Birgit Annalisa Rusanen was born in Oslo, Norway, on February 26 and left in an orphanage when she was two weeks old. After four years, in 1948, she was adopted by Professor and Mrs. Harold Soderquist of Detroit, Michigan. She was named Marta in honor of Marta Bentzen, the Oslo social worker who assisted the Soderquists with the voluminous red tape attached to an international adoption.
Marta quickly adjusted to the language and customs of the United States. She entered Farmington Elementary School, and as a ten year-old fourth grader starred in an original comedy which she and two other ten year-olds had written. A piano-playing colleague of her father’s, Professor Henry Herman, recommended Marta to the famous Will-O-Way Theatre in Birmingham, Michigan on the strength of her singing and dancing to ballads he played on frequent visits to the Soderquist home. Marta was accepted and cast in Taming of the Shrew and Little Women at Will-O-Way in summer stock when she was fourteen. She later took a course in drama at the Detroit Civic Theatre.
In 1959, Professor Soderquist took his family to California on sabbatical. Marta enrolled at Santa Monica High School and remained in California when her parents returned to Detroit the next year, finishing her high school education at Hollywood Professional School at 16.
Marta was “discovered” while eating a hamburger with a boyfriend at a drive-in restaurant in Santa Monica. Producer/Director/Writer James B. Harris approached her and asked if she would like to try out for Lolita. After checking Harris’ background, she read for the part.
“My mother thought the role was not for me, so I withdrew,” she says. Lolita was made with Jimmy Harris as Producer. Starring James Mason and Shelly Winters, the title role went to Sue Lyon instead.
Jimmy Harris can still take credit with starting Marta’s career. He made arrangements for Mata to acquire an agent, who immediately got her a feature role in The Loretta Young Show. During the next eighteen months, Marta co-starred in two Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes (including one directed by Hitchcock himself), two segments of the My Three Sons series with Fred MacMurray (a third one would follow in 1964), a Leave it to Beaver episode and an appearance on the Shirley Temple show.
She had just finished an episode of The Greatest Show on Earth and was filming the role of Lorelei the mermaid in Beach Blanket Bingo when she was called in to meet with Irwin Allen. After meeting Marta, Allen was determined to have her play the role of Judy Robinson in his new series, Space Family Robinson. Marta initially refused the part, fearing (correctly) the character would be underutilized. Allen pitched several potential script ideas for the character, and Marta agreed to the role of Judy Robin in the series, now renamed Lost in Space. The rest is science fiction history.
When the series ended, Marta raised a family and continued to work, making over 40 TV commercials as well as guest starring in TV shows such as Mannix, Remington Steele and Trapper John In 1996, Marta traveled to Korea to film Pearl Buck’s The Living Reed with Lee Majors. Marta’s first love however, is the theater, in which she has been very active on the West Coast; She receiving kudos for her performance as Emily Stilson in Arthur Kopit’s award-winning play about a stroke victim, Wings.
Marta loves to travel, especially in the Far East to trek in the Himalayas, although that has been put on hold while she is helping to raise her granddaughter Lena. She does make time for the occasional convention appearance, and has appeared in such films as Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Harvest of Fire with Patty Duke, Body Count with Alyssa Milano and of course, 1998’s Lost in Space.
Marta’s website is here.
|Autograph (& Free Selfie)||$40|
|Professional Photo Op||$60|
|12:30pm-12:45pm||Solo Professional Photo Op|
|10:30am-10:45am||Solo Professional Photo Op|
|11:00am-12:00pm||Q/A with Marta Kristen Panel|
Saturday, November 12
Main Stage in Steelcase Ballroom C
Q/A with Marta Kristen
Don’t miss this opportunity to hear about the many roles, hobbies, stories and career of Marta Kristen. From her time on the stage as a child to being in front of the camera on such classics as The Loretta Young Show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Leave it to Beaver, and everything in between.