... she died on November 3, 1990 from colorectal cancer.
Born Mary Virginia Martin, she originated many roles over her career including Nellie Forbush in South Pacific and Maria in The Sound of Music. She was named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1989.
She may be best known for her role as Peter Pan.
In her autobiography My Heart Belongs Mary Martin described her life as a child as secure and happy. Her autobiography details how the young actress had an instinctive ear for recreating musical sounds.
Mary hada photographic memory as a child, making it easy to memorize songs. She got her first taste of singing solo at a fire hall. She developed her craft memorizing and mimicking movies. She won prizes for portraying dancer Ruby Keeler and singing exactly like Bing Crosby.
Married at 17, and a mother soon after (her son was actor Larry Hagman,) Mary opened a dance studio to keep herself occupied. There she created her own moves, imitated the famous dancers she watched in the movies.
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Wanting to learn more about dance, Martin went to California to attend the dance school at the Franchon and Marco School of the Theatre, and opened her own dance studio in Mineral Wells, Texas. As part of her lease agreement, had to sing in the lobby every Saturday. Here, she learned how to sing into a microphone and how to phrase blues songs.
One day she accidentally walked into the wrong room where auditions were being held. They asked her what key she’d like to sing “So Red Rose.” Having absolutely no idea what her key was, she sang regardless and got the job. She was hired to sing at the Fox Theater in San Francisco, followed by the Paramount Theater in Los Angeles.
She divorced (leaving her son behind) and went to Hollywood. Her first professional audition and job was on a national radio network. She sang on a program called “Gateway to Hollywood.” Mary Martin struggled for nearly two years to break into show business.
Using her maiden name, Mary Martin began pursuing a performing career singing on radio in Dallas and in nightclubs in Los Angeles. Her performance at one club impressed a theatrical producer, and he cast her in a play in New York. While that production did not open, she landed a role in Cole Porter's Leave It to Me! Mary wowed audiences when she sang "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," and became a star "overnight." (Play video below.)
She received the Donaldson Award and the New York Film Critics Circle Award in 1943 for One Touch of Venus. A special Tony came her way in 1948 for "spreading theatre to the rest of the country while the originals perform in New York."
In 1955 and 1956, she received, first, a Tony Award for Peter Pan, and then an Emmy for appearing in the same role on television. She also received Tony Awards for South Pacific, and, in 1959, for The Sound of Music.