Marian Collier, who played one of Sweet Sue’s Society Syncopators – the all-girl band in Some Like It Hot – has died aged 90, Marilyn Remembered reports.
Born on August 23, 1931, Marian made her TV debut in a 1957 episode of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. After a few uncredited bit parts, including two Jerry Lewis movies (The Sad Sack and Rock-a-Bye Baby), Marian was cast as Olga in Some Like It Hot, which began shooting in July 1958. While her role was once again uncredited, she was given a great line in an early scene with Marilyn and Tony Curtis. “I was running in and out with the ice, saying, ‘Ice, ice! The natives are getting restless!'” she recalled, saying that even after her work was finished, “I would sit there and watch – and [MM] was magic, she really was.”
Following the success of Some Like It Hot, Marian took second billing in Roadracers (1959), which was followed by smaller parts in Ask Any Girl and It Started With a Kiss. In 1960, Marian played a minor role in Vincente Minnelli’s Bells Are Ringing, a musical comedy starring another blonde comedienne, Judy Holliday (in her final role), and Dean Martin. Interestingly, Marilyn’s close friend and personal masseur, Ralph Roberts, also appeared in the film – and went on to play an ambulance driver in Marilyn’s last release, The Misfits.
Then in 1961, Marian scored another bit part in a classic movie, as a party guest in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, starring Audrey Hepburn. (Had Marilyn played the lead instead, as author Truman Capote had wanted, this would have been her second film with Marian – see here.) In 1967, she played ‘Sadie’ in The Pistolero of Red River, a Western starring Glenn Ford and Angie Dickinson. Marian’s only other big-screen outing in that decade was Nobody’s Perfect, a 1968 military comedy with a title that mirrors the famous last line from Some Like It Hot.
Marian’s first husband was jazz guitarist Dave Barbour. Throughout the 1960s, she worked mostly in television, with guest spots on popular series like Peter Gunn, Laramie, Leave It to Beaver, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Dr. Kildare, Perry Mason, and Mannix. From 1963-65, she appeared as ‘Miss Marilyn Scott’ in 28 episodes of Mr. Novak, a drama series about an idealistic, but tough young schoolteacher. “In the era of new frontier idealism and Kennedy era optimism in the early 60’s , Mr. Novak is a standout,” reads a recent review on IMDB.
Marian would marry the show’s co-creator, E. Jack Neuman, in 1970, and went on to play small roles in TV movies that he wrote and produced, such as Company of Killers and Berlin Affair, plus an episode from his anthology series Police Story. She was also seen in other hit shows like Emergency! and Welcome Back, Kotter. In 1982, she played a ‘lady bartender’ in Neuman’s Emmy-winning TV movie, Inside the Third Reich (starring Rutger Hauer and Sir Derek Jacobi.)
Seven years later, Marian returned to the big screen as a ‘poolside card player’ in Lethal Weapon 2, and would go on to appear in the action blockbuster’s third and fourth outings. Director Richard Donner also cast her in Assassins (1995), Conspiracy Theory (1997), and Timeline (2004.) Her final acting role was in a 2009 episode of the children’s TV series, iCarly.
Marian’s husband died in 1998. In recent years, she became a regular guest speaker at the Marilyn Remembered annual service, including the most recent ceremony on August 6th, 2021, in the weeks before her 90th birthday (see here.) She was interviewed for the home video featurettes Memories From the Sweet Sues and Nobody’s Perfect … The Making of Some Like It Hot. She also talked about her role as Olga in episodes of the French TV series, Il etait une fois …, and Paul O’Grady’s Hollywood for the UK viewers.
She has also spoken about her many famous co-stars, including Audrey Hepburn in the video short, A Golightly Gathering (2009), and the TV movie, Darcey Bussell’s Looking for Audrey (2014); the feature-length documentary, Tony Curtis: Driven to Stardom (2012); and Marilyn Monroe: Auction of a Lifetime (2017), as well as another upcoming Monroe doc, Whatever Happened to Norma Jeane?