Mary Hatcher

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Mary Hatcher
Mary Hatcher.jpg
Mary Hatcher in Holiday in Havana (1949)
Born (1929-06-06) June 6, 1929 (age 87)
Haines City, Florida, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1946 - 1951
Spouse(s) Herkie Styles
Alvin Stoller (1951-1992) (his death)[1]

Mary Hatcher (born June 6, 1929, in Haines City, Florida) is an American singer and actress whose screen career spanned the years from 1946 to 1951. During that time she appeared in eight films, mostly in credited roles and several times as leading lady.

Early life and career[edit]

At the time of Mary's birth, her father Frank was employed by the Polk Company, a large citrus canning firm owned by Ralph Polk Sr. When the company relocated to Tampa, Florida, the Hatcher family followed. Hatcher grew up in Tampa, attending Gorrie Elementary and Woodrow Wilson Junior High, where she often sang at student assemblies, her favorite song being "Alice Blue Gown."

Her father's employer, Ralph Polk, was impressed with young Hatcher's singing talent, and provided funds so that she could obtain professional voice training. In 1937, at age eight, she began music lessons with Frank Grasso, a popular Florida bandleader who was also musical director at WFLA radio in Tampa. Before long, she was singing for local radio broadcasts. Her first public performance was a singing engagement at a Latin-American Fiesta in Tampa in 1940.

During the early months of World War II, Hatcher sang at a number of events in Tampa to raise money for British War Relief. In 1941, her mother took her to New York City, where she performed at Carnegie Hall. While in New York, continued financial aid from Polk enabled Hatcher to obtain vocal instruction from the Juilliard School of Music.

Film career[edit]

By 1944, the Hatcher family had moved to California, and in August that year Paramount Pictures signed Mary to a seven-year contract. In 1945, Paramount "loaned" Hatcher to the Theatre Guild of New York to play the role of Laurie in a road show version of the musical Oklahoma!. In 1946, she made her first film appearance, an uncredited role as a chorus girl in M-G-M's Till the Clouds Roll By. Her first credited screen role came later that year when she played Dibs Downing in Our Hearts Were Growing Up. She had another uncredited role in the 1947 film, The Trouble with Women.

Later in 1947, Hatcher's career received a major boost when Paramount gave her the title role in the all-star revue Variety Girl. The film's sketchy plot followed the exploits of two young women trying to break into the movies. Their adventures on the Paramount lot provided a frame for short cameo performances by practically every player the studio had under contract, including stars like Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Gary Cooper, Paulette Goddard and Burt Lancaster. In September, Hatcher returned to Tampa for a gala opening of the film at the Tampa Theatre. Crowds turned out to honor their home-town movie star, and Tampa mayor Curtis Hixon presented Hatcher with a golden key to the city.

In 1948, Hatcher was featured as Veronica Lake's sister in the rather forgettable musical Isn't It Romantic?. Hatcher's show business career reached its high point in 1949 when she starred in two pictures, first in The Big Wheel, an auto racing action film with Mickey Rooney and Thomas Mitchell, then opposite Desi Arnaz in the Latin musical frolic Holiday in Havana. Also in 1949, she appeared on Broadway as Dallas Smith, the female lead in Johnny Mercer's musical Texas, L'il Darlin, which opened to a mixed reception and closed after a medium-length run of 293 performances.

Hatcher visited Tampa in 1950 to perform with her husband, the comedian Herkie Styles (1921–1986), at the roof-top dinner club of the posh Bayshore Royal Hotel. The local press described the formerly-brunette Hatcher as "very blond", noting that she had recently been singing with Howard Keel in the extended Broadway run of Oklahoma!. In February 1951, Hatcher was a headliner at the El Rancho Vegas Hotel in Las Vegas on a bill including Herkie Styles and Benny Goodman. In 1951-52, she starred as Maid Marion in Tales of Robin Hood, a film which reportedly was the pilot for a projected but never-realized television series.

Later life[edit]

She left show business in 1952, partially due to the fact that her marriage to Styles had ended. She declined the offer to play Alice Kramden in The Honeymooners. She married Alvin Stoller and became a housewife. She became a widow in 1992. Despite retiring from show business, she occasionally appeared on television and composed songs.



Mary Hatcher Filmography in the New York Times
Hawes, Leland. "Whatever Happened to Tampa Starlet?", Tampa Tribune, Baylife Section, p. 10, February 4, 2001.

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