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Who was Large Marge from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure?

The other night my wife and I sat down in our little movie room, and I popped in a movie I've loved since I was very, very little:  Pee-Wee's Big Adventure!  

My love for Pee-Wee is well documented, and you can read some of my articles about Pee-Wee here, here, and here.

My wife has never really cared for the film.  She thinks Pee-Wee is a tad too annoying.  I get it and understand her complaints about the movie.  But, I think she couldn't be more wrong.  :)

The only enjoyment she gets from the movie is the Alamo scene.  Years ago, she and I visited the Alamo, and she was rolling her eyes and sighing in boredom just like Pee-Wee.  Personally, I love visiting The Alamo, with all of its historical significance and everything, but she was over it once she saw the iconic facade.  The 112-degree heat didn't help things, either.  

We have a "no phone" rule in our home theater, so we're forced to be engaged in the movie.  Like other movies in the past, when she actually pays attention to some of my favorites (that she dislikes), she actually enjoys what she sees.  Dick Tracy is a prime example.  

After Pee-Wee, I asked what she thought, hoping this would again be the case.  I was *this* close!  She laughed throughout the movie but responded, "It's just so stupid."  I told her that was the point, it's just silly fun, but at least she admitted she enjoyed it more than in the past.  I'll call that a win any day!

During the viewing of the movie, a thought popped into my head.  Right before my favorite scene featuring the Cabazon Dinosaurs, Pee-Wee is forced to hitchhike from the middle of nowhere to a roadside diner.  That roughly 3-minute scene features an iconic character in film history:  Large Marge.  

You most likely know the character even if you've never seen the movie.  You've probably seen the gif of her scaring Pee-Wee, but if not, you likely know the gist of the story.  

So, I began to wonder, who played this iconic character?  I don't really remember her from anything else.  What has she done in the past, and what did she do after?  Did she ever realize how iconic her character was?  

Well, I set off to find out!

It turns out little is known about Alice Nunn, the veteran character and background actress.  She lived a private life but appeared in many popular television series in the 70s and 80s.  

She was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, to her parents, N.G. Nunn and Alice Bush.  She showed interest in acting at a young age, performing in several school and local productions before attending Wesleyan University to study acting.  There, she also took classes from the American Theater Wing.  After several jobs in radio performances, she got her first big break appearing in "New Faces of 1956,"  alongside future stars Tiger Haynes, John Reardon, Virginia Martin, and Paul Lynde. 

From there, she became a character actress on television.  Her first job was on an episode of Hazel in 1965 before landing a recurring role in Camp Runamuck.  She appeared in 21 episodes as Mahala May from 1965-1966.  

Alice in Camp Runamuck

In Camp Runamuck, her character Mahala May Gruenecker was the head counselor of Camp Divine and the chief antagonist to the series star, Commander Wivenhoe (Arch Johson).  

From there, she appeared in several episodes of various shows, often playing a humorous version of a strong-willed, edgy woman.  She made 4 appearances in Petticoat Junction over the years, as well as 3 episodes of Happy Days.  Her filmography lists shows such as Murder She Wrote, Simon and Simon, Knight Rider, WKRP in Cincinnati, The Cosby Show, the Love Boat, and Hart to Hart.

Her first film appearance was in Johnny Got His Gun in 1971, where she played a nurse.  She then had small, unnamed yet credited parts ("Fat Lady" and "Lady with Dog," respectively) in Mame (1974) and Airport 1975.

Alice in WKRP Cincinnati

She also made a few appearances in the horror genre, ala Large Marge, in Brian De Palma's The Fury (Mrs. Callahan), Delusion (Duffy the Cook), Trick or Treat, and Dark Night of the Scarecrow.  She also appeared as Helga, the maid in 1981's Mommy Dearest.

With such a storied career, it wasn't until she landed the role of Large Marge in the Tim Burton-directed Pee-Wee's Big Adventure that she was recognized by many fans.  The role became so iconic that she received a cult following, and years after her death, many film fans continued to visit her gravesite in Jacksonville, Florida.  

After the 1985 role of Large Marge, she would appear in a handful of parts, including Who's That Girl in 1987 alongside Madonna.  

Her final role was Nurse Palmer in Three O'Clock High in 1987.  

Sadly, Alice Nunn passed away in 1988 from a heart attack at the age of 60 in her apartment in West Hollywood, California.  If anyone is interested in paying their respects and getting a photo with Large Marge's gravesite in the Jacksonville area, that information can be found on this website.