Thursday, December 26, 2013

Remembering Mary Martin December 1, 1913 - November 3, 1990

"Thank you all for the spirit of my life.  It will never end, because when I go, I'll be swinging up there on a star."   -Mary Martin

These are the words of "the "First Lady of Theater."

Mary as Peter Pan
Mary Virginia Martin originated many leading roles during her career from her portrayal and award winning performance of "Peter Pan" to her "Best Leading Actress honors as Nellie Forbush in "South Pacific" and Maria in the "Sound of Music"

Mary was born in Weatherford, Texas where she describes a very secure and happy childhood.  Her dad was an attorney and her mom was a violin teacher.  She had an instinctive ear for recreating musical sounds at a very early age.  As a child, she had a photographic memory and could easily remember the lyrics to songs.  She often sang outside of the courtroom while waiting for her father.  Her first solo performances were held outside of the fire hall.  She loved going to movies where she watched the individual performances of actors and actresses and attempted to mimic them.

Mary in the Sound of Music
During Mary's high school years, she dated Benjamin Hagman.  She soon found herself in Nashville, Tennessee where she attended a finishing school.  She became homesick for her family and her boyfriend, Hagman.  She returned home to Texas and talked her mother into allowing her to marry Hagman at the age of 17.  The result was a son, actor, Larry Hagman.  Eventually the two separated.

She soon became interested in the world of dance that she continued to perfect and would eventually teach.  She moved to California and continued her dance training in the Franchon and Marco School of the Theatre and eventually opened her own dance studio.  She also performed as a singer.  She got her first job while auditioning on a national radio network.  She sang "Indian Love Call" and one day impressed the famous Oscar Hammerstein that was a huge break in the beginning of her successful career.

Her initial years as a performer were a struggle.  She changed her last name from Hagman to Martin.  Her Broadway debut came in 1938 when she was cast in Cole Porter's "Leave it to Me!" Her rendition of "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" became a sensation that catapulted her career.  She then appeared in South Pacific where she was awarded a "Tony" and eventually as Peter Pan.  She also performed alongside Robert Preston in "I Do!I Do" and was nominated for another Tony.

Mary Martin appeared in nine films between 1938 and 1943.  She much preferred her roles on television rather than in film.  She received many accolades including the Kennedy Center Honors, Donaldson Award, and the New York Film Critics Circle Award.  She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  She was also honored with a Peter Pan statue in her hometown of Weatherford, Texas.  An autobiography was written of her life called "My Heart Belongs."

Mary Martin was the victim of colorectal cancer that eventually took her life on Nov. 3, 1990 at the age of 76.

Mary's program signed by her friends
In her honor, the Mary Martin Celebration of Life was held on January 28, 1991 in The Majestic Theater in New York City (program pictured) where she often performed.  Among those who honored her were her great friend and fellow actress, Helen Hayes along with President Ronald Reagan, Carol Channing, Carol Lawrence and Bernadette Peters.  Florence Henderson sang "My Favorite Things" and "A Cockeyed Optimist" and spoke of Martin by saying "Her unique magic has been a source of wonder.  She makes us believe in the magic of the theater and of ourselves."  Carol Channing sang the song that made Mary famous "My Heart Belongs to Daddy"

Mary's resting place
Taken from her memorial program is Mary's Creed

I would be true, for there are those who trust me;
I would be pure, for there are those who care;
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer;
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.

I would be friend to all-the foe, the friendless;
I would be giving and forget the gift;
I would be humble, for I know my weakness;
I would look up-and laugh-and love-and lift

Mary Martin was laid to rest beside her second husband Richard Halliday in the City Greenwood Cemetery in her hometown of Weatherford, Texas (photographed below).

No comments:

Post a Comment