Today is the birthday of Virginia Mayo (Virginia Cara Jones, 1920-2005). A Saint Louis native, she was taught acting and dancing at her aunt’s dramatic academy and began her career as a professional when still a child. Starting in 1939 she appeared in her brother-in-law’s post-vaudeville vaudeville act The Mayo Brothers for three years, acting in comedy sketches with two men in a horse costume. As was fairly common in show business, she took the act’s name for her stage name.
Mayo translated her popularity in this act to a great part in Eddie Cantor’s hit Broadway show Banjo Eyes in 1941. This (helped along by her legendary beauty) led to Hollywood. While her career embraced nearly all genres, including costume epics, westerns and gangster pictures, a good percentage of her films cast her as the beautiful comic foil and love interest to top comedians: Bob Hope in The Princess and the Pirate (1944), Milton Berle in Always Leave Them Laughing (1949) and above all Danny Kaye in Wonder Man (1945), The Kid from Brooklyn (1946), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) and A Song is Born (1948). Her film career wound down considerably in the 1960s, although she continued to act until 1997.
Here she is with Kaye in A Song is Born:
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc