Marion Shockley: From Al Christie to Ellery Queen

Missouri native Marian or Marion Shockley (1911-1981, her name was spelled both ways professionally) was studying to be a history teacher when a lucky audition sent her down the primrose path of show business.

Shockley began appearing in Al Christie comedy shorts in 1930 with the likes of Buster West, Monte Collins, Eddie Tamblyn, Rex Bell, Dot Farley, Nat Carr, working with directors like Fred Guiol, Dick Smith, and others. She was third billed (under Lloyd Hamilton and Dell Henderson) in the 1931 Universal short Hello Napoleon, directed by Harry Edwards. That same year she was Tim McCoy’s love interest in the firefighting serial Heroes of the Flames, and played opposite Bob Steele in Near the Trail’s End. In 1932 she was voted a WAMPAS Baby Star. This coveted designation however did not launch her to a big studio contracts. Instead in 1932 and 1933 she appeared in a series of “Torchy” comedies with Ray Cooke, for C.C. Burr.

In 1934 Shockley married a man named Gordon Barry Thomson, and this seems to have caused a hiccup in her film career, although they were soon divorced. She then appeared in three Broadway plays: Dear Old Darling (1936), a revival of Abie’s Irish Rose (1937), and Censored (1938).

In 1939 Shockley became a regular on the radio show The Adventures of Ellery Queen, and married its producer George Zachary. She originated the role of Queen’s secretary Nikki Porter, playing it through 1944. She also acted on the weekly radio version of Abie’s Irish Rose (1942-44) and other radio programs. Her profile was significant enough at that point that was given a role in the wartime film Stage Door Canteen (1943).

Shockley and Zachary divorced shortly after the war; she married actor and announcer Bud Collyer in 1946. She took a few television roles in the early 1950s, the final one being on a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie in 1953, entitled The Other Wise Man. After Collyer passed away in 1969, Shockley occupied herself with various charitable causes.

For more on classic comedy and early film history please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.