Mary Martin was a wife, mother, and stage performer before she'd reached her 18th birthday. She became an overnight sensation in the 1938 Cole Porter Broadway musical Leave It to Me, stopping the show with her sly striptease number "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" (she would revise this piece in two Hollywood films, 1941's Love Thy Neighbor and the 1946 Cole Porter biopic Night and Day). From 1939 through 1943, Martin appeared in such Paramount films as New York Town (1941), Birth of the Blues (1941) and Happy Go Lucky (1942). She gave up Hollywood to return to the stage, where she became one of the biggest musical comedy attractions in Broadway history, starring in the original productions of One Touch of Venus, South Pacific, The Sound of Music, I Do I Do, and many others. Her 1953 Broadway hit Peter Pan was re-created on television several times, the 1960 telecast happily videotaped for posterity. She also had a successful run in both the Broadway and touring companies of Hello Dolly. In 1983, Martin and actress Janet Gaynor were seriously injured in a car accident; Gaynor eventually died from her injuries, but Martin recovered to the extent that she was able to continue playing guest roles on television. Mary Martin was the mother of actors Larry Hagman and Heller Halliday.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Opened a dancing school in her hometown of Weatherford, TX, when she was 18.
- Rocketed to fame with the burlesque musical number "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" in her Broadway debut, Cole Porter's Leave It to Me, in 1938.
- Began appearing in a string of Paramount films the following year, before returning to musical theater in the original productions of some of Broadway's biggest hits, including South Pacific, The Sound of Music and Peter Pan.
- Her first starring role on Broadway was in 1943's One Touch of Venus, directed by Elia Kazan.
- Was seriously injured in a 1982 taxi accident that also critically injured or killed several of her fellow passengers.
- Received a Kennedy Center Honors Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989.