Fled East Germany in 1960 to live in Stuttgart and work as an electronics engineer. Soon after, she entered a beauty contest on a whim and ended up winning the title of Miss Germany. That led to being crowned Miss Universe in 1961. She married actor Ty Hardin in 1962, but the marriage only lasted 3 years. In 1969, she married Iraqi-born filmmaker Howard Avedis. Their partnership resulted in numerous drive-in hits and cult classics, including The Stepmother (1972), The Teacher (1974) and Mortuary (1983). Marlene always produced, sometimes wrote and usually appeared in supporting roles in these productions.