Her first romance in Salem was with bachelor lawyer Don Craig.
Her twin sister Samantha initially came to Salem in 1974. Samantha was an aspiring actress who unfortunately had problems with both drug and alcohol addictions. Unsuccessful in her chosen profession, she resented Marlena's success. This led Samantha to drug Marlena and impersonate her, after having Marlena committed to Bayview. Laura Horton and Don caught on to Samantha's scheme and had her arrested and Marlena released.
In 1978, Don and Marlena became engaged. Their wedding was interrupted when Don's daughter Donna threatened to commit suicide by jumping off a building. Marlena managed to talk the young woman down.
On March 5, 1979, Marlena Evans married Don Craig.
They honeymooned in Carmel, CA, and even visited Samantha, who was by then living in Los Angeles.
Wealthy and unscrupulous politician Kellam Chandler came to Salem and offered Don a job on his staff with the full intention of destroying the Craig marriage. Kellam's daughter Liz developed an attraction for Don and Kellam himself had his eye on Marlena.
In 1980, Marlena gave birth to Don Craig Jr, and he was nicknamed DJ. The child was born 6 weeks early and weighed only 2 lbs, 10 oz. Three months later, while Don was out having dinner with Liz (with whom he was having an affair), Marlena found little DJ dead in his crib, a victim of SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In his grief and his own feelings of guilt, Don irrationally blamed Marlena for the child's death, and the two separated. Eventually, they divorced.
In 1981, upset over a violent family conflict, Kellam went to Marlena's. When she rejected his advances, he raped her. Kellam's son Josh Fallon had followed his father to Marlena's, gun in hand. He burst into the apartment and aimed at his father but couldn't bring himself to pull the trigger. Kellam saw his opportunity and grabbed the gun and was about to shoot Josh, when his other son, Tod Chandler, burst in, lunging at Kellam. In the ensuing struggle, the gun went off and Kellam was killed. Don learned the facts of the matter from Tod, and all parties involved agreed to conceal the rape.
In her capacity as a radio talk show host, Marlena began receiving disturbing phone calls and mysterious letters from a listener. Women were being strangled in Salem by a serial killer dubbed the "Salem Strangler", and the listener making the phone calls was considered the prime suspect. One of her clients,Eugene Bradford, a disturbed but goodhearted individual, was thought to be the Strangler, but was proven innocent.
Marlena was assigned a police officer to protect her. Roman Brady camped on her living room floor as part of his assignment. As with so many Salem couples, they clashed instantly, but before long couldn't deny the romantic feelings they had begun to develop for one another.
Marlena went to visit her parents in Colorado. In her absence the Strangler went to her apartment and strangled Samantha, whom he had mistaken for Marlena.
When she returned to Salem, the Strangler, Jake Kositchek, cornered her at her apartment at gunpoint. Roman came to her rescue in the nick of time, and in the struggle that resulted, Jake accidentally shot and killed himself.
1983 saw Roman and Marlena's wedding, an event that was almost brought to a halt by crime boss Stefano Dimera's assassins, who twice tried to kill the groom.
The following year, Marlena gave birth to twins Samantha Jean and Eric Roman.
In 1985, Roman travelled to the site of a small plane crash on a remote tropical island. His brother Bo had been one of the passengers on the ill-fated flight, but he and the others on board had survived. On the island, Roman confronted his nemesis, Stefano, and in a struggle on a cliff, Roman was shot and fell to the beach below. Bo raced to his brother's side, but it was too late; Roman died in his brother's arms. His body was washed out to sea.
Later that year, after the death of his daughter Megan Hathaway, who was obsessed with Bo, Stefano decided that Marlena would be "a more worthy opponent" than Roman had ever been. He attempted to kidnap Marlena and the twins, telling Marlena that she would be his wife and Samantha and Eric would replace Megan as his children. Amid the chaos of the foiled kidnapping attempt, Marlena shot Stefano down from a catwalk at an ice skating rink. She was charged with his death but released when the prosecutor at the trial acknowledged her innocence.
An unidentified man whose face was wrapped in bandages and who was known only as "The Pawn" escaped from his captors and managed to elude them. He was plagued by cloudy images but had no clear memories. After removing his bandages, he assumed the name John Black and got a job as a security guard at University Hospital. It was there that he first met Marlena.
Marlena tried to help John regain his memory through hypnosis. Because of his familiarity with Stefano Dimera, some people speculated that he might in fact be the Phoenix. Marlena, on the other hand, came to the conclusion that this mystery man was in fact Roman. John himself still couldn't remember his past, but he did have some memories of being married to Marlena and he knew that he loved her.
Later on, Marlena found herself once again trying to talk a suicidal individual down from a ledge. Rescuers were able to pull the young man into the building, but Marlena fell and then lapsed into a coma that lasted nearly a month. When she finally woke up, she went into cardiac arrest. Once she recovered, she and Roman renewed their vows.
