Mary Martin Is Peter Pan

In 1955, families all sat down in front of their newly purchased television sets to witness a magical event, a live broadcast of Peter Pan starring Mary Martin.

It's 1955, you and your family are all seated around your brand new twelve inch color TV. Mom made snacks, which are sitting on top of TV trays, (all the rage) and just for tonight you can even have Kool-aid, one glass each. This is a momentous occasion. Tonight, you will witness a magical event, a live broadcast of Peter Pan, straight from Broadway. It has music, adventure and best of all it's in color thanks to the NBC peacock.

The production, which aired again in 1956, stared Cyril Ritchard as Hook, and Sondra Lee as Tiger Lily with Lynn Fontanne. Mary Martin sealed her fate by recreating the role she performed on Broadway; Peter Pan.

Mary Martin was born in Weatherford, Texas on December 11, 1913. From the beginning, Mary showed an interest in musical theater. At a young age, Mary married and gave birth to her son Larry Hagman ( of Dallas fame) but her marriage didn't last. Divorced, she began pursing a career as a singer on radio and in nightclubs. One of her performances caught the eye of a producer who cast her in a play in New York. Her role in Cole Porter's Leave It To Me brought her national attention and with that the movies came calling. Over the next three years she made more than ten films for Paramount Pictures. Movies were good to her, but Mary belonged on the stage. She returned to Broadway and made her mark playing Nellie Forbush in the Broadway play South Pacific.



In 1954, Jerome Robbins decided to produce a new musical version of the classic story, Peter Pan. Traditionally, the role of Peter is played by a woman and Mary Martin was an easy fit for the part. She wowed audiences for 150 performances and even won a Tony award. When the play aired on TV, live the first two times, and later on tape, Mary became an American icon. Being a star has its downside, though, it is rumored that Mary 'flew' through the wall of the TV set during the taping breaking her leg in the process.

Thankfully, Mary wasn't typecast as Peter so she was able to go on to other great shows such as Sound of Music (for which she won another Tony) and I Do I Do. Mary Martin continued to work in the theater until the 1970's at which time she settled down on a ranch in Brazil. Her happiness again was short lived, her new husband died in 1973 so Mary returned to the stage. Where she continued to perform well into her 70's.

Although Mary had a long and varied career, she was always best known as Peter Pan, the elfin-like boy who loved to fly and refused to grow up. Just one year before her death in 1990, The John F Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington DC honored Mary and her accomplishments.

These days many youngsters know Cathy Rigby as Peter Pan or even Sandy Duncan, but for children of the 50's, there was never anything as exciting as seeing a bright green pixie flying across the TV screen. For them, Peter Pan will always be Mary Martin.

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