Lori Martin

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Lori Martin
Born Dawn Catherine Menzer
(1947-04-18)April 18, 1947
Glendale, California, U.S.
Died April 4, 2010(2010-04-04) (aged 62)
Oakhurst, Madera County, California, U.S.
Occupation Film and television actress
Spouse(s) Charles Breitenbucher (married ?-1999, his death)
Children Brett Breitenbucher

Lori Martin (April 18, 1947 – April 4, 2010) was an American actress.

Early career[edit]

Lori Martin was born Dawn Catherine Menzer, in Glendale, California, at 10:02 a.m.; her fraternal twin sister, Doree, arrived four minutes later. As she weighed only 5 pounds and measured just 18 inches at birth, she spent the first few weeks of her life in an incubator, during which time her survival was somewhat doubtful. Her father, Russell C. Menzer (1916–1999), was an MGM and Warner Brothers commercial artist and art director. She had a younger brother, Stephen Menzer, and an older sister, Jean Coulter, a veteran Hollywood stuntwoman who doubled for Barbara Anderson on Ironside, and Farrah Fawcett and Cheryl Ladd on Charlie's Angels, sometimes Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith.

When Lori was six years old, her mother took her to an agent who specialized in child actors. She thought that acting might be a healthy outlet for Lori. When later asked what inspired her to be an actress, Martin said that, "the best time in my life was when I was about four. Doree and I had to go live with my aunt in Ponca City, Oklahoma. My mother got sick and Daddy had to go to work every day, so we couldn't stay here. I didn't want to come back. I cried and cried. That was when I decided, if I had to come back, I'd be an actress. I started getting parts immediately and my little brother was signed by the same agent, but he lacked my interest in acting. I just loved it."

Martin auditioned so well that her parents soon allowed her to attend them by herself. Her mother recalled that "I'll never forget the first interview she went on. It was for a Chrysler commercial, and my car broke down about six blocks from the studio. I had to stay with the car, but Lori was all for going on in herself. She got out of the car, walked six blocks, found the right office, told the receptionist who she was, went in for her interview and got the job. Since then I've usually waited outside in the car and she's handled everything herself."[citation needed]

As well as appearing in several commercials, including one for which her father designed the set and a Milky Way candy commercial, she won parts in the films Machine-Gun Kelly (1958), The FBI Story (1959), and Cash McCall (1959). She also appeared in several television series, including Medic, Wagon Train, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Leave It to Beaver, and Whirlybirds. She also appeared on the NBC interview program Here's Hollywood.

National Velvet[edit]

At the age of 12, Martin was the 975th young hopeful to be auditioned for the role of Velvet Brown in the NBC television version of National Velvet, the role for which she is best remembered. After being included in the final three, she was interviewed ten more times before winning the part. Ann Doran played her mother, Martha Brown; Arthur Space, her father, Herbert Brown. When she won the role, her name was changed from Dawn Menzer to "Lori Martin". On the change of name, Martin later said that, "I didn't like the name Lori at first. But I like it now. The reason I like it now is I've been brainwashed!"

A natural blonde, one of the reasons why Martin won the National Velvet role was because when her hair was dyed black, many thought Lori had a striking resemblance to Elizabeth Taylor at the same age when Taylor starred in the 1944 film version. According to the show's producers, Martin won the role because "she looks like Elizabeth Taylor and is just as good an actress as Elizabeth Taylor was at twelve. She is also, obviously, small enough for the role. And of all those kids, she was the one of them who wanted it the most." Indeed, Martin later said that she "wanted the part so bad I couldn't sleep." Whilst filming the TV show, Martin recalls that "one day someone told me that Elizabeth Taylor was going to be in the Thalberg Building. I ran right over hoping to see her and caught a glimpse just as she left. She was just so beautiful! I guess I was pretty at that age, but never anything like her!" At the time she was filming the series, Lori said that “I hope Elizabeth Taylor likes me in the series. I saw her in the movie before I ever got the part and I thought she was wonderful!'

In National Velvet, Velvet Brown (played by Martin) lives on a dairy farm with her parents, an ex-jockey, Mi Taylor (James McCallion), her brother Donald, and her sister Edwina (Carole Wells), who had a boyfriend called Teddy. Velvet owned the thoroughbred stallion, King, which she hoped would one day run in the Grand National Steeplechase.

