shoots at Leimert’s Blue Jay Way home in the Hollywood Hills during the summer of 1962. Her new home was being refurbished, and photographer George Barris, a friend of Leimert, suggested the more desirable location.

Joyce’s final screen credit was in a 1961 episode of the popular TV detective show, Perry Mason. She married again, and later worked as an assistant producer at ABC Studios. By 1976 she had changed career entirely, teaching English at a high school in Laguna Niguel, California. Her third and final husband died in 1980.

By the mid-2000s, Joyce Mackenzie was living in Dana Point, California. She died on June 10, 2021 at a Hollywood healthcare facility, her son Norman Leimert has confirmed.

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