A former ISA agent, Orpheus, wanted Roman's help in locating some stolen treasury bonds. He abducted Marlena; clues led Roman, Bo, Hope, Shane, Steve and Kayla to Stockholm, Sweden, where they found Marlena. The group returned safely to Salem. An infuriated Orpheus vowed revenge.
Marlena and Roman's happy reunion was short-lived. Orpheus planted a bomb in their house and as a horrified Roman looked on, the house exploded, with Marlena still inside. She was presumed dead, and shortly before Christmas, a memorial service was held.
Through the first part of 1987, Roman mourned Marlena's death, although in reality, she was still alive, held captive by Orpheus. Roman eventually tracked Orpheus down by following his sister-in-law Olivia to an island airport. Powerless, Roman stood by and watched as the plane with Marlena aboard exploded. He and Orpheus struggled, and when Orpheus shot at Roman, Olivia, who had fallen in love with Roman, jumped in front of Roman and took the bullet intended for him. Roman then killed Orpheus.
Almost 5 years later, Marlena reappeared in Salem. She had been held captive on an island, in an induced coma. On a foggy night down on the pier, Roman and Marlena shared an emotional reunion, although he was now in love with Isabella Toscano.
Determined to solve the mystery of Marlena's absence, they followed a trail of clues that led them to Mexico, where they came face to face with a man who looked just like Roman had, prior to his arrival in Salem as the Pawn! It was revealed that the man was in fact Roman Brady, and that John Black had only been brainwashed into believing he was Roman Brady.
By 1992, John had begun to build a new life with Isabella, who tragically died soon thereafter, and Marlena had resumed her life with Roman, their children, and her psychiatric career. One of her patients was Roger Lombard, an alcoholic who had hit and injured Roman's sister Kimberly in a drunk driving accident.
Roger's wife Stella became insanely jealous of Marlena and wrongly deduced that she and Roger were having an affair. Deranged Stella kidnapped Marlena and threw her into the boiler pit of an old warehouse, keeping her there for about a month. Before she could tell police of Marlena's whereabouts, Stella was hit by a truck and killed, leaving searchers to guess where Marlena had been taken.
After thorough investigation, John ended up at the warehouse, which was scheduled for demolition. He arrived there just as it was about to explode. He and Marlena were trapped there until Abe Carver found them. The ordeal rekindled their feelings for one another, but both John and Marlena kept those feelings to themselves.
When Marlena vowed to stay faithful to Roman, John tried to distract himself by dating a series of women. No matter what he tried, he couldn't deny his feelings for Marlena. Out of despair, John decided to leave Salem. Marlena went to his private jet to bid him goodbye. Alone and emotional, the two could no longer resist their passion, and they made love. John decided to stay in Salem after all.
Marlena learned she was pregnant, but she didn't know if John or Roman was the father of her unborn child. Months later, at the Horton cabin, John and his new romantic interest, Kristen Blake, delivered Marlena's premature baby girl, who was named Isabella, Belle for short.
Sami, Marlena and Roman's troubled teenage daughter, had secretly witnessed a romantic interlude between her mother and John. Suspicious of baby Belle's paternity, Sami pried into hospital records and altered them to conceal the fact that John was the baby's real father. Believing that Belle would always be a threat to Roman's happiness, Sami sold her little half-sister in a black market adoption.
John and Kristen began a investigation into black market adoptions and discovered that Sami was the kidnapper. They recovered the baby. At the Christmas Eve service at St. Luke's church, John walked down the aisle with Belle and placed the child in Marlena's arms.
Stefano had obtained Belle's blood samples for DNA testing. During Belle's baptismal service, he intimidated Marlena into divulging the fact that she had been unfaithful to Roman. Publicly humiliated, Marlena moved into Alice's house with baby Belle while Roman filed for divorce. Early in 1994, John bought her a penthouse apartment, on the 14th floor, at 24 Riverview Drive in Salem.
Wise old Father Francis persuaded John that they must perform an exorcism to save Marlena's soul. The exorcism culminated in a final showdown between John and the devil. Good prevailed over evil, and Marlena was free.
Later, John was wrongly convicted of murdering Tony Dimera. He was sentenced to die in the gas chamber. While on death row, he wrote a letter to Marlena declaring his undying love for her. John was saved from the gas chamber at the last minute, and Kristen, who was in love with John, found his letter to Marlena. To keep John and Marlena apart, she hid the letter. Later, Marlena found it. Kristen's devious nature was brought to light, and John and Marlena made plans to marry.
At the church, as the wedding was about to begin, Kristen arrived with Roman, who had been presumed dead! He was still in love with Marlena and wanted her back. To give him incentive to fight the illness that afflicted him, Marlena and John concealed their relationship from Roman and let him believe that he and Marlena could possibly have a future together. When Roman learned the truth, he gallantly bowed out, realizing he couldn't break the indestructable bond that John and Marlena shared.
When asked to choose a defining storyline for her character, portrayer Deidre Hall said, "I'm always a sucker for the possession storyline." November 2002
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