Marjorie Campbell with Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel in Their First Mistake
Marjorie Campbell, who has died aged 90, was cast in 1932 as the adopted baby of Laurel & Hardy in one of their most fondly remembered comedy shorts, Their First Mistake.
The dark-eyed, fair-haired infant was spotted in her baby carriage on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lot by the comic duo’s producer Hal Roach, whose own studio was next door.
In Their First Mistake, written by Stan Laurel, directed by George Marshall and distributed by Roach, Stan convinces Ollie that Ollie’s marital problems with his wife Arabella (Mae Busch), will stop if Ollie adopts a baby. As might be expected, little goes according to plan – but for Marjorie Campbell, with her dimples and gurgling laugh, it meant more work.
Marjorie Jean Campbell was born in Los Angeles on March 14 1932; her older sister was already trying her luck in the movies when their mother arrived at MGM pushing Marjorie in her pram. Photographed around the lot with her mother, young Marjorie was much in demand following Their First Mistake.
She appeared in the melodrama Life Begins (1932, also known as The Dawn of Life), about a wrongly convicted prisoner (Loretta Young), who on entering a maternity hospital to give birth discovers that the rigours of prison life have weakened her beyond repair, so sacrifices herself in order to save her baby (Marjorie Campbell).
Next, she went to Fox Studios, where she joined two of Hollywood’s earliest romantic leads, Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor, for Tess of the Storm Country (1932), based on the bestselling novel of that name by Grace Miller White.
Things then went awry with her next feature, Secrets (1933), starring the former “American Sweetheart” and “Girl with the Golden Curls”, Mary Pickford. Tensions on set were already fraught in what was to be the star’s final film, with some feeling the plot – about a New England society girl who braves the West to help her husband build his fortune – and the actress herself, outdated for “modern audiences”.
To make matters worse, young Marjorie, perhaps picking up on the bad energy, cried from the time she arrived on set until Mary Pickford, who was also the executive producer, had her taken from the set. In 2014, at a Sons of the Desert film festival (Sons of the Desert being the name of the international Laurel and Hardy fan club), Marjorie Campbell joked that she had “quit Hollywood as I was scared of being typecast”.
But the door did not close permanently, and while at the Hollywood Professional School, whose notable alumni included Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney and Betty Grable, Marjorie Campbell notched up a number of film roles as a background artist.
She was Elizabeth Taylor’s pretty friend in pigtails in the classroom scenes in National Velvet (1944), co-starring Rooney and Angela Lansbury, and had an uncredited role in the melodrama A Stolen Life (1946), in which Bette Davis plays a pair of twin sisters, one a romantic, the other a husband stealer, and The Harvey Girls (1946). With the nickname of Margie, she later worked as a stand-in for actresses in a multitude of genres across numerous film studios.
Marjorie Campbell retired from acting when she married, devoting herself to life as a wife and mother. But a large and loyal following of Laurel and Hardy fans meant that she was often in demand to attend festivals and retrospectives, her last as a guest in 2014, along with the actors Edith Fellows, Lassie Lou Ahern and Tommy “Butch” Bond.
Marjorie Campbell’s husband died in 1988. She is survived by two daughters.
Marjorie Campbell, born March 14 1932, died October 28 2022