Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Godspeed Mary Ann Mobley

Mary Ann Mobley, actress and former Miss America, died on 9 December 2014 at the age of 77. The cause was breast cancer.

Mary Ann Mobley was born on 17 February 1937 in Biloxi, Mississippi. She grew up in nearby Brandon. She attended the University of Mississippi, where she was a majorette and a member of the Chi Omega Sorority. It was in her senior year there, in 1959, that she was crowned Miss America.

It was following her reign as Miss America that Mary Ann Mobley launched her career in show business. She was a regular on the short lived 1960 variety show Be Our Guest on CBS-TV. In 1962 she appeared on Broadway in Nowhere to Go But Up. Miss Mobley signed a contract with MGM and made her film debut in Get Yourself a College Girl (1964). She co-starred with Elvis Presley in Girl Happy (1965) and Harum Scarum (1965). In the Sixties she also appeared in the films Young Dillinger (1965), Three on a Couch (1966), The King's Pirate (1967), and For Singles Only (1968).

While Mary Ann Mobley appeared in several movies during the decade, she may be best remembered for her work in television. She appeared in five different episodes of Burke's Law, playing a different character each time. Miss Mobley was also the original "girl from the U.N.C.L.E.". The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode "The Moonglow Affair served as a backdoor pilot for the spinoff series The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. In the episode Mary Ann Mobley originated the role of U.N.C.L.E. agent April Dancer. Unfortunately the role of April Dancer was recast with Stefanie Powers for the series. She was also considered for the role of Batgirl on Batman, although the part eventually went to Yvonne Craig. Miss Mobley also guest starred on such shows as The Smothers Brothers Show, Perry Mason, Mission: Impossible, Run for Your Life, The Virginian, Iron Horse, Custer, Irnoside, and To Rome with Love. Miss Mobley also appeared on several variety and talk shows in the Sixties, including The Mike Douglas Show, The Milton Berle Show, The Pat Boone Show, and The Joey Bishop Show.

In the Seventies Mary Ann Mobley guest starred on Walt Disney's Wonderful World of ColourSearch; The Sixth Sense; Love, America Style; The New Perry Mason; Police Story; Born Free; The Fantastic Journey; and Flying High. She appeared on such game shows as Match Game, Tattletales, To Tell the Truth, and Card Sharks. From 1977 to 1979 she appeared in each edition of the yearly Circus of the Stars.

In the Eighties Mary Ann Mobley guest starred on such shows as Matt Houston, Fantasy Island, Hotel, The Love Boat, and Designing Women. She was a regular on Diff'rent Strokes and had a recurring role on Falcon Crest. She was a regular panellist on the game shows Hollywood Squares, Body Language, and Super Password. She was the host of the documentary series Wedding Day.

From the Nineties into the Naughts Mary Ann Mobley guest starred on the shows Hearts Afire, Hardball, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Dead Like Me. She appeared on the competition programme Cupcake Wars in 2012.

Mary Ann Mobley was also active in many charities. She produced documentaries about poverty stricken and starving children in such places as Cambodia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Somalia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and the Sudan. She raised money for both the United Cerebral Palsy Association and the March of Dimes. For her work on behalf of children's health the Mary Ann Mobley Paediatric Wing at the Rankin General Hospital in her hometown of Brandon, Mississippi was named for her.

I must confess that I have always had a crush on Mary Ann Mobley. I thought she was spectacularly beautiful, one of the most beautiful women in the world. I thought she was also exceptionally graceful and that she had one of the sexiest voices I had ever heard. Of course, many actresses are beautiful, as are many former Miss Americas. What Mary Ann Mobley had that is lacking in many other actresses was real talent.

While she was best known for playing rather sweet women (much as she was in real life), she did play a variety of other roles. In the film B-movie Young Dillinger she played Dillinger's moll Elaine, a part rather far removed from the sweet natured women she usually played. In For Singles Only Mary Ann Mobley does play a rather sweet woman, but one who is willing to pretend to have been seduced by a male friend so that he can win a bet.  Of course, given Mary Ann Mobley frequently appeared on television, it should be no surprise that many, perhaps most, of her best performances were on the small screen. Two of the best came from the TV show Perry Mason. She played a good natured, but flighty blonde in the episode "The Case of the Blonde Bonanza", and a rather less good natured, scheming model in "The Case of the Misguided Model". On Designing Women she played a rather caustic head of a local historical society, a character as sour as Miss Mobley was sweet in real life.

Not only was Mary Ann Mobley exceedingly beautiful and very talented, but she was also a true lady, the ideal Southern belle. She worked tirelessly on the behalf of many charities over the years. She raised money for the the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. She raised money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. She even served on the National Council on Disability. From those who had the honour of meeting her in person it has been reported that she was one of the sweetest women one could ever meet. She always had kind words for her many fans and always treated them with dignity. Ultimately it would seem that Mary Ann Mobely was a true rarity. She was a woman who was as sweet and charitable as she was beautiful and talented.

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