Martha O'Driscoll

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Martha O' Driscoll
Martha O'Driscoll.jpg
Born (1922-03-04)March 4, 1922
Tulsa, Oklahoma U.S.
Died November 3, 1998(1998-11-03) (aged 76)
Ocala, Florida, U.S.
Occupation Actress, dancer, socialite
Years active 1936-1947
Spouse(s) Richard D. Adams (1943-1947) (divorced)
Arthur I. Appleton (1947-1998) her death (4 children)

Martha O'Driscoll (March 4, 1922 – November 3, 1998) was an American film actress from 1937 until 1947. Her mother was a financial partner in the Hollywood Mar-Ken School. The school's director, Mrs. Bessire, had a son, William Kent Bessire. The two women decided to name the school after their children—Mar came from Martha and KEN from Kent. The school remained open until the early 1960s.[1] She retired from the screen in 1947, to have and raise children with her husband, Arthur I. Appleton, President of Appleton Electric Company in Chicago, the company his father, Albert I. Appleton founded.[2][3]

Life and career[edit]

Trained in singing and dancing, O'Driscoll was discovered by choreographer Hermes Pan in a local theater production in Phoenix, which led to unbilled bits in musical movies from 1935. They moved to Hollywood in 1935, but Pan was out of town, so they answered an advertisement for dancers and O'Driscoll was given a role in Collegiate (1935), a musical. Betty Grable had an early leading role in the film and its songwriters, Mack Gordon and Harry Revel, played themselves as co-chairmen of the school's music department.

She was groomed in more visible parts and began pitching products for Max Factor and Royal Crown Cola, among many others, in magazine ads, while such endorsements promoted her upcoming pictures in return. She had other small dancing roles in Here Comes the Band, The Big Broadcast of 1936 and The Great Ziegfeld. In the last, she was spotted by a Universal talent scout who arranged for her to have a screen test, followed by a contract. Her roles were initially small - in her first Universal film, She's Dangerous (1937), she was not credited by name. In the Deanna Durbin vehicle Mad About Music (1937) she was billed as "pretty girl". Her face appeared on such advertisements as Charm-Kurl Supreme Cold Wave and Max Factor Hollywood Face Powder. Universal loaned O'Driscoll to MGM for parts in The Secret of Dr Kildare (1939) and Judge Hardy and Son (1940) starring Mickey Rooney.[4]

It was RKO, however, which gave O'Driscoll her first two starring roles, as romantic interest to the cowboy Tim Holt in Wagon Train (1940), and notably as Daisy Mae in the first screen version of Al Capp's comic strip Li'l Abner (1940) starring Buster Keaton.[5]

Paramount became interested in the actress and acquired her contract, casting her first as a maid in Preston Sturges's classic comedy, The Lady Eve (1941). Later she appeared in Cecil B DeMille's Reap the Wild Wind (1942). DeMille was too busy filming to appear at Grauman's theater to plant his prints in cement for the Walk of Fame, so instead they brought it to him. Martha O'Driscoll, along with Hedda Hopper and Sid Grauman, were photographed at his side during that moment.[6]

O'Driscoll was then given the lead in the B film, Pacific Blackout (1942), starring Robert Preston. The actress followed this with a role in Young and Willing (1943). The studio loaned her back to Universal, which cast her in Olsen and Johnson's Crazy House (1943), then loaned her to RKO for Richard Wallace's stylish thriller, The Fallen Sparrow (1943) with Maureen O'Hara.[7]

In 1943, she starred alongside William Holden and Susan Hayward in Young and Willing.

