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Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in Washington, District of Columbia, USA
Died in Los Angeles, California, USA
Height 5' (1.52 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Margerie or Marjorie Bonner was a minor film actress, but achieved greater and less ephemeral fame as a result of her marriage to English novelist Malcolm Lowry in 1940, after the close of her film career.

Their marriage was close and, to say the least, unconventional. Lowry was a tormented, alcoholic, often cruel genius, who found "ordinary" life extremely hard. Margerie Bonner Lowry was an important axis of stability for her husband, and indeed played an important part in his writing. Together they would take notes compulsively about their travels and travails, which Lowry would work up into semi-autobiographical stories and novels.

She was born Marjorie Bonner on 18th July, 1905, and led a conventional American girlhood - until her sister Priscilla Bonner left home to try to get into pictures. This fired Margorie's own dreams, and at the age of 14 she persuaded her family to allow her to quit school and join Priscilla in Hollywood. She married a wealthy playboy, Jerome B. Chaffee, but soon left him thanks to his violent alcoholism. Meanwhile her career foundered. Her horsemanship got her a few roles in Westerns, but the parts petered out, and she became an artist at the Disney studios, then a radio scriptwriter and editor, before becoming PA to Penny Singleton. By now she had changed her name to 'Margerie' Bonner.

She met Lowry as he passed through Los Angeles following the breakup of his first marriage in 1938 (it was love at first sight - they fell directly into an embrace upon meeting, and were soon lovers), and when he settled in Vancouver, she soon joined him. Eventually, in 1940, they became squatters in a fishing shack in the little community of Dollarton, near Vancouver; they married after Lowry's divorce was finalised later that year. During this time, Lowry was working on his great novel Under the Volcano, and Margerie was often credited by him with saving the only manuscript when fire destroyed their shack in 1944. They rebuilt the shack together, after finishing the novel - which was eventually published in 1947.

The novel was a sensation, but thanks to Lowry's inner demons, and impressive intake of alcohol, it was the last serious work he ever completed. The Lowrys spent the next couple of years travelling in Europe, returning to Dollarton in 1949 to begin writing a series of novels simultaneously. More restless travelling followed, until Malcolm's return to England in 1955, after which he was quickly hospitalised for psychiatric treatment. In 1956, they moved to the little village of Ripe, in Sussex, South of London. In June 1957, after a blazing row, Margerie stormed out to spend the night with a friend. When she returned next morning, she found Lowry's body. He had died of an overdose of sleeping pills; it was not clear whether he had intended suicide, or whether his death was an accident.

After his death, she managed his literary legacy, completing and editing half-finished works. She edited or co-edited Lowry's Selected Letters, Selected Poems, and short stories and poems (under the title Psalms and Songs), and his posthumous novels Lunar Caustic, Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend Is Laid, and October Ferry to Gabriola. She also co-wrote with Lowry a screenplay of Tender is the Night with Lowry, and the last of his novels to be published (La Mordida) is very unfinished, but clearly the work of two people. She also wrote novels of her own in the 1940s, including The Last Twist of the Knife, Horse in the Sky and The Shapes That Creep.

Further details of Margerie's life, especially her time with Malcolm, can be found in the two important lives of Lowry. Malcolm Lowry, by Douglas Day, is a sympathetic portrait of their marriage - Day was a close friend and colleague of Margerie, and they collaborated in editing a number of the posthumous works. Pursued by Furies, by Gordon Bowker, published after Margerie's own death, contains a much less friendly description of Margerie, and even hints that Margerie could have had a hand in Malcolm's death. Bowker is also critical of Margerie's editing of Lowry's posthumous work. See also Bowker's edited collection Malcolm Lowry Remembered.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Kieron O'Hara

Spouse (2)

Malcolm Lowry (1940 - 27 June 1957) ( his death)
Jerome Chaffee Jr. (1924 - ?)

Trivia (3)

Sister of actress Priscilla Bonner.
Married to writer Malcolm Lowry, she typed and edited his original manuscript of the novel "Under the Volcano".
She and sister Priscilla Bonner shared a Beverly Hills apartment in later years after both women lost their husbands. Neither sister had any children.

Personal Quotes (1)

I lacked [sister] Priscilla's ambition. Acting was never a serious thing with me. I'm not a bit sorry. I never missed pictures.

See also

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