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Marjorie Reynolds; Co-Starred in ‘Life of Riley’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Marjorie Reynolds, the actress who endeared herself to audiences as the long-limbed love interest of rivals Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in “Holiday Inn” and as the long-suffering television wife of William Bendix in “The Life of Riley,” has died. She was 80.

Reynolds, who danced with Fred Astaire and sang with Bing Crosby in the 1942 Irving Berlin musical, died Feb. 1 in Manhattan Beach, her family said Wednesday.

The “Holiday Inn” classic, which featured Crosby singing “White Christmas,” crowned Reynolds’ hard-won place in Hollywood. She never topped it.

In the 1940s, she went on to star in the drama “Ministry of Fear” opposite Ray Milland, ham it up in the comedy “Up in Mabel’s Room” opposite Dennis O’Keefe, and dance in another musical, “Bring On the Girls,” with Eddie Bracken.

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But she largely drifted back to B pictures until the Riley series was resurrected in 1953. A 1949 attempt to move the radio serial to television, with Jackie Gleason and Rosemary DeCamp as the Rileys, had failed after a single season.

As Peg Riley, Reynolds quickly became a familiar face in American living rooms. She played the role opposite Bendix’s Chester A. Riley, aircraft plant worker, from 1953 to 1958. Smiling benignly, Reynolds made audiences believe that every tangled plot would come out all right despite Bendix’s customary exclamation: “What a revoltin’ development this is!”

Born Marjorie Goodspeed in Buhl, Idaho, the actress moved to Los Angeles with her family when she was a child. She began acting in her childhood under the stage name Marjorie Moore.

As she grew up, with time out to graduate from Los Angeles High School, she won roles as a leading lady--but in westerns and B action pictures. She made about 35 oaters, getting saved by cowboy stars such as Tex Ritter, Buck Jones and Ken Maynard, and made several short melodramas with Boris Karloff.

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Switching from brunet to blond, the actress changed her screen name to reflect her marriage to production manager and screenwriter Jack Reynolds. The marriage later ended in divorce.

After the Riley television series, Reynolds appeared in the films “Juke Box Rhythm” in 1959 and “The Silent Witness” in 1962, but largely abandoned her acting career.

Reynolds, the widow of film editor Jon M. Haffen, is survived by one daughter, Linda Hinshaw, of Playa del Rey.


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