|The Munsters character|
Beverley Owen as Marilyn Munster.
|First appearance||"Munster Masquerade"|
|Last appearance||"A Visit from the Teacher"|
|Portrayed by||Beverley Owen (1964)
Pat Priest (1964–1966)
Debbie Watson (1966)
Jo McDonnell (1981)
Hilary Van Dyke (1988–1991)
Christine Taylor (1995)
Elaine Hendrix (1996)
Charity Wakefield (2012)
|Relatives||see Munster family|
|Nationality||American (possibly formerly Romanian)|
Marilyn Munster is a fictional character in the CBS sitcom The Munsters, originally played by Beverley Owen with actress Pat Priest later assuming the role. In the original series she is the daughter of Lily Munster's sister, with Herman alluding to her "plain" looks coming from Lily's side of the family. In a revamped mid 1980s version, the role was played by Hilary Van Dyke in The Munsters Today.
Played first by Beverley Owen and then by Pat Priest, Marilyn lives with the Munsters throughout the series run. It is never made clear why Marilyn lives with the Munsters, rather than with her parents, who are said to still be in Transylvania. It is noted that the Munsters had raised Marilyn since she was fairly young. Although she is Lily's niece (according to Herman, the daughter of Lily's sister), she is always referred to as "Marilyn Munster" (while the character was being developed, her name was Marilyn Mundane). The fractured familial ties were never explained. Although Lily and her father the Count (AKA Grandpa) are vampire/ghouls, Lily's brother Lester is a werewolf. One can only guess at the nature of Grandpa's late wife/ Lily's mother. A photograph of a woman in European peasant garb was seen faintly in Marilyn's bedroom, suggesting it may be Marilyn's mother.
Marilyn is a fetching young blonde resembling Marilyn Monroe, and the only family member who is not ghoulish in appearance; by the Munsters' aesthetic standards, she is distressingly unattractive. The family views Marilyn's appearance as an affliction, but still treat her with kindness and love. Marilyn herself is all too aware of her "homeliness" and bemoans that she keeps scaring off potential boyfriends, having no clue that the young men are in fact frightened away by her monstrous family.
She attends Westbury College in Mockingbird Heights. She is devoted to her family, and the surest way for a suitor to alienate Marilyn (rather than vice versa) is to disparage them. She considers her Uncle Herman and Grandpa the "two [finest] men [who ever] walked this earth."
Despite being a platinum-blonde beauty, the Munsters' queer subculture of vampires, werewolves, zombies, sorcerers, mad scientists, et al., have made her a ghoul at-heart (she regularly assists Lily in cooking rodents, & festooning the house with cobwebs). Like the rest of her family, she believes that the Munster lifestyle is normal, and dissenters are out-of-step. In one episode, Herman was temporarily transformed into a normal, clean-cut man. The family, including Marilyn, was appalled and physically repelled by the tragic event.
Despite standing out amongst the cast more than any other character, Marilyn was the least developed character in the series. She usually served as an ear for Lily's expeditions, or a subject for Grandpa's foiled potions.
Marilyn was originally played by Beverley Owen, who was 27 years old at the time and had to wear a blonde wig to resemble Marilyn Monroe. Convinced that the show would never succeed, she accepted the role of Marilyn, but her problems started when she had to move out of New York. On occasions, she was seen depressed and even crying in the studios. The role was taken over in episode 14 by Pat Priest after Owen left to marry (future Sesame Street writer and director) Jon Stone. According to Al Lewis in a 2001 interview with Pittsburgh radio's Doug Hoerth, Beverley Owen was troubled by the separation from her boyfriend, who stayed in New York City, and on petitions from Al Lewis and Fred Gwynne was let go by the studio. According to Michael Davis's book, Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street, Owen's problems on the set were acts, formulated by both her and Stone to get her released from the series, so she could relocate to New York permanently. Pat Priest's resemblance to Owen was so uncanny that few people noticed that the role was played by another actress. It also helped the studio that Priest was Owen's size and so fit into her wardrobe. In Munster, Go Home, she is portrayed by Debbie Watson. In The Munsters' Revenge, she is portrayed by Jo McDonnell.
In other media
In NBC's 2012 pilot Mockingbird Lane, a darker reformatting of the series, Marilyn is the daughter of Lily's sister but was raised by her aunt, uncle, and grandfather after her mother attempted to eat her.