Former Santa Monica resident Marilyn Connon West, once a “Ziegfeld Girl,” passed away at her Hillsborough home last month. She was 94.
West was born in the St. Louis suburb of Webster Groves on January 17th, 1914, to John and Sallie Connon. West’s mother was notable as the first woman to graduate from the University of Missouri, and was handed her diploma in 1902 by Mark Twain.
In 1916, West moved from Missouri to what was then Ocean Park, now a part of Santa Monica, and soon after to Santa Monica, where her father bought the home of silent movie cowboy star William S. Hart.
At one time West’s family co-owned the famous carousel on the Santa Monica Pier. In her early teens, West took dance lessons and discovered her promising dancing talent. After graduating from Santa Monica High School, she studied dance in Hollywood and auditioned to be a model for Walt Disney’s Snow White.
West won a beauty contest and was selected as honorary commodore for the ten-day, multi-class sailing regatta celebrating the dedication of the Santa Monica Boat Harbor in May 1934.
Discovered by dance team entrepreneurs Fanchon and Marco, West’s break came when she joined a dance troupe headlined by Leo Carrillo. The dance troupe played at San Francisco’s Fox Theater and cities around the U.S.
She was later promoted and played the Chez Paris Club in Chicago. While visiting her cousin Virginia Watson, a dancer who starred with Fred Astaire in the New York stage musical Gay Divorcee, West was invited to join the Ziegfeld Follies. She performed with the Follies for three years.
West later performed for the St. Louis Muni-Opera and later moved to San Francisco, where she met and married her husband of 45 years, Paul A. West, Jr., who served with the Navy in World War II.
At the conclusion of the war, the couple settled in Hillsborough, where West resided for 55 years.
Over the next several decades, West was an active volunteer in various organizations, including the Stanford Hospital Auxiliary and the Peninsula Civic Light Opera League, now known as Broadway by the Bay. West loved dance and musical theatre and was an enthusiastic supporter of Broadway by the Bay, friends said.
West participated in weekly dance workouts until her late 80s.
She will be remembered for her grace, patience, positive attitude and winning smile, friends said.
West is survived by five nephews and nieces, seven great- nephews and nieces, and six great-great-nephews and nieces.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Mission Hospice of San Mateo, 1900 O’Farrell St., Suite 200, San Mateo 94403; or Broadway by the Bay in Burlingame.