She co-starred with Noah Beery, Jr. in five films. She also starred in cult classic House of Dracula with Lon Chaney Jr and John Carradine and Weekend Pass (both 1945). The following year she made her last Universal film, Blonde Alibi, receiving top billing as a girl who sets out to prove her lover (Tom Neal) innocent of murder. Her last film was Edgar G. Ulmer's Carnegie Hall (1947), after which she retired.[8]

She toured with Errol Flynn and the USO in the early 1940s, performing for the troops all over the world. In 1943, she married Lieutenant Commander Richard D. Adams (U.S. Navy) on September 18, 1943, but they separated ten months later. Following her last film, Carnegie Hall (1947), and a final divorce decree (on July 18, 1947) from her first marriage, she married, two days later, her second husband, Chicago businessman, Arthur I. Appleton. Appleton was the president of the Appleton Electric Company. Martha retired from show business in 1947 to start and raise a family. The couple would have four children, James, John, Linda and William.[9]

She served as an executive in such Chicago-based organizations as the Sarah Siddons Society, the Ways and Means Committee of Chicago's Junior League, and the Women's Board of Boys Club; she was also treasurer of the World's Adoption International Fund. In the 1980s and 1990s, she was a guest speaker at numerous movie-nostalgia conventions.[10]

She and her husband, Arthur Appleton, started Bridlewood Farm, in Ocala, Florida. Bridlewood quickly became one of the top Thoroughbred breeders in the nation. Bridlewood is the proud owner and breeder of Florida Horse of the Year and G1 winner "Forbidden Apple". The achievements of his illustrious dam "North of Eden" earned her the title of Florida Broodmare of the Year. Bridlewood Farm is the breeder of close to a hundred stakes winners so far, many of them graded, and their Bridlewood homebreds have earned in excess of $50 million. Bridlewood Farm remains recognized as one of the leaders of the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry.[citation needed]

In 1984, the Appletons built and took delivery of a 138' Feadship yacht, called Bridlewood.[11]

In 1984, the couple, along with Arthur Appleton's sister, Edith, would build the Appleton Museum of Art in Ocala Florida on a 44-acre site. "Originally built to display and preserve Mr. Appleton's extensive art collection, the Appleton Museum today is one of the South's premier art museums and the leading cultural institution in Marion County."

After Appleton retired, he and O'Driscoll spent the remainder of their years going back and forth between their home in Chicago, Bridlewood Farm, and their home in Miami, Florida on Indian Creek Island.[12]


Martha O'Driscoll died on November 3, 1998, aged 76, in Miami, Florida. She was entombed in Chicago's Rosehill Cemetery. She was survived by her husband, four children and two stepchildren as well as 13 grandchildren.[13]

Partial filmography[edit]


  1. ^ "Mar-Ken History". Retrieved 2017-08-29. 
  2. ^ "Obituary: Martha O'Driscoll". The Independent. 1998-11-09. Retrieved 2017-08-29. 
  3. ^ "A Historical Review of Appleton Electric Creating the Brand in Chicago pt.1". 2013. Archived from the original on February 21, 2014. 
  4. ^ Galloway, Doug (1998-11-16). "Martha O'Driscoll Appleton". Variety. Retrieved 2017-08-29. 
  5. ^ Li'l Abner (1940 film)
  6. ^ David (2012-11-16). "It's The Pictures That Got Small ...: HAND AND FOOTPRINTS OF THE STARS AT GRAUMAN'S CHINESE THEATRE - PART 3". It's The Pictures That Got Small ... Retrieved 2017-08-29. 
  7. ^ The Fallen Sparrow
  8. ^ "Movie Stars of the '40s", by David Ragan; published 1985, by Prentice Hall
  9. ^ Obituary: Martha O'Driscoll, by Tom Vallance, for The Independent; published 9 November 1998; retrieved 10 May 2013
  10. ^ "AllMovie | Movies and Films Database | Movie Search, Ratings, Photos, Recommendations, and Reviews". AllMovie. Retrieved 2017-08-29. 
  11. ^ Netherlands, Feadship Holland B.V. The. "Homepage - Feadship Royal Dutch Shipyards". Feadship Royal Dutch Shipyards. Retrieved 2017-08-29. 
  12. ^ OLIVER, MYRNA (1998-11-06). "Martha O'Driscoll; Actress, Arts Patron". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-08-29. 
  13. ^ OLIVER, MYRNA (1998-11-06). "Martha O'Driscoll; Actress, Arts Patron". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-08-29. 

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