Chances are that, for most people, the name Caren Marsh Doll would elicit a one-word response: “Who?” But even if you’ve never heard of her, you’re certain to be familiar with the original Wizard of Oz movie, released in 1939, and its star Judy Garland. Marsh Doll was intimately connected with both the movie and Ms. Garland, and her little-told story is fascinating.
A perfect stand-in
When Warner Brothers was shooting The Wizard of Oz, the company decided it needed a stand-in dancer for Garland — hardly surprising, since the film includes various energetic dance routines. The woman who got the call was diminutive Caren, who stood at just 4 foot 11 inches tall, only an inch shorter than Garland. Marsh Doll had a similar body shape, and she was an accomplished dancer as well, so she was perfect for the job.
Before her Wizard of Oz job, Caren had been on the fringes of Hollywood for a time. But lack of sensational success had not deterred this determined young woman, who was 19 years old when she landed the Oz gig. Her ability to overcome adversity was a quality that would become essential later in her life. Other than being a stand-in for Garland, Caren had been in a variety of movies but remained uncredited.
Gone with the Wind
Apart from The Wizard of Oz, her most prestigious role up until the mid-1940s had been as a barbecue guest in the 1940 Gone With the Wind, but that, too, was an uncredited role. She did get a couple of credits in minor productions. But who remembers Navajo Kid or Secret of Linda Hamilton, both released in 1945? Still, it’s clear that Caren wasn’t a quitter.
Caren Morris — she acquired the Doll and the Marsh later — was born on April 6, 1919. Yep, that’s right, Caren celebrated her 104th birthday in April 2023. If that doesn’t prove the extraordinary staying power this woman has, nothing does. Caren was born in Hollywood, so her desire to get into the movies must have seemed entirely natural to her. But it wasn’t to prove an easy path to take.