Tuesday, December 1, 2015
BORN ON THIS DAY: MARY MARTIN
Martin was born in Weatherford, Texas. Her life as a child, as she describes it in her autobiography My Heart Belongs, was secure and happy. She had close relationships with both her mother and father, as well as her siblings. Her autobiography details how the young actress had an instinctive ear for recreating musical sounds. Martin's father, Preston Martin, was a lawyer, and her mother, Juanita Presley, was a violin teacher. Although the doctors told Juanita that she would risk her life if she attempted to have another baby, she was determined to have a boy. Instead, she had Mary, who became quite a tomboy. Her birth was an event as all of the neighbors gathered around Juanita's bedroom window, waiting for the raising of a curtain to signal the baby’s arrival.
During high school, Martin dated Benjamin Hagman, before she was packed off to finishing school at Ward-Belmont in Nashville, Tennessee. During that time, she enjoyed imitating Fanny Brice at singing gigs, but she found school dull and felt confined by its strict rules. She was homesick for Weatherford, her family, and Hagman. During a visit, Mary and Benjamin persuaded Mary's mother to allow them to marry. They did, and by the age of 17, Martin was legally married, pregnant with her first child (Larry Hagman) and forced to leave Ward-Belmont. She was, however, happy to begin her new life. But she soon learned that this life, as she would later say, was nothing but “role playing".
Wanting to learn more moves, 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. She was given a ballroom studio with the premise that she would sing in the lobby every Saturday. There, she learned how to sing into a microphone and how to phrase blues songs. One day at work, 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 “So Red Rose” at the Fox Theater in San Francisco, followed by the Paramount Theater in Los Angeles. There would be one catch—she had to sing in the wings. She scored her first professional gig, unaware that she would soon be center stage.
Soon after, Martin learned that her studio had been burnt down by a man who thought dancing was a sin. She began to express her unhappiness. Her father gave her advice, saying that she was too young to be married. Martin left everything behind, including her young son, Larry, and went to Hollywood while her father handled the divorce for her.
In Hollywood, Martin plunged herself into auditions—so many that she became known as “Audition Mary”. Her first professional audition and job was on a national radio network. Among Martin's first auditions in Hollywood, Martin sang, 'Indian Love Call'". After singing the song, “a tall, craggly man who looked like a mountain” told Martin that he thought she had something special. It was Oscar Hammerstein II (pp. 58–59). This marked the start of her career.
Mary Martin struggled for nearly two years to break into show business. As a struggling young actress, Martin endured humorous and sometimes frightful luck trying to make it in the world, from car crashes leading to vocal instruction, unknowingly singing in front of Oscar Hammerstein II, to her final break on Broadway granted by the very prominent producer, Lawrence Schwab.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, but that production did not open.
She was then cast in Cole Porter's Leave It to Me!, making her Broadway debut in November 1938. In that production, she became popular on Broadway and received attention in the national media singing "My Heart Belongs to Daddy". With that one song in the second act, she became a star 'overnight'. This would leave to records, movies, and her reign as the queen of Broadway...