Maris Crane is an unseen recurring character on NBC series Frasier.
Maris is introduced (offscreen) as Niles Crane's first wife, although they divorce later in the series. Viewers never see the character, but are inclined to create their own image of her form, especially using the vivid explanations given by anyone who has met her - above all her husband. The true source of Maris' family fortune is only discovered by Niles during the divorce proceedings.
Maris and Niles got married in 1985 and lived together for years in her extravagant gated estate. Maris comes from a wealthy family, is Episcopalian, and apparently is the source of Niles' lavish spending as she is the primary holder on all of the credit and bank accounts. Our first impression of Maris Crane is when Niles explains to Frasier about how their gardener, Yoshi, angrily demolished a topiary. Her reaction to this violent occurrence was expressionless, but she was evidently mortified. When discussing how Martin's condition makes him practically unable to live alone, Niles points out to Frasier, that having him over at their house wouldn't be good because he (Martin) doesn't like her (Maris). Frasier tries to compliment her by saying that she's "like the sun, except without the warmth". Later, Niles refers to Maris as being five years older than he is.
During an attempt at preparing for dinner, Maris collapsed in her half-slip and sighed, revealing to Niles that dinner was not to be. Maris was revealed to have an Aunt Patrice who visits Martin with Niles. Patrice is known to speak in a peculiar language with her at parties, designated as G-speak. During the party, thrown for special guest and well-known artist Martha Paxton, Maris was mentioned by Niles as being asleep under the covers of Frasier's bed after she became exhausted from pressure to be interesting to other guests at the party. He inadvertently allowed a guest to throw a coat on that same bed. Later in the episode, Daphne helped to recover her lost earring.
Maris is known to have a sexual side. After watching Basic Instinct, Niles explained that they pushed their beds together that night. He also mentioned that their beds were across the hall from each other, implying that their marriage wasn't mutual. Even with her problems, Maris was very active. Niles explained that she was taking part in the show, Cats. He hoped it would be more successful than the unlikely 'The Sound of Drums'. At the end of the episode, Niles was sorry to announce that she had been kicked out of the cast after forgetting the words to 'Memory'. Martin refers to Maris as only being a little strange in comparison to Lilith. Frasier was obviously noticing Niles' attraction to Daphne and guessed it had something to do with his relationship with Maris. Niles agrees and explains that there's a lack of love. Frasier suggests role-playing. This idea evidently doesn't work as Niles arrives in Frasier's apartment dressed in a Pirates costume. Niles tells them that Maris had left for Arizona after the shock.
For her return, Niles decides on making a romantic dinner to make up and takes Daphne to make the food. We are first revealed to the sights of their glamorous house. Niles explains that it was all hers, implying that she was rich. They met when their hands touched outside her gate and a spark opened the gates before them, as if a sign. They married three years later. Daphne notices a glockenspiel, which Niles points out to be their honeymoon sentiment from Zurich. Ironically, Maris is unable to return home because of the steadily brewing storm. When staying the night, Daphne is forced to wear a white gown, saying that Maris' clothes were all too small for her. When preparing for the Seabee Award ceremony for Frasier, Niles explains that she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Even though the end of this sentence is cut off, it isn't hard to understand her absence.
Niles obviously has feelings for her because he bought her an emerald necklace. In the same episode, he explained that Maris was very kind (a lie), and apparently gave all her old cocktail dresses to the homeless. Maris finally leaves Niles' life, seemingly forever, in the season 11 story arc where she kills her Argentinian polo-playing lover, is imprisoned, and escapes to her family's private island from which she can't be extradited, effectively stranding her for life. Niles does, however, manage to stand up to her directly for the first time in their acquaintance just before she flees.
