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Mary Hatcher

Mary Hatcher
Mary Hatcher in 1949
Personal information
Birth dateJune 6, 1929(age 87)
Place of birthHaines City, Florida, U.S.

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Mary Hatcher (born on 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.

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. Mary 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 Mary's singing talent, and provided funds so that she could obtain professional voice training. In 1937 at age 8, she began music lessons with Frank Grasso, a popular Florida band leader who was also musical director at Tampa's WFLA radio. Before long, she was singing for local radio broadcasts. Her first public performance was a singing engagement at Tampa's Latin-American Fiesta in 1940. During the early months of World War II, Mary 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 Mr. Polk enabled Mary to obtain vocal instruction from the Juilliard School of Music.

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 Paramount'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 Mary's career got a major boost when the studio gave her the title role in Paramount's 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 Mary 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? Mary's show business career reached its high point in 1949.

That year 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.

Mary Hatcher visited Tampa in 1950 to perform with her husband, comedian Herkie Styles (1921 1986), at the roof-top dinner club of the city's posh Bayshore Royal Hotel. The local press described formerly-brunette Mary as "very blond," noting that she had recently been singing with Howard Keel in the extended Broadway run of Oklahoma!. In February 1951, Mary 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.

That, unfortunately, is where the narrative of Mary Hatcher's career ends at present. After a promising start in show business, she seems to vanish from public view around 1952; or at least from the view of readily accessible print and electronic resources. Her husband Herkie Styles died in 1986, but the question "Whatever happened to Mary Hatcher?" remains unanswered.

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