George L. Marion

born: 20 March 1857/1858/1859*
Edgefield, South Carolina,
United States of America
died: (after 30 April 1930)

(age 71+)

The following notes and bio courtesy LampyMeier2007
Elderly American actor who for many years was apparently an unidentified actor. Not to be confused with George Francis Marion.
1930 Census he is listed as Gus Marion. Death date missing.
He was convicted of spectacularly murdering (20 Aug 1909) his common law wife of 7 years with only 1 hour of jury deliberation. Just like you see in the movies, after appeals, an insanity plea, delays, the governor rejecting clemency appeals, judges and lawyers dying; they started constructing the scaffold in the prison yard to "hang him by the neck until dead". Within 3 Days of his execution his lawyers convinced the Parole Board and Governor to commute his sentence to "life". When the warden brought the commutation letter to his cell all the other prisoners started "hoopin and hollerin" congratulations; the warden let him out of his cell and the other prisoners too for a 30 minute "exercise break" so they could orderly file past him and shake his hand and hug him. He was well-liked by his acting peers, the guards and fellow inmates. Visitors brought and sent him can after can of "pork and beans" because that was his favorite and reminded him of his youth in the South.
Due to tuberculosis, he had a foot amputated. Later, about 1917 or 1918, he had TB of the lungs and was "within weeks of dying". Appeals by the "White Rats" actors union (and the skyrocketing costs to house prisoners), the Governor of Pennsylvania commuted his sentence and released him.
After that he came to Hollywood and entered movies. He played in films like The Lost World 1925, HE who gets slapped 1924 and Our Hospitality 1923.

The following notes and bio courtesy Jim Jarvis
George's Dad, Robert H. Sullivan (1830- ?) and his Mom's (Mary Penn 1833- ?) parents were successful merchants of dry goods and drugs in Edgefield, SC and Augusta, GA. George was a dry goods salesman in Augusta and left home at age 19 and moved to Atlanta. There he met Jennie McConnell (1863-1881) and they married in June of 1881. A week and a day later, she died suddenly of an unspecified illness.In May of 1882 in Atlanta, he married Mrs. Mary H.(Taylor) Woolsey, the young wealthy widow of King S. Woolsey who died in AZ in 1879 after 8 years of marriage. He was a prosperous gold miner, rancher, "mountain man" and fearless (and feared) Apache Indian fighter who at age 10 witnessed his parents scalped and killed by Apaches.He grew up to become a crack "pistol and rifle shot" who could put Annie Oakley to shame. By November of 1885, Mary was back in AZ and married to her 3rd husband. She died in Yuma, AZ in 1928 as a widow of her 4th husband.
George's daughter, Marie, was born in OH in October 1886. Assuming he was married (no record found), that would mean his wife and mother of his 3 children, Emma Jeanette Clark (b. March 1861 OH), were married c. 1885. The 1900 Census says that she bore 4 children with 3 living. Evidently, daughter Marie married about 1909 but died in CA between 1910 and 1919. His son, George Leith Sullivan was born October 1888 in Cincinnati, OH (died CA 1954). Son, Raymond, was born Philadelphia, PA in November 1893 (d.1948). According to Cincinnati City Directories, he managed various dry goods stores between 1886 and 1892. In the 1900 Census, Emma Sullivan is living as a "widow" in Atlanta with the 3 children and working as a saleslady.
About 1902, George was in Detroit, MI working winters as a theatrical agent or railroad porter and summers as a hotel clerk. As "George Marion" he "courted" a hotel restaurant head waitress about 20 years his junior, Frances Z. Lee (1880-1909 CAN). They left Detroit for New York City with a professional acting road company. George was the company's business manager.He was business manager with a few other successful road companies but it doesn't appear that he was ever an actor as he later claimed, until his appearance in Hollywood motion pictures. He falsely claimed that he was the "Marion" of "Marion and Pearl", a popular blackface vaudeville team from the 1890's until Pearl's death in 1908. He also falsely claimed that his wealthy mother raised his children in the South after his wife died of a stroke. After his Mom died, his"sister" raised the 2 children in California. This is false as his "Mom and sister" were actually his wife, Emma. He wrote an eloquent, heartfelt statement released to the newspapers which was mostly lies. They "bought it" and raised money for his defense fund.
Between 1905 and 1906, he and his "common-law" wife, Frances, had a baby boy. In August of 1909, they were staying in New Jersey. Frances took the child to Blairstown, NJ to "house sit" while her married sister went on vacation to Canada to visit relatives. She was smitten by a railroad man, James Brooks. They ran off together to Pennsylvania and were married. They went to his home town, Wilkes-Barre, PA where he abandoned her. Stranded, she asked the Chief of Police for help.He helped her get a waitress job at a hotel. George tracked her to Wilkes-Barre and wrote the Chief for help to bring about a reconciliation. On the evening of 20 August 1909, they all met in the Chief's office, amicably. George asked to talk alone with his wife. The Chief obliged. After a few minutes of George asking Frances to take him back, he "went insane" when she showed him the Marriage Certificate (Brooks) and he shot her in the head and heart with the pistol he had brought concealed in his pants leg tied to a shoestring. She died in a few minutes and George surrendered.
In July 1912, the 6 year-old son was living with the maternal grandmother in Zion City, IL. She belonged to the Dowie faith(cult) which founded and "ran" the town. The boy fell out of an upper story window and as he lay dying, "church" members prayed over him instead of calling for medical help. He died.
With monetary help and letters and petitions from the theatrical community and false claims of poor health, George's death sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1911 and he was pardoned and released in July 1918.

*On 01 June, 1860, his mother told the Census Taker in Edgefield, SC, that George was one year old which yields a birth year of 1858 or 1859. In 1910 & 1911 respectively, he told news reporters that he was age 52 & 53.
**His 1911 prison "intake" papers say he was born in Atlanta, GA on 20 March 1857:age 54: height 5'9".
***His older son and maternal grandfather had the middle name "Leith".
Real name: George Leith Sullivan
Height: 5'9"
Films listed on this page: complete Hal Roach filmography.


The Battling Orioles

The Goofy Age
Elderly man in hat

Looking For Sally
Hotel guest

Acknowledgements & sources: (1852 Marriage of parents: Edgefield, SC.) (1860 Census SC George L. Sullivan age 1) ("Edgefield Advertiser" 23 Jan 1879 p.4. Augusta, GA dry goods salesman) (1880 Census GA Jennie McConnell: 1st wife) (1881 Marriage 1st wife Jennie McConnell) (1881 death of 1st wife) (1871 AZ Mary H. Taylor marries King Woolsey) (1880 Census AZ: Mary H. Woolsey) (1882 Marriage 2nd wife Mary Woolsey) (1884 AZ Mary Woolsey marries Frank Fry) (1928 AZ Mary H. Woolsey Baxter dies) (1880 Census OH 3rd wife Emma J. Clark) (1890 City Dir Cincinnati p.1310 "George L. Sullivan" manager dry goods store) (1900 Census Atlanta wife EMMA J. SULLIVAN & Children) (1900 Census Detroit "common law wife" Frances Lee) (1904 Sep 03 p.2 "New York Dramatic Mirror" bus mgr "A Child of the Slums")
(1906 Atlanta City Dir:"Emma J. Sullivan widow George L") (1907 Sep 21 p.03 "New York Dramatic Mirror" bus mgr "Through Death Valley") (1910 Census Los Angeles: Emma J. Sullivan in LA with children) (1910 Census Wilkes-Barre PA: in prison age "52")
(1910 hotel clerk/theatr agent work: acting NOT mentioned) (1909 Aug 21 brief description of murder) (1910 Jan 29 p.08 "Wilkes-Barre Record": eloquent, heartfelt letter with many lies)
(1911 Sep 29 transf to Luzerne State pen: age 54: b. 20 March: ht. 5'9" 148 lbs: b. Atlanta: hair "iron gray":catholic:)
(1911 Sep 21 p.17 "Wilkes-Barre Leader" congrats from inmates for commutation)
(1909 voracious appetite for pork & beans) (1911 Sep 29 description of crime: lie abt "Marion & Pearl" act) (1911 Oct 07 lie exposed abt "Marion & Pearl") (1912 July death of 6 yr-old son in Zion, IL) (Dowie Faith (cult)) (1913 July NOT dying in prison as reported (1918 July 20 released from prison: see actual prison record (1930 LA Census "Gus l. Marion" taken 07 April 1930)
LampyMeier2007 (bio notes and identification in The Goofy Age)
Jim Jarvis (research)
Jesse Brisson (identification in Looking For Sally)

This page was last updated on: 11 May 2020