Born April 13, 1923 - died May 10, 1970
Mari Blanchard (born Mary E. Blanchard) was born in Long Beach, California, and as a child hoped for a career in dance, but at the age of nine a polio* infection left her bedridden. Through a combination of her own determination and her parent's support (her father was in oil and mining and her mother a professional psychotherapist, Dr. Mary Sennott) Blanchard pursued swimming as an exercise to rebuild her severely weakened body, in particular her once paralyzed legs. Her fitness increased until at age seventeen she joined the Cole Brothers Circus where she performed by riding elephants and then working on the trapeze.
She returned home at the urging of her parents to attend University. She took up swimsuit modeling and appeared as an uncredited "Copa Girl" in the 1947 Carmen Miranda film Copacabana. She was used by cartoonist Al Capp for the creation of his character Stupifyin' Jones for his L'il Abner cartoon strip, and was eventually hired to promote the popular newspaper comic strip on a national tour.
She also began working as a model out of New York City, and an advertisement on the back cover of a magazine featuring her image led to a Paramount contract. In 1953 she was photographed frequently for gossip magazines in the company of various Hollywood personalities, all while attending night school.
Not much film work came her way through Paramount, and she switched to Universal and began getting better roles, but when requests for her to come to Universal for films with other companies (such as Gary Cooper's Vera Cruz in 1954), Universal instead put her into Abbott and Costello Goes to Mars and a string of westerns, particularly a remake of Destry Rides Again in 1954, simply titled Destry and starring Audie Murphy.
Her Universal contract ended in July 1955 and she did some TV and then over to RKO for Son of Sinbad, but she was now listed further down in the cast. She returned to starring status for a new Western for Lindsley Parsons' B-western production company, The Return of Jack Slade (1955), and a crime-noir The Crooked Web for B-production house Clover Productions.
She continued with TV programs and B-movies, such as She Devil (1957) but in 1960 she had her own TV show titled Klondike, but it only lasted 12 episodes. It is at this time she entered the first of three marriages: lawyer Reese Hale Taylor, Jr. from 1960–1961; George Shepard from 1965–1966 and then photographer Vincent J. Conti 1967–1970.
A lot of TV work followed for Blanchard after Klondike. Her last major film was the 1963 McLintock with John Wayne, but by this time she has moved further down in the cast she isn't even be listed on the advertising art.
TV work continued, but after 1963 she is battling cancer. She dies in 1970.
Interview with Mari Blanchard by Lydia Lane, Washington DC Evening Star, 1955
"If you'd like to know if gentlemen prefer blonds, the girl to ask is Mari Blanchard, because although she is a natural blond almost every time she makes a picture the studio asks her to change the color of her hair..."
Lane's interview includes various health and beauty questions, and in particular asks Blanchard about wearing wigs instead of changing the color of her hair chemically.
"No, that would be worse," Mari replied. "A wig compresses the scalp so that the blood supply is choked off and it is the bloodstream that nourishes growth of the hair."
Lydia Lane then comments that Blanchard seems to have 'studied the issue,' and an unnamed friend at the interview cuts in that Mari is knowledgeable about whatever interests her and then says Mari majored in International Law at USC.
"Were you seriously thinking of being a lawyer?" Lane asks her. Blanchard then responded:
I was until I discovered the extent to which they discriminate against women."
The interview continues with Blanchard's analysis that the discrimination is greater against blonds than with brunettes, that since she has had to switch back and forth so often she's been able to track the reaction she gets with one hair color over another.
...men don't expect as much intelligence or to be as dependable as a brunette. They probably wouