Margia Dean Obituary, Death – born April 7 1922, died June 23 2023 Margia Dean, who has died aged 101, was a former Miss California who enjoyed a solid career in Hollywood from the tail-end of the Second World War until the end of the 1950s; her best-known film on this side of the Atlantic was as the wife of an astronaut infested by an alien in Val Guest’s 1955 horror adventure, The Quatermass Xperiment, starring Brian Donlevy, which became something of a cult favourite (it was released in the US as The Creeping Unknown).
She was born Marguerite Louise Skliris, in Chicago in April 1922, the daughter of a prominent Greek lawyer; her parents had moved from Athens with their three daughters almost a decade before. The family moved to San Francisco, where Marguerite – or Margia, as she was known – began treading the boards aged nine. She acted with the Henry Duffy Players and the Reginald Travers Repertory Company playing such parts as Little Eva in Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Becky Thatcher in Tom Sawyer, often appearing alongside Bea Benaderet, who later voiced Betty Rubble in The Flintstones.
Aged 15, Margia won the Women’s National Shakespeare Contest for her role as the heroine in a production of Romeo and Juliet. She began entering beauty contests, winning the Miss San Francisco and Miss California titles, and in 1939 she finished fourth in the Miss America contest.
Modelling work in New York followed, as well as an offer to join a Broadway revue, but her parents beckoned her home to finish high school; that year she married her teenage sweetheart Hal Fischer By the early 1940s, Margia Dean had returned to the stage, performing in local theatre in Los Angeles, and she was spotted by a talent scout from Republic Pictures, with whom she made her screen debut as a dancing queen in the 1944 comedy Casanova in Burlesque (for which she adopted the name Margia Dean).
A bit part followed the same year as a waitress in the action-adventure Call of the South Seas, while in the crime drama Delinquent Daughters (aka Accent on Crime) she played a schoolgirl whose friend commits suicide. Republic having declined to tie her down to a contract, Margia Dean was able to freelance, and went on to make a string of low-budget films for Lippert Pictures.
Robert Lippert owned a cinema chain, and when the major studios dialled down their production of cheap films he saw a gap in the market, and Margia Dean became known as “the Lippert Queen”, making more than a dozen films for him, many of them Westerns, such as I Shot Jessie James, Sam Fuller’s directorial debut, in which she was a saloon-bar chanteuse, Stagecoach To Fury, Badlands Of Montana, Ambush At Cimarron Pass (which featured a young Clint Eastwood) and Red Desert, in which she had a leading role.
Into the 1950s she continued to work for Lippert, finding herself in a clinch with Vincent Price in another Sam Fuller Western, The Baron of Arizona, but by the end of the decade she was tiring of low-budget fare and began to take an interest behind the camera, working as an executive producer on the western The Long Rope (1961) and associate producer on The Horror of it All (1964). She moved to England for a time, producing a handful of independent films and TV shows.
When she retired from acting in the 1960s, Margia Dean opened a dress shop, The Pink Parasol, in Brentwood, a suburb of Los Angeles, and a cafe off the fashionable Rodeo Drive which was frequented by A-listers such as James Stewart and Fred Astaire.
Margia Dean, whose first marriage ended in divorce in 1945, had been linked with a string of actors and international playboys in her youth, including Prince Aly Khan following his divorce from Rita Hayworth. In 1965, she married the architect and sometime actor and singer Felipe Alvarez. In old age, she continued to attend film festivals and correspond with fans. On the eve of her 100th birthday, she wrote to one: “Why don’t you email me? It is so much quicker.”