Throughout the series Maris has never been seen, however she has been described to the viewers by a variety of people, namely Niles. Maris has been described as being extremely thin, frail, and very pale as Martin describes to a police dispatcher Maris as being "Very, very Caucasian", and has been described by Frasier has having no pigmentation and would "sear like an ahi tuna" if she remained in the sun for more than three minutes. Diane Chambers described Maris as being the queerest little creature she had ever seen, indicating that she may also be somewhat short.
As a result of her extremely skinny frame and tendency to avoid eating, Maris tends to get weakened and exhausts rather easily such as when trying to impress the guests of Fraiser's party during "The Crucible", and is too weak to slam a door shut on her own. She also has a slight webbing on her fingers, which according to Niles makes her feel self-conscious and refuses to hold hands. It is mentioned by Niles that while she enjoys dancing, the barracuda (developed by famed Latin-American sensation Carlos del Gato AKA "the Barracuda") was the only dance that she was capable of doing as the hustle was much too strenuous for her, though her fetching underbite was apropos for the dance.
Lady, Niles' canine companion has been compared to Maris on a few occasions. The dog bears such a resemblance to Maris that Martin even refers to it as "Four-legged Maris", even going as far as saying that it acts like Maris, barks like Maris and aside from the fact that it eats now and then that they are dead ringers. In that same episode Niles had to lay the dog down for a nap in her sleep basket as it had apparently exhausted itself from trying to cheer Eddie up. She has been described as been very fashion-forward and is extremely self conscious about her appearance going so far as to stay in a hospital to have cosmetic procedures and flying to Europe for a spa day. She was seen by Martin, Frasier and Roz who were hiding in her bathroom and was mistaken by Roz for being a moving hat rack. Maris is evidently so thin and narrow that Niles even jokes that he couldn't see her half of the time when she was standing right in front of him.
Maris is described by Frasier as being "like the sun, except without the warmth". She has been described to be extremely self-conscious about her appearance and has actually no-showed or cancelled on events because she was not satisfied with the way she looked in the mirror. Maris is particularly self-conscious of her looks and her age and exhibits some signs of plastic surgery addiction, such as flying to Zurich every so often to "have her clock reset" and making trips to Switzerland to see a cosmetic specialist. She has some eclectic variety of tastes such as spending long periods of time in a personal sensory deprivation chamber, fencing, and Broadway musicals (wanting to be in the production). She wanted to become a ballerina for some time but could never bring her weight up enough to actually perform. She apparently is also self-conscious about her hair, either from aging or thinning and owns a private wig vault with 37 wigs.
Maris has shown to be extremely vindictive, jealous, manipulative and clingy, and has tried on several occasions to get Niles back by cutting him off from his credit cards and bank accounts, forcing him to admit that everything was his fault, and stealing away the guests from his party. She is notably being "strange" as stated by Martin Crane and various others whom have met her including Diane Chambers, Lilith and Frasier.
Maris' doting ex-husband, the two had been married for sometime before the premiere of the series. Niles was more or less a useful tool or an errand boy, their relationship often seeming more like that of two housemates rather than an actual married couple most of the time.
Maris' ex-brother in-law, while the two didn't outright hate each other there was definitely implications of a strong disliking such as Frasier's many quips and barbs in reference to Maris, and the latter dumping water on and hanging up the phone on him.
Maris' ex-father in-law, judging by Martin's descriptions of and attitude in reference to her, it is likely that the two were not very close and most likely remained polite to one another as a formality.
Maris' deceased ex-mother in-law, the two are never shown nor described as having interacted together on either Cheers or Frasier, however since the two had been married for sometime before the start of Frasier it can be assumed that Hester did indeed know Maris and had attended the wedding. It's unknown how Hester felt about Maris, though if implications from the Cheers episode "Diane Meets Mom", it is likely that Hester did not like Maris either due to the possessive attitude she showed toward Frasier in the episode.
Frasier's Ex-wife, Lilith was in attendance at the recital of Maris and Niles' wedding vows. Niles had long since held her in contempt for her display of rudeness but quickly accepted her apology, however it is unknown if Maris has or ever would forgive Lilith for laughing during such a personal and sacred moment.
