( b. Dec 01, 1913 Weatherford, Texas, USA - d. Nov 03, 1990 Rancho Mirage, California, USA ) Female
Mary Martin was America's favorite leading lady of musical comedy, as Ens. Nellie Forbush in South Pacific, Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music and the title role in Peter Pan.
In reviewing her performance in South Pacific, Kenneth Tynan said that she reminded him of something Aldous Huxley wrote about the minor Caroline poets: "They spoke in their natural voices and it was poetry." While Ethel Merman was an entire brass section and Carol Channing was a parade, Miss Martin remained natural and exactingly true to life -- and it was poetry.
She specialized in long runs and was known for not missing performances. In his autobiography, Richard Rodgers called her "an extraordinary trouper," adding, "In all the years I've known her, I have never seen her give a performance that was anything less than the best that was in her." She did have, he said, one unusual trait: "She cannot utter even the mildest form of profanity." The "strongest expression" he ever heard her use was "He's a son-of-a-bear."
In her autobiography, "My Heart Belongs," she declared that of all her characters, Peter Pan was indisputably her favorite, for a very simple reason: "Everyone else loves Peter so." She added, "Neverland is the way I would like real life to be: timeless, free, mischievous, filled with gaiety, tenderness and magic."
From the first, Mary Martin was self-propelled. She was the younger daughter of Preston Martin, a lawyer, and Juanita Presley Martin, a violin teacher. As one of a trio of little girls dressed as bellhops, she sang on a bandstand outside her father's courtroom.
The actress's first marriage lasted only a few years, and Miss Martin was soon caught up in her career. At 18, she opened the Mary Hagman School of Dance in Weatherford, then went to Hollywood to study dancing and to search for a way to enter the movies. For several years she went back and forth between the two states and between teaching and performing. One evening she performed in a Sunday night talent show at the Trocadero nightclub in Los Angeles. Singing "The Weekend of a Private Secretary" and an operatic number entitled "Il Bacio" in her own syncopated version, she created a sensation. People stood on chairs and tables and shouted bravo. Jack Benny, who was in the audience, later told her that it was one of the most exciting moments he could remember. "In 10 minutes," she said, "my life had changed."
Another member of the audience was Lawrence Schwab, a producer who took charge of her career. In answer to the frequent question, what causes a big break, she said: "Work. Work and work and work; be ready when the break comes." As she wrote in her autobiography, "All my life I have felt guilty if I didn't use any talent I have as fully as I could."
Under Mr. Schwab's aegis, she came to New York and auditioned to fill a suddenly vacant supporting role in the forthcoming Broadway musical Leave It to Me. The unknown actress strode into a suite in the Ritz Towers and announced that she was going to sing four songs, adding, "If I can't sing all four, I'd rather not sing." As she recalled in her book, "A man reclining on a couch said, very mildly, 'Carry on, on all fours.' " She later discovered that the philosophical man on the couch was Cole Porter, the composer of the show.
She so captivated Porter and his collaborators that she was signed, despite the fact -- or rather because of the fact -- that she was cast against type. Her overnight success on Broadway on Nov. 9, 1938 put her on the cover of Life magazine and drew the attention of Hollywood.
In 1948, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein 2nd offered her the central role in South Pacific.
Singing "Cockeyed Optimist," "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out-a My Hair" and, especially, "I'm in Love With a Wonderful Guy," became one of her greatest successes.
Source: The New York Times obituary
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