Not long after a 16-year-old Marla English was crowned Del Mar Fair’s youngest Fairest of the Fair in 1951, Hollywood came calling. Signed to a seven-year contract with Paramount Studios and earning $150 a week, the raven-haired beauty appeared in several B-movies including “Living It Up,” “Shield for Murder” and “Hell’s Horizon.”
Three years into her career, Ms. English was poised for stardom when she was cast opposite Spencer Tracy in a movie set in the French Alps. She walked away from the project, marrying prominent San Diego businessman A. Paul Sutherland a short time later and living the rest of her life as a virtual recluse.
Marla English, with Don Diego, was crowned Fairest of the Fair in 1951. Both were ambassadors for the run of the fair. Courtesy photo
“She was to have been Paramount Studio’s answer to Elizabeth Taylor,” said her son Stephen Sutherland. “Her star was rising and as things were really going for her, she bailed out. Her desire was to marry and have children.”
Ms. English died of cancer on Dec. 10 in Tucson, Ariz. She was 77.
Her earlier films also included “Desert Sands,” “Three Bad Sisters” and “Strange Adventure.” Toward the end of her Hollywood days, she acted mainly in such horror films as “The She Creature” in 1956 and her last film, “Voodoo Woman,” in 1957.
“She was the beautiful screamer,” Sutherland said of his mother’s work in the horror genre.
Marleine Gaile English was born Jan. 4, 1935 in San Diego, the only child of Arthur and Bertha English. She graduated from Hoover High School.
She was 20 when she was cast with Tracy in “The Mountain.” Before leaving for Europe to film on location, Ms. English fell ill from a smallpox vaccination and pulled out of the movie, prompting Paramount to suspend her and replace her with Barbara Darrow.
In 1967, Ms. English left San Diego with her family to lead a more private life away from autograph seekers and interviews. After living for several years on a ranch in rural northern Nevada, she ultimately settled with her husband in Arizona, tending her beloved rose garden and raising animals.
Ms. English is survived by her mother, Bertha English of San Diego; her husband of 56 years, A. Paul Sutherland of Tucson; her daughter Ann Sutherland of San Diego; sons Allen Sutherland of Prescott, Ariz., Stephen Sutherland of Albuquerque, N.M., Tim Sutherland of Tucson, and David Sutherland of Palm Desert; eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.