Marion Benda ~ Valentino's Last Love

Marion Benda

Marion Benda was a Ziegfeld Follies star who claimed to be Rudolph Valentino's secret wife.

She was born Marian Elizabeth Wilson on October 14, 1904 in New York City. During her childhood Marion was sent to live with relatives in Connecticut. At the age of eighteen she made her Broadway debut in Home Fires. She started performing in the Ziegfeld Follies in 1925. Florenz Ziegfeld called her "the most beautiful girl in the world". During the Summer of 1926 Marion began dating movie star Rudolph Valentino. One evening in August the couple went out dancing and he complained he was feeling ill. The next day he was hospitalized with an appendicitis and gastric ulcers. Tragically Valentino died on August 23 at the age thirty-one. Marion was devastated by his death and told the press "I'm just sick. I loved him dearly". She would later claim that they were secretly married and had a daughter. There are rumors that she became the infamous "Lady In Black" who brought flowers to his grave for many years. She also got into a very public feud with actress Pola Negri who said she was dating Valentino when he died. Marion impulsively married William Wise, the golf editor at the Los Angeles Times, on June 21, 1927. The next day she realized the marriage was a mistake and left him. She continued her career appearing in the shows Rio Rita and Rosalie. In 1928 she announced she was retiring from show business to open a beauty parlor.

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 A year later she filed for bankruptcy and moved to a farm. She married Rupert Boecklin, a German Baron, in 1930. They divorced soon after and she received more than $200,000 in the settlement. Marion married her third husband, Dr. Blake Watson, in 1933. Unfortunately this marriage was also unhappy. She filed for divorce in November of 1938 claiming Blake was cruel and had cheated on her. Marion made headlines when she sued her husbands mistress, Eleanor Maginnis, for $100,000. In a 1941 interview she said she was dating a millionaire and wanted to get married again. She attempted suicide in November of 1945 by taking an overdose of pills. Just five months later she made another suicide attempt. After slashing her wrists in March of 1949 she was sent to a mental institution. She continued to struggle with her depression and made several more suicide attempts. On November 30, 1951 she took her own life with an overdose of barbiturates. Her cousin found her body laying on the kitchen floor of her Los Angeles apartment. Marion was only forty-seven years old. She was penniless when she died so she was buried in an unmarked grave at Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica. Her fans would later pay for a headstone.

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Marion Benda Suicide