Like her contemporaries Lynn Bari and Veda Ann Borg, blonde actress Mary Beth Hughes seldom rose above "starlet" or "second-echelon star" status, even though she worked steadily and enjoyed a loyal fan following. Encouraged to pursue a theatrical career by her grandmother, a onetime actress, Hughes went from stage to films in 1938. From 1940 through 1943, Hughes was part of the "B" stable at 20th Century-Fox, playing both good and bad girls in the popular Michael Shayne series with Lloyd Nolan, and going through the usual "other woman" paces in films like Orchestra Wives (1942). She is billed second in the moody western The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), but her role is utterly expendable; in fact, she has fewer lines than George Meeker, the unbilled actor playing her husband. While her film career never really went anywhere, Hughes remained in the public eye through her many cheesecake photos in movie-oriented magazines of the era. In the mid-1950s, Hughes gave up films in favor of work as a nightclub singer/musician and television actress; she was often cast as nagging wife Clara Appleby on TV's The Red Skelton Show, possibly because she was one of the few actresses whom Skelton couldn't break up. Mary Beth Hughes briefly returned to filmmaking in the mid-1970s, playing character roles in such drive-in fare as The Working Girls (1974) and How's Your Love Life? (1977).