Thursday, January 20, 2005

Two Great Actresses

This week two great actreses passed on. One was Virginia Mayo, the gorgeous blonde who was equally adept at both comedy and drama. She died on January 15 at age 84 from pneumonia and heart failure after an extended illness.

Virginia Mayo was born on November 30, 1920 to an well established St. Louis family. Her father was a newspaper reporter. She took dance lessons at her aunt's dance studio starting when she was six years old. Following high school, Mayo joined the St. Louis Municipal Opera. Mayo toured with the musical comedy act "Pansy and the Horse," then joined Billy Rose's revue at the Diamond Horseshoe. It was there that Samuel Goldwyn spotted her and signed her to a contract.

She received her first big break in film starring opposite Bob Hope in The Princess and the Pirate in 1944. She would go onto star opposite Danny Kaye in a number of films, among them Wonder Man, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Kid from Brooklyn, and A Song is Born. It was during this period that she took a dramatic turn in The Best Years of Our Lives.

Following her years at Goldwyn Studios, Mayo signed with Warner Brothers. It was there that she made one of her best films, White Heat, with James Cagney. She also starred in a number of costume movies, among them Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N, The Iron Mistress, and King Richard and the Crusaders. Of course, she continued making comedies, one of her famous coming from this period--She's Working Her Way Through College.

On stage Mayo appeared in everything from Hello Dolly to Butterflies are Free.

Mayo continued to work throughout the Sixties, appearing in such films as Castle of Evil and Fort Utah, as well as guest starring in such TV series as Burkes Law. She made her last film appearance in The Man Next Door in 1997.

Virginia Mayo has always been one of my favourite actress. She was a striking beauty, with natural blonde and big green eyes. While her beauty was her most obvious quality, however, Virginia Mayo was also a very talented actress. She was equally at home in both comedy and drama. Her talent also transcended genres, as she made everything from comedies to medieval epics to Westerns to dramas. It truly saddens me to hear of her passing.

The other great actress who has passed on was Ruth Warrick. Warrick was best known for her long run on All My Children, but to tell the truth, I did not even know she played in a soap opera until I read her obituary. I have always thought of her as Charles Foster Kane's first wife. She also died January 15, from pneumonia at age 88.

Like Mayo, Ruth Warrick was a native Missourian, born in St. Joseph, Missouri. After graduating from the University of Kansas City, she went to New York City where he joined Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre. Naturally, her film debut was then in Citizen Kane, as Kane's first wife Emily Norton Kane. Warrick would go onto star in several other notable films, among them The Corsican Brothers, Journey into Fear, and Song of the South. On television guest starred on Studio One, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, and Daniel Boone. She was a regular on The Guiding Light, Father of the Bride, Peyton Place, As the World Turns, and All My Children. She continued to make movies, such as The Great Bank Robbery. She also appeared on stage in the musicals Take Me Along and Irene.

While I must admit to being ignorant of much of Warrick's television work, I also admired her performances in such films as Citizen Kane Journey into Fear, and The Corsican Brothers. Sadly, I always thought Warrick was underused in film. With her talent it seems to me that she should have made many more movies than she did. Regardless, she was very skilled, playing the gracious Mrs. Kane in Citizen Kane and alcoholic in One Two Many. I have to say that her death does make me sad.

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