Marta is the Crane's elderly Hispanic housekeeper, she often acts as a messenger between Maris and Niles whenever they are in disagreement and is for the most part a loyal servant to the Cranes. In Season 11, Marta helps Maris to flee the country to avoid imprisonment for having killed Esteban.
[Through a keyhole]
- Roz – I see her coat on a hat rack
- Frasier – Look closer, is the hat rack moving?
- Roz – Oh, my god [it is]!
[On a saucy film Niles and Maris watched together]
- Niles – I don't mind telling you we pushed our beds together that night! And that is no mean feat: her room, as you know, is across the hall.
[About dinner reservations]
- Frasier – Will Maris be joining us?
- Niles – Sadly, no. She had a bad experience there one Christmas Eve. The Italian soccer team was at the next table, Maris announced that she was in the mood for a goose, and, perhaps inevitably, tragedy ensued.
- Frasier – I thought Maris was joining us?
- Niles – Oh, no. I'm afraid Maris is having one of her episodes. In the middle of dressing for the evening, she suddenly slumped down on the edge of the bed in her half-slip and sighed. Of course, I knew then and there that dinner was not to be.
[During an episode of extreme sexual frustration]
- Niles – Right now Maris is slipping out of her frilly underthings and into a non-fat milkbath
[On Maris not being able to have pets]
- Niles – She distrusts anything that loves her unconditionally
- [At a banquet]
Niles: Oh look, Maris has cornered Mrs Beaumont, she's been wanting to discuss getting on the museum board for months. Oh, Mrs Beaumont thinks to escape with the old freshen-the-drink ploy, she obviously has no idea who she's dealing with. That's right Maris, chug that sherry, on with the chase! It's Mrs Beaumont and Maris, coming around the ice sculpture, Mrs Beaumont and Maris, Mrs Beaumont and Maris, and yes, they meet again! (Roz, Frasier, Niles, Martin, and Father Mike all clap.)
- [Niles finally gets through to Maris on the phone during a citywide blackout]
Hello, Maris. Thank God I got you. Listen, darling, there is no need to panic. The most important thing is to stay calm... About the blackout. Maris? Take off your slumber mask. [Niles suddenly holds the phone away from his ear] Ooh! No darling, darling, don't panic. Honey, no, honey, hon, ho- ho- h... [turns the phone off and puts it back in his pocket] She's fine.
- [Niles, Roz and Fraiser are watching out the window of Cafe Nervosa]
Niles: Look, you see that rotund woman coming out of 'Chock Full o' Donuts'? Watch. Before she gets to her car, she'll finish that bear claw, and then go back in - this is her third time.
Roz: You called us over to show us that? It's rude.
Frasier: It's childish. [He and Roz walk away]
Niles: It's Maris! [They come back]
- [Niles is watching Maris walk into a deli after Chock Full o' Donuts]
Niles: Oh, the manager just took the three-foot salami out of the window.
- [At Frasier's peephole]
Niles: It's Maris! ... at least I think it is, you need a bigger peephole.
- [When Maris takes refuge on a bed at Frasier's during his party]
Niles: I got Maris into Dad's bedroom, but I had to butter her up a bit.
Frasier: I was afraid that narrow doorway might pose a problem.
- Niles: She exhausts easily under the pressure to be interesting.
- Dislikes public displays of rhythm
- Although she is mentioned a lot of times throughout the series, her actual face was never revealed. This is similar to the character of Norm Peterson's wife Vera in "Cheers", the prelude to "Frasier", and other sitcom characters such as Peggy Bundy's mom in "Married... With Children", Dorothy Zbornak's brother (and also Sophia Petrillo's son) Phil in "Golden Girls", or even Columbo's never seen wife. She is even referenced in David Hyde-Pierce's guest appearance on The Simpsons' Brother from Another Series.