The show ran for fifty-eight episodes between 1960 and 1962 (at 8 p.m. on Sundays), Critics and audiences were extravagant in their praise for Martin’s performances, but the series faced competition in its first season from CBS's The Ed Sullivan Show. In the second season, it was shifted to Monday at the same time slot against the second half of ABC's Cheyenne western series, starring Clint Walker, and CBS's sitcom, Pete and Gladys, starring Harry Morgan and Cara Williams.

Cape Fear[edit]

In 1962, Martin won the role of Nancy Bowden in the film Cape Fear which also starred Gregory Peck, Polly Bergen, and Robert Mitchum. Martin later said that she delivered her best performance in her role as Nancy, but had nightmares for weeks after the filming of the scene in which her character is stalked by Mitchum's character. The director of the film, J. Lee Thompson, originally wanted Hayley Mills for Martin's part.[1] Because he could not get Mills, however, he later admitted to having deliberately given Martin a hard time during filming.[citation needed]

Singing career[edit]

Lori jumped on the singing teen idol bandwagon and released her only single on Bob Keane's legendary Del-Fi Records. Recorded at Radio Recorders in Hollywood in September 1963, the girl group-styled, "The House of the Boy I Love", backed with "Mine 'Til Monday" (Del Fi 4201), was mistakenly released with songwriting credits given to the successful team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil when in fact it was produced by Barry Mann and written by lesser known hit-man, Sylvester Bradford. Bradford's claim to fame was his composition of "Tears On My Pillow" which was a #4 hit in 1958 for Little Anthony & The Imperials. Although Lori Martin's only record went nowhere fast, it has now become quite collectable and sought after among girl group record collectors.[citation needed]

Later career[edit]

After Cape Fear, Martin appeared in The Donna Reed Show (as Joyce in the 1963 episode "All Women Are Dangerous"), Slattery's People, Sam Benedict, Breaking Point, Please Don't Eat The Daisies, My Three Sons, and Family Affair. She also won roles in the films, The Chase (1966) and The Angry Breed (1968).

Later years[edit]

During the early 1970s, Martin decided to put her acting career on hold. She later recalled that her reasoning behind her decision was that "I'd been in the business long enough to know I'd been stereotyped. My mother was in poor health and I felt I had worked from such an early age I could take some time off and get a college education." A few years later, she tried to reactivate her career but unfortunately she became "discouraged by the many changes in casting and techniques".

Martin married Charles Breitenbucher, had a son, Brett, and moved to Westlake Village, California, under her real (married) name, Dawn Breitenbucher. She later moved to Oakhurst in Madera County near the entrance to Yosemite National Park. She occasionally attended autograph signings and ran a medical supplies company with her husband until his death in 1999. In February 2008, she participated as an election worker when the people of Oakhurst voted on whether the community should become incorporated or not. During that campaign she gave an interview to the local ABC television station.[citation needed]

In an article which was written at the height of her fame, she was quoted as saying that what she wanted to be when she grew up was "normal". Martin later recalled after her acting career had finished that it "was probably an accurate quote because that's what I wanted and as it turns out, that's what I am." [2]


Lori Martin died on April 4, 2010 in Oakhurst, California, two weeks before her 63rd birthday.[3][4][5][6] Malcolm James, a friend of Martin's son, Brett, stated that Martin had suffered from ill health since the death of her husband in 1999 and died of an illness related to bipolar disorder, but no exact cause has been released.[7] A memorial service was held on April 30, 2010, at the Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church in Oakhurst.

Selected film and television appearances[edit]


  1. ^ Steve Chibnall: J. Lee Thompson, p. 283 Online
  2. ^ Whatever became of ... ? All new ninth series: 100 profiles of the most asked about personalities from television series, documentaries, and movies, Band 9, p. 113 Online
  3. ^ The Sierra Star, April 15, 2010
  4. ^ Obituary at filmnoirliveshere.ning.com
  5. ^ Find-a-Grave profile
  6. ^ Fred T Beeman, http://www.minorcon.org/lori_martin.html
  7. ^ Malcolm James, http://rustywhitesfilmworldobituaries.blogspot.com/2010/06/rip-lori-martin.html

External links[edit]