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Marvel Rea was born Marvel Luciel Rea in Ainsworth, Nebraska in November of 1901. She relocated to California in 1910 with her parents, Nellie and John, and siblings Thomas, Clyde & Eva. Just two years after the move, Thomas sealed a job as a trick-photographer at Hal Roach, Fox and Universal Studios.
I've done quite a bit of looking into it and have never been able to find out how Marvel got into films, but one of my guesses is that she got into film through one of her brothers' connections. I don't know for sure though.
Starting out as a Mack Sennett Bathing Beauty, Marvel got her first small role in Her Nature Dance (1917) with Keystone and then went onto a small part in Roping Her Romeo (1917) with the Sennett company; which was great for Marvel as she was somewhat experienced in horse-riding.
The 'Bathing Beauty' title assured a lot of then, little known, aspiring actresses a chance to become someone. A few of the more commonly known actresses that came from a Mack Sennett beginning are people like Carole Lombard, Marie Prevost, and Phyllis Haver, all became big names in their active days.
Marvel was featured in over twenty films during her brief film career; spanning from 1917 right up until 1921, when she retired. Marvel appeared as a Bathing Beauty above all, and had featured roles in comedy shorts with Ford Sterling, much like a Harold Lloyd and Bebe Daniels pairing, but on a smaller scale.
In October of 1918, Marvel married Henry Page Wells. The marriage lasted a month before their separation in mid-September, with Henry being accused of abuse after a little over two weeks of marriage. In the 1922 divorce, Marvel also claimed that he would usually spend most, if not all, of his monthly $800 wage on drugs.
Not much actively happened throughout this time, up until Marvel was attacked on a September night in 1936. This is very graphically described and could possibly be disturbing or triggering so please be cautious!
Marvel was walking through 107th Street and Compton Avenue in California when she was approached by three younger men in a red vehicle, offering to escort her home, in an interview with a newspaper in 1936, she said: "They offered to drive me home and I refused. Then they forced me to go with them." Marvel was physically attacked and thrown into their truck, they drove out to a desolate area where the three men physically assaulted her, raped her, and left her to suffer a seizure. Marvel was left in a semi-conscious state and it took her four hours to grab the strength and recover enough to seek help for herself at the Compton Police Station.
The truck which matched the description given by Marvel was stopped several miles away at an area in Southern Los Angeles, a spot for known 'liquor hijackers' to meet, according to the Newark Advocate. The three men were held in detention and were identified to be Elwood Gidney, Homer Gidney, and Harry Zike; they claimed that Marvel willingly accompanied them.
The men who were suspected were questioned and held by the Los Angeles Police Department and were officially arrested on suspicion of kidnapping Marvel and physically attacking her. The men were put in prison in January of 1937, but requested a new trial and were sentenced one to fifty years in prison. The men that raped and abused Marvel served only three years before they were released.
It's not clear as to when, specifically, the three rapists were released but it's very clear that the traumatic and extremely painful experience that Marvel had endured that one night, along with her rapists being set free after serving only three years, had taken a huge toll on Marvel.
Marvel committed suicide by ingesting ant paste, a poisonous substance used to kill ants, in June of 1937.
"She [Marvel Rea] is striking to look at and is a splendid camera subject (...) This bewitching pillar of beauty rises to the height of five feet two and her weight is sculpturally correct. Her eyes are hazel and her hair the colour of sunshine and champagne."