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Crash survivor keeps dancing

Crash survivor keeps dancing

Portraits of Standard Airlines crash survivor Caren Marsh-Doll taken fifty years apart. On July 13, 1949, actress Caren Marsh, left, is interviewed at her hospital bed following the crash that killed 35 passengers and crew. On right is a Nov. 2, 1999 portrait of Caren Marsh-Doll holding a copy of the July 13, 1949 Los Angeles Times front page.

Credit: Left photo: Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive/UCLA. Right photo: David Bohrer/Los Angeles Times

Fifty years after the Standard Airlines crash, Los Angeles Times writer Annette Kondo interviewed survivors, including Caren Marsh.

CHATSWORTH — Ask about that day five decades ago, and they’ll calmly tell you they easily could have been among the 35 who perished….

But for several of the 14 who survived the July 12, 1949, crash of a Standard Airlines plane — at the time, the Southland’s deadliest aviation accident — each day is still precious, each year still a gift.

“When you come that close to not being here, or being told they are going to take your foot off, it changes everything in your life,” said Caren Marsh-Doll, who was known at the time as Caren Marsh, a stage and screen actress who was Judy Garland’s stand-in on “The Wizard of Oz.”

The petite, brown-eyed brunet, a talented dancer since childhood, was already a familiar face on stage and film. Fresh out of Hollywood High School — where Judy Garland was a classmate –Marsh won an MGM movie dance role.

In 1946, she was cast as Winifred McMasters in “Navajo Kid,” a western starring Bob Steele and filmed in the Chatsworth hills.

A year later, she was voted Miss Sky Lady of 1947. The prize: free flying lessons. After she had soloed, Marsh printed up leaflets listing her credits, then took off in a two-seater to shower MGM, Paramount, RKO and other studios with the fliers.

The publicity stunt worked, and more roles followed, including “Wild Harvest” with Alan Ladd….

(During the crash of one of Marsh’s feet was crushed. She faced having it amputated.)

…Desperate to save her foot, Marsh sought another doctor at Cedars of Lebanon, now Cedars-Sinai, where a surgeon promised she would be able to walk but probably not dance again.

“I refused to accept that,” she said. “I was in a hospital for a month. And I refused to picture myself not able to dance.”

Tap was out, but eventually Marsh took up Hawaiian dance, then belly dancing. Today, at 80, Caren Marsh-Doll lives in Palm Springs and teaches country and western and ballroom dancing.

For the last 10 years, she has set aside the last Monday of each month to volunteer at a Palm Springs stroke center, where she coaxes patients to try to stand up, sway to the music and forget their troubles.

“I was so thankful to just be alive. Things that bothered me before . . . nothing,” she said. “I have become much more peaceful and less worried about anything.”

Today, she makes appearances at Wizard of Oz festivals. As reported recently at http://www.syracuse.com, she will be the grand marshal of the 2011 Oz-Stravaganza parade June 3-5 in Ohittenago, N.Y. See photos from the crash here.

Nov. 2, 1999: Caren Marsh-Doll with a member of the Stroke Activity Center in Palm Springs where she volunteers once a month doing dance therapy with clients. Credit: David Bohrer/Los Angeles Times

3 Comments

  1. January 27, 2011, 3:02 am

    Great story, LAT.

    By: studiowestvideo
  2. January 27, 2011, 5:28 pm

    Pretty on the inside as well as the outside.

    By: Danna
  3. January 11, 2014, 11:50 pm

    She is still adorable as when she was in Hands Across the Border with Roy Rogers

    By: earth4466@yahoo.com

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