Actors: Marshal, Alan (1909-1961)–Second Banana

Alan Marshal (born Alan M Willey January 29, 1909–July 9, 1961) was an actor on stage and in Hollywood films. He was sometimes billed as Alan Marshall or Alan Willey.

Occupational Inheritance

Born Alan M Willey in Sydney, Australia, he was the son of popular Queensland stage actress Irby (Agnes) Marshal and English actor-producer Leonard Willey. The family left Australia in 1914, when he was five years old.

Willey and Marshal appeared in Australian films in 1912, including The Strangler’s Grip (1912) and The Mystery of the Black Pearl (1912), both directed by Franklyn Barrett. Irby and Leonard continued their successful careers on stage in the US, first in San Francisco then in NY.

Alan first appeared on Broadway in The Swan (1924), at age 15 as “Alan Willey.”

He appeared on Broadway as Stephano in “The Merchant of Venice” (1928), a production that also featured his father Leonard Willey as Antonio.

Other Broadway productions include The Game of Love and Death (1929–30), Michael and Mary (1930), and Death Takes a Holiday (1931).

As Alan Marshal, he was on Broadway in Foolscap (1933), Going Gay (1934), While Parents Sleep (1934), Lady Jane (1934), The Bishop Misbehaves (1935) and On Stage (1935).

Film career

Publicity photo of Marshal and Luise Rainer in “Dramatic School” (1938)


Marshal was spotted by a studio scout while performing in New York and was asked to do screen test for Selznick International Studios.

Selznick cast him in supporting role in The Garden of Allah (1936) with Charles Boyer and Marlene Dietrich.

Marshal was loaned to MGM where he was in After the Thin Man (1936). That studio liked him and gave him a good part in Night Must Fall (1937).

Marshal was used by MGM for key roles in prestige pictures: Parnell (1937), playing William O’Shea who was cuckolded by Clark Gable and Myrna Loy; and Conquest (1937) with Greta Garbo and Boyer, playing Philippe Antoine d’Ornano.

Walter Wanger borrowed him for I Met My Love Again (1938), billed fourth.

Marshal’s first lead was in a B picture at Republic Films, Invisible Enemy (1938). He went back to support parts for The Road to Reno (1938) at Universal, then was the romantic male lead in Dramatic School (1938) with Luise Rainer at MGM, a big flop.[10]

He played similar sort of part in Four Girls in White (1939) then was Anna Sten’s co star in Exile Express (1939) made at Grand National Pictures.

Marshal had strong role in Fox’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939) supporting Basil Rathbone and Ida Lupino.

At RKO Marshal had a support part in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) and the lead in a B picture, Married and in Love (1940), directed by John Farrow.[11] He supported Anna Neagle in Irene (1940) at RKO and Loretta Young in He Stayed for Breakfast (1940) at Columbia.

Marshal stayed at Columbia for The Howards of Virginia (1940) with Cary Grant.

He then went back to RKO to play one of Ginger Rogers’s suitors in Tom, Dick and Harry (1940), a big hit.

He was second billed to Merle Oberon in Lydia (1941).

In 1942 Selznick sold many of his contracts to Fox including Marshal’s.[13]

Marshal was second billed to Irene Dunne in The White Cliffs of Dover (1944) at MGM, a huge hit.[14][15] He was top billed in Bride by Mistake (1944) with Laraine Day, another box office success.[16] “It’s the third time I’ve been discovered”, said Marshall, who was set to star in Claudia (1945).

However Marshal had nervous breakdown and did not act for a number of years.

Marshall was announced for Three Came Home (1950) but did not appear in the final film; he withdrew due to illness.

Marshal concentrated on television in the 1950s, appearing in episodes of Lights Out (1950) (“The Dark Corner”), The Clock (1951) (“Last Adventure”), Robert Montgomery Presents (1952) (“Claire Ambler”), and Climax! (1956) (“The Hanging Judge”, directed by John Frankenheimer).

Marshal returned to movies with a small role in The Opposite Sex (1956). He was more commonly found on TV, such as in Playhouse 90 (1957, “The Greer Case”), Perry Mason (1958, “The Case of the Terrified Typist”), Buckskin (1958, “The Ghost of Balaclava”), General Electric Theatre (1958, “Battle for a Soul”, directed by Ray Milland), Wagon Train (1958, “The Doctor Willoughby Story”, with Jane Wyman), The Ann Sothern Show (1958, “The Countess of Bartley”), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1958, “Murder Me Twice”), Rawhide (1959, “Incident on the Edge of Madness”, with Lon Chaney Jr), 77 Sunset Strip (1959)(“In Memoriam”), M Squad (1959) (“Ghost Town”), Sugarfoot (1959, “The Vultures”), Bourbon Street Beat (1959, “Invitation to a Murder”) and Surfside 6 (1960, “Spinout at Sebrin”).

Marshall had supporting role in House on Haunted Hill (1959) starring Vincent Price and directed by William Castle, and the western Day of the Outlaw (1959).


Alan and Mary Marshal at home, 1940s

Marshal eloped with socialite Mary Grace Borel in November 1938. The couple had one son, Christopher (“Kit”), who also became an actor. Borel sued for divorce in August 1947. Marshal did not remarry.

Marshal died after suffering heart attack while appearing in Chicago with Mae West in production of her play “Sextette” at the Edgewater Beach Playhouse on 9 July 1961. He was 52.  He finished the performance but was later found dead in his bed at the Edgewater Beach Hotel. His son Kit was also performing in the show.


1936 The Garden of Allah Capt. De Trevignac (film debut)

1936 After the Thin Man Robert Landis

1937 Night Must Fall Justin

1937 Parnell Willie

1937 Conquest Captain d’Ornano

1938 I Met My Love Again Michael Shaw

1938 Invisible Enemy Jeffrey Clavering

1938 The Road to Reno Walter Crawford

1938 Dramatic School Marquis Andre D’Abbencourt

1939 Four Girls in White Dr. Stephen Melford

1939 Exile Express Steve Reynolds

1939 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Jerrold Hunter

1939 The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Captain Phoebus

1940 Married and in Love Dr. Leslie Yates

1940 Irene Bob Vincent

1940 He Stayed for Breakfast Andre Dorlay

1940 The Howards of Virginia Roger Peyton

1941 Tom, Dick and Harry Dick

1941 Lydia Richard Mason

1944 The White Cliffs of Dover, Sir John Ashwood

1944 Bride by Mistake Captain Anthony Travis

1956 The Opposite Sex, Ted

1959 House on Haunted Hill Dr. David Trent

1959 Day of the Outlaw Hal Crane (final film)