Marilyn Harris (actress)

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Marilyn Harris
Born (1924-07-17)July 17, 1924
San Fernando, California, U.S.
Died December 1, 1999(1999-12-01) (aged 75)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Cancer and heart failure
Nationality American
Occupation Child actress
Years active 1924–1944
Known for "Little Maria" in Frankenstein
Spouse(s) Wally Watkins (m. 1944–81)
Carl (m.?-1988)
Children 1

Marilyn Harris (July 17, 1924 – December 1, 1999) was an American child actress who appeared in several Hollywood productions in the 1930s and 1940s. She is best remembered for her role as "Little Maria" in the 1931 horror film Frankenstein.

Early life and career[edit]

Harris was born in San Fernando, California and placed in a Los Angeles orphanage shortly after her birth. She was adopted by an area couple when she was a month old. Shortly after her adoption, she appeared in a Rin Tin Tin film. In her later years, Harris revealed that her adoptive mother forced her to pursue a screen career because of her own failed attempts to become an actress.[1] Harris also claimed that her mother was physically and emotionally abusive.[2]

In 1931, Harris won the role of "Little Maria" in the horror film Frankenstein. In arguably the film's most memorable scene, Maria meets the fugitive monster (played by Boris Karloff) beside a lakeside and charms the monster with her innocence, humanity and friendship, something which he had not experienced with previously hostile, mistrusting adults. A children's game is however tragically misinterpreted by the monster, and he ends up throwing Little Maria into the lake,[3] unintentionally drowning her and turning the surrounding village's population into a lynch mob, baying for revenge after the child's body is found. The shot of Maria being thrown into the water was cut from original prints and only restored in the 1980s.

After appearing in Frankenstein, Harris continued her career in small roles in films. She left acting at the age of 19 shortly after marrying Wally Watkins, a bouncer she met while working as a cashier at the Hollywood Palladium. The couple had a son the following year. After Harris' husband died in 1981, she remarried. Harris' second husband, Carl, died in 1988.[4]


During her final years, Harris struggled with ill health. On December 1, 1999, she died of cancer and heart failure in Los Angeles at the age of 75.


Year Title Role Notes
1930 The Big Trail Pioneer Girl Uncredited
1931 Frankenstein Little Maria
1931 Over the Hill Susan Shelby in Prologue
1932 Destry Rides Again Schoolgirl Uncredited
Alternative title: Justice Rides Again
1932 Wild Girl Anna May Uncredited
1932 Six Hours to Live Flower Girl Uncredited
1933 Tugboat Annie Pat Severn, as a Child Uncredited
1934 A Wicked Woman Rosanne as a Girl
1935 The Bride of Frankenstein Girl Uncredited
1936 Show Boat Little Girl Uncredited
1937 Maytime Maypole singer Uncredited
1937 The Road Back Maria - Ernst's Sister
1943 Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour Gwendolyn Uncredited
1943 Young Ideas Co-ed Uncredited
1944 Standing Room Only Secretary Uncredited
1944 Henry Aldrich's Little Secret Uncredited


  1. ^ Mank, Gregory W. (1999). Women In Horror Films, 1930s. McFarland & Company. p. 75. ISBN 0-786-40553-8. 
  2. ^ Parla, Paul; Charles P. Mitchell (2000). "Marilyn Harris: Flower Girl from Frankenstein". Screen Sirens Scream! Interviews with 20 Actresses from Science Fiction, Horror, Film Noir and Mystery Movies, 1930s to 1960s. Jefferson, N.C. and London: McFarland. pp. 116–117. ISBN 0-7864-0701-8. 
  3. ^ film script
  4. ^ Mank 1999 p.80

External links[edit]