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Mari Blanchard Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trivia (12) | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 13 April 1923Long Beach, California, USA
Date of Death 10 May 1970Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA  (cancer)
Birth NameMary E. Blanchard
Height 5' 6½" (1.69 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Petite, attractive Mari Blanchard rarely managed get the lucky breaks. The daughter of an oil tycoon and a psychotherapist, she suffered from severe poliomyelitis from the age of nine, which denied her a hoped-for dancing career. For several years, she worked hard to rehabilitate her limbs from paralysis, swimming and later even performing on the trapeze at Cole Brothers Circus. At the urging of her parents, she then attended the University of Southern California from where she graduated with a degree in international law. This was not to lead to a career, either. Sometime in the late 1940's, she joined the Conover Agency as an advertising model and, at the same time, was promoted by famed cartoonist and writer Al Capp, becoming the inspiration for one of his "L'il Abner" characters.

As the result of an advertisement on the back page of the Hollywood Reporter, Mari was spotted by Paramount and signed to a contract. However, her early experience in the movie business proved an unhappy one, most of her roles being walk-ons and bit parts. Ten Tall Men (1951), for example, limited her to a token stroll down a street, twirling a parasol and smiling seductively at members of the Foreign Legion. It wasn't until Mari joined Universal that her fortunes improved somewhat, with a co-starring role (opposite Victor Mature) in The Veils of Bagdad (1953). After that, it was all downhill again. Burt Lancaster, co-producer and star (with Gary Cooper of the excellent A-grade western Vera Cruz (1954), had requested Mari as his leading lady, but Universal refused her release to United Artists and forbade her to accept the lucrative role (Denise Darcel ended up getting the part). Mari then lost the lead in a much lesser picture,Saskatchewan (1954), to Shelley Winters. Instead, she was cast as Venusian Queen Allura in one of the least exciting outings by Universal's leading comic duo, Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953).

Mari did end up with a respectable starring role in the western Destry (1954), opposite Audie Murphy. A remake of the classic Destry Rides Again (1939), she was cast in the Marlene Dietrich part and took great pains to affect a totally different look, darkening her hair, so as not to be compared to the great star. Even the name of her character was changed from 'Frenchy' to 'Brandy'. "Destry" was not all smooth sailing. There was tension between her and director George Marshall (who had also directed the original version) and Mari suffered a facial injury as the result of a fight scene. The film was critically well received. Unfortunately, Universal failed to renew their contract with Miss Blanchard, and her career then went into free-fall.

Free-lancing for lesser studios, she played a TB victim injected with a serum turning her into a Mr. Hyde-like killer in the lurid She Devil (1957) (during filming she nearly died of acute appendicitis). Mari then appeared for Republic in the eminently forgettable No Place to Land (1958), before briefly starring in her own short-lived adventure series Klondike (1960). Her last role of note was as the cheerful and likeable town madam in the rollicking John Wayne western comedy McLintock! (1963). Sometime that year, Mari Blanchard developed the cancer which was to claim her life in 1970 at the age of just 47.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis

Spouse (3)

Vincent J. Conti (1967 - 10 May 1970) (her death)
George Shepard (September 1965 - 1966) (divorced)
Reese Hale Taylor, Jr. (13 February 1960 - 1961) (divorced)

Trivia (12)

She suffered from severe polio at age nine and it took three years before she was able to walk again. According to Brad Richards' full-length article on Mari in the Spring 2013 issue of Films of the Golden Age, she credits the courage and obstinacy of her mother, a psychotherapist, for pulling her through. Her mother did not permit braces or injections but used Hawaiian massages and three-times-a-day hot water soakings. Mari claims that her first year was spent in a wheelchair and progressed to crutches in the second. By the third year she was back in school and had no ill effects whatsoever.
One of the few actresses who diligently answered all her own fan mail.
Her father worked in the oil and mining business.
At age 17 she ran away from home to join the Cole Brothers Circus and learned how to ride elephants, perform bareback on horses and fly on the trapeze bar. Her mother found her and took her back home.
Mari's beautiful blue-eyed brunet (later blonde) looks and 36-25-36 figure became the inspiration for cartoonist Al Capp in creating his voluptuous character "Stupefyin' Jones" for the popular "L'il Abner" comic strip series.
Beautiful, worldly-looking American actress of 1950s Easterns and Westerns who typically played alluring harem girls and saloon dancers in "B" films.
Mari's name, along with those of June Allyson, Anita Ekberg and Zsa Zsa Gabor, were found in a "little brown book" kept by handsome, infamous gangster Johnny Stompanato, who was stabbed to death by Lana Turner's daughter, Cheryl Crane.
First husband, Reese Taylor Jr., was an L.A. lawyer whose first wife had given him four sons. When Mari announced she was pregnant in April 1960, two months into the marriage, he left her because he didn't want any more children. Mari lost the baby later that year.
Had a passion for animals. Her two Afghans and Chihuahua were all female. She was on location for the film Black Horse Canyon (1954) when she fell in love with a female baby burro(!) -- and took it home.
Battled cancer for over seven years. Was cremated and her ashes scattered at sea.
An excellent swimmer, she won a number of swimming prizes. She later modeled bathing suits in Southern California and then professionally in New York through the Conover Agency.
Appeared once in a bubble bath commercial ad for Kodak that appeared in The Hollywood Reporter. A Paramount Pictures exec caught it and signed her to a film contract. She stayed with the studio for over a year but never did better than extra and bit parts.

Personal Quotes (2)

Basically I'm a career girl. I want to prove myself as an actress. Maybe I won't . . . But I'll have to search until I do. I'll do it--or die trying. I've got lots to learn about pictures . . . I've worked hard. When I know I haven't given my best to a scene, I suffer.
[on the importance of women maintaining a clean reputation in Hollywood] I think that every film star has a tremendous responsibility to the public. We owe them dignity and decorum. If a girl wants to act like a burlesque stripper, then she should be in burlesque and not in movies.

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