Maris Crane is an unseen recurring character on 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.
Throughout the series Maris has never been seen; however, she has been described to the viewers by a variety of people, including Niles. Maris has been described as being extremely thin, frail, and pale, as Martin describes Maris to a police dispatcher as being "very, very Caucasian", and Frasier once said she had 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 exhausted rather easily, such as when trying to impress the guests of Frasier'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 some time 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 than an actual married couple most of the time.
Maris' former brother-in-law, while the two didn't outright hate each other there was definitely implications of a strong dislike, 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' former 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 former 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 some time 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. Like Niles seems to be a more intensified version of Frasier, Maris seems to be that for Lilith.
Marta is the Cranes' 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 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 Frasier 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 on Cheers, the prelude to Frasier and other sitcom characters such as Peggy Bundy's mom on Married... With Children, Dorothy Zbornak's brother, Phil, on 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.
- Maris' religion is murky. When relaying the story of her first Communion, we are told that she stole a crucifix from the Vatican. Furthermore, a branch of her family was slaughtered by the Huguenots, a French Protestant sect, which would seem to indicate long-standing Catholicism. However, Niles once said that he is in the mood "for a little Episcopalian" referencing Maris. One possible answer is that she converted upon marrying Niles, who is Episcopalian.