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Zena Marshall (1925-2009) was an African-born British actress.
British actress Zena Moyra Marshall was born on New Year's day in 1925 in Nairobi, Kenya. Her father died when she was young, and her mother married a landowner in Leicestershire, where she spent her early years. Her mother’s family were French, and Zena’s dark beauty would later lend itself to a series of exotic screen characters.
She attended St Mary’s Roman Catholic school, Ascot, Berkshire, trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and worked with Ensa, the Entertainments National Service Association during the Second World War. A noted beauty, she was courted by Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia and she once dined with President Perón. In 1947 she married the band leader Paul Adam, though the union was brief. Her first big screen role came as a bit part (lady-in-waiting) in the Gabriel Pascal produced 1945 "Caesar and Cleopatra" that starred Claude Rains and Vivien Leigh in respective title roles. It would be 17 years before Marshall had her real brush with James Bond, but the film also featured an uncredited debut appearance from a future 007-actor, Roger Moore, as a Roman Soldier.
Her exotic looks landed her several small parts in film and television, often being cast in ethnic roles, such as Italians and Asian characters. Notable films for the 5' 5" actress included "Good Time Girl", "The Lost People", "Helter Skelter", "So Long At The Fair", "Morning Departure", 'Three Cases Of Murder", and "Crosstrap". In 1957, Marshall appeared in two episodes of "O.S.S.", a TV series based on the US spy agency during WWII, produced by ITC in the UK and distributed State-side by ABC
Marshall shot to fame in the role of Chinese SPECTRE agent Miss Taro in the debut James Bond film "Dr No" in October 1962. Although it took a couple of years for worldwide audiences to catch on to the 007 phenomenon (the film was not released in the USA until May 1963), and thanks to re-releases of the early films when Bondmania struck with "Goldfinger" and "Thunderball", Marshall's scenes with Sean Connery became part of cinema history. Although not the first conquest for Bond, Miss Taro was the first 'bad girl' of the series.
Contributing to a DVD commentary many years later, Marshall made it clear that she thought the "Dr No" script was nothing special till director Terence Young introduced an element of humour. She also remembered that it took three days to shoot her landmark bedroom scene with Connery and that she found it very difficult to spit in his face when handed over to the police.
Marshall was caught up in some controversy when her picture, in skimpy dressing gown and toweling robe, appeared in a controversial series of James Bond photo cards issued with bubblegum in 1964 by a company called Somportex. The cards also included other early Bond girls in various states of undress.
One MP claimed they were “a disgusting and disgraceful corruption of young children”. The cards were withdrawn and replaced with a set with more emphasis on guns and violence, which seemed to please everyone. Both sets are now worth hundreds of pounds.
Following her most famous role, Marshall also appeared in popular films "The Switch" (1963) and "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" (1965). She came back in to the Bond fold for an appearance as herself in the TV special "The Incredible World of James Bond", a behind the scenes look at the Bond phenomenon during the release of "Thunderball".
TV roles in the 60's included episodes of "Invisible Man", "Danger Man" and "Dixon of Dock Green". Like many of the early Bond girls, she retired from the screen to focus on domestic life. Her last big screen credit was the quirky 1967 sci-fi flick "The Terrornauts".
Marshall was married to Ivan Foxwell in 1991 until his death on 16th January 2002. In her late years, she proved extremely popular at Bond reunion events and screenings. After suffering a short illness, Zena Marshall passed away on Friday 10th July 2009 at the age of 84. Her cause of death was listed as cancer.