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From the Archives: Standard Airlines crash survivor Caren Marsh-Doll keeps dancing

Aug. 2, 1999: Caren Marsh Doll, now 80 years old, holds a copy of the July 13, 1949 Los Angeles Time
Actress Caren Marsh, left, in her hospital bed after surviving an airline crash on July 13, 1949, near Chatsworth. Fifty years later, on July 27, 1999, Caren Marsh-Doll, right, holds a copy of the July 13, 1949, Times front page.
(Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA; David Bohrer / Los Angeles Times)

Caren Marsh-Doll survived the July 12, 1949, Standard Airlines C-46 crash near Chatsworth, only to face the possibility of losing a foot. Forty-eight passengers and crew were on the flight — 35 died.

In an Aug. 2, 1999, article, Los Angeles Times writer Annette Kondo interviewed Marsh-Doll and other survivors 50 years after the Standard Airlines crash.

"When you come that close to not being here, or being told they are going to take your foot off, it changes everything in your life," said Caren Marsh-Doll, who was known at the time as Caren Marsh, a stage and screen actress who was Judy Garland's stand-in on "The Wizard of Oz."

The petite, brown-eyed brunet, a talented dancer since childhood, was already a familiar face on stage and film. Fresh out of Hollywood High School — where Judy Garland was a classmate — Marsh won an MGM movie dance role.

In 1946, she was cast as Winifred McMasters in "Navajo Kid," a western starring Bob Steele and filmed in the Chatsworth hills.

A year later, she was voted Miss Sky Lady of 1947. The prize: free flying lessons. After she had soloed, Marsh printed up leaflets listing her credits, then took off in a two-seater to shower MGM, Paramount, RKO and other studios with the fliers.

The publicity stunt worked, and more roles followed, including "Wild Harvest" with Alan Ladd .…

[In the crash, one of Marsh's feet was crushed. At a Van Nuys hospital, a doctor told her the foot would have to be amputated.]

Desperate to save her foot, Marsh sought another doctor at Cedars of Lebanon, now Cedars-Sinai, where a surgeon promised she would be able to walk but probably not dance again.

"I refused to accept that," she said. "I was in a hospital for a month. And I refused to picture myself not able to dance."

Tap was out, but eventually Marsh took up Hawaiian dance, then belly dancing. Today, at 80, Caren Marsh-Doll lives in Palm Springs and teaches country and western and ballroom dancing.

For the last 10 years, she has set aside the last Monday of each month to volunteer at a Palm Springs stroke center, where she coaxes patients to try to stand up, sway to the music and forget their troubles.

"I was so thankful to just be alive. Things that bothered me before ... nothing," she said. "I have become much more peaceful and less worried about anything."

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Aug. 2, 1999: Caren Marsh Doll dances with a member of the Stroke Activiey Center in Palm Springs wh
July 27, 1999: Caren Marsh-Doll dances with a client of the Stroke Activity Center in Palm Springs where she volunteers once a month doing dance therapy. She was one of 13 survivors of the 1949 Standard Airlines crash. David Bohrer / Los Angeles Times

In recent years,Marsh-Doll made appearances at Wizard of Oz festivals. She was the grand marshal of the June 2011, Oz-Stravaganza Festival in Ohittenago, N.Y.

Marsh-Doll turned 100 earlier this year.

A version of this post was originally published on Jan. 27, 2011.

See more from the Los Angeles Times archives here


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