Brenda Marshall

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Brenda Marshall
Marshall in 1952
Ardis Ankerson

(1915-09-29)September 29, 1915
DiedJuly 30, 1992(1992-07-30) (aged 76)
Other namesArdis Gaines
Years active1939–1950
(m. 1936; div. 1940)
(m. 1941; div. 1971)

Brenda Marshall (born Ardis Ankerson; September 29, 1915[1] – July 30, 1992) was an American film actress.


Marshall made her first film appearance as Ardis Gaines in Wives of Tomorrow (1937). Her initial billing as Brenda Marshall came in Espionage Agent (1939).[2] The following year, she played the leading lady to Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk. After divorcing actor Richard Gaines in 1940, she married William Holden in 1941, and her own career soon slowed. She starred opposite James Cagney in Captains of the Clouds (1942).

Marshall had a popular success in The Constant Nymph (1943), but she virtually retired after this, appearing in only four more films, including the Western Whispering Smith (1948). She also played scientist Nora Goodrich in the B picture cult film Strange Impersonation (1946). In 1955, five years after her last film role, she made an appearance as herself (billed as Mrs. William Holden) in the fourth-season episode of I Love Lucy titled "The Fashion Show".

Personal life[edit]

Matron of honor Brenda Marshall and best man William Holden, sole guests at Ronald and Nancy Reagan's wedding in 1952

Marshall was born as Ardis Ankerson in the American Philippines to Swedish parents. She was one of two daughters of Otto Peter Ankerson, overseer of a large sugar plantation near Bacolod. Her mother died in 1925 when she was young,[3] so Ardis, along with her older sister Ruth, attended grammar school and began high school studies as boarding students at the Brent School in Baguio.[4] In the early 1930s, the girls were sent to San Antonio, Texas to complete high school.[5] She attended Texas State College for Women in her freshman and sophomore years, 1933–1935, and was named the Freshman Class Beauty in 1934, chosen by modern dancer Ted Shawn.[6]

William Holden and Brenda Marshall at the Tokyo Theater in Chuo-ku, Tokyo in 1955

Brenda Marshall was her stage name, but she refused to use the name off-camera and insisted that her friends call her by her real name. She married the actor Richard Huston Gaines in 1936, and they had one daughter, Virginia; the couple divorced in 1940.[7]

In 1941, Marshall married actor William Holden, who adopted Virginia Gaines (born November 17, 1937, New York City). Marshall and Holden had two sons together, Peter Westfield "West" Holden (1943–2014) and Scott Porter Holden (1946–2005).[8] After several separations, Marshall and Holden were divorced in 1971. Marshall moved to Palm Springs, California in 1971.[9] She died in 1992 from throat cancer in Palm Springs, aged 76.[10]


Year Title Role Notes
1939 Blackwell's Island Reynolds' Secretary uncredited
Espionage Agent Miss Brenda Ballard
1940 The Man Who Talked Too Much Celia Farrady
The Sea Hawk Doña Maria with Errol Flynn
Money and the Woman Barbara Patteson
East of the River Laurie Romayne
South of Suez Katharine 'Kit' Sheffield
1941 Footsteps in the Dark Rita Warren with Errol Flynn
Singapore Woman Vicki Moore
Highway West Claire Foster
The Smiling Ghost Lil Barstow
1942 Captains of the Clouds Emily Foster
You Can't Escape Forever Laurie Abbott
1943 The Constant Nymph Toni Sanger
Background to Danger Tamara Zaleshoff w/ George Raft
Paris After Dark Yvonne Blanchard
1946 Strange Impersonation Nora Goodrich
Whispering Smith Marian Sinclair with Alan Ladd
1950 The Iroquois Trail Marion Thorne


  1. ^ Some question exists regarding the exact date of her birth. An article in the December 31, 1939, issue of the Salt Lake Tribune says that she was born November 29, 1915. Clark, W.K. (December 31, 1939). "It's Another Brenda's Year". The Salt Lake Tribune. Utah, Salt Lake City. p. 49. Retrieved June 25, 2016 – via open access
  2. ^ Aaker, Everett (2013). George Raft: The Films. McFarland. pp. 104–105. ISBN 978-0-7864-6646-7. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
  3. ^ Philippine Death Index, Bacolod City
  4. ^ p. 140 in: Halsema, James J. Bishop Brent's Baguio School: The First 75 Years. Brent School, Baguio, Philippines; OCLC 20331617
  5. ^ "The Milwaukee Journal". Retrieved March 28, 2018 – via Google News Archive Search.
  6. ^ Famous Alumnae Archived 2010-11-29 at the Wayback Machine, Texas Woman's University website; accessed September 8, 2015.
  7. ^ Capua, Michelangelo (2009). William Holden: A Biography. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. pp. 29–31. ISBN 978-0-7864-4440-3.
  8. ^ Fessier, Bruce (September 29, 2014). "West Holden: More than just the son of William Holden". The Desert Sun. Palm Springs, California.
  9. ^ Meeks, Eric G. (2014) [2012]. The Best Guide Ever to Palm Springs Celebrity Homes. Horatio Limburger Oglethorpe. p. 364. ISBN 978-1479328598.
  10. ^ "Brenda Marshall; Starred in '40s Swashbucklers". Los Angeles Times. August 14, 1992.


  • Capua, Michelangelo (2009). William Holden: A Biography. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-4440-3.
  • Gaines, Virginia Holden. Growing Up with William Holden: A Memoir (Strategems, 2007) ISBN 978-0-9741304-5-3

External links[edit]