Gorgeous, classy, somewhat nondescript Martha Hyer (1924-2014) was in some major films, usually as second female lead, and was even nominated for an Oscar, but naturally the thing that makes me want to give her a nod this morning is that she was in many late-period classic comedies and cheesy horror and sci films. I’ll break ’em down for you, and you’ll see why I felt the need to call attention to her, even though I’m virtually certain I couldn’t pick her out of a line-up.
The “comedian” comedies: Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953), Francis in the Navy (1955), Jerry Lewis’s The Delicate Delinquent (1957), Bob Hope’s Paris Holiday (1958), Rowan and Martin’s Once Upon a Horse (1958), Danny Kaye’s The Man from the Diner’s Club (1963), and War Italian Style (1965) with Buster Keaton. She’s also in some neo-screwball things like the 1957 remake of My Man Godfrey, and Houseboat (1958) with Cary Grant and Sophia Loren.
The horror/sci fi stuff: Pyro…The Thing Without a Face (1963), First Men on the Moon (1964), The Night of the Grizzly (1966), Picture Mommy Dead (1966), and The House of 1000 Dolls (1967).
Hyer was in lots of westerns early in her career, although a couple of the best known ones came later: Blood on the Arrow (1964) and The Sons of Katie Elder (1965). She also, believe it or not, wrote the screenplay for Rooster Cogburn (1975), which was coproduced by her second husband producer Hal B. Wallis.
Okay, now what were those famous films I haven’t mentioned? Oh, Sabrina (1954) and Some Came Running (1958, for which she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar), and similar melodramas like The Carpetbaggers (1964) and The Chase (1966)
Day of the Wolves (1971) has the distinction of being the last film for Hyer as well as for Percy Helton, and for containing a rare dramatic performance by comedian Jan Murray. Her last screen credit was a 1974 episode of McCloud.
Hyer was from Fort Worth, studied drama at Northwestern, and came to the attention of movie scouts while acting at Pasadena Playhouse. Her finishing school mein had her often compared to the likes of Grace Kelly and Eva Marie Saint.
But wait! Early in her career she was sometimes cast against type as a B movie gun moll! Is it too late to retract my statement that I couldn’t pick her out of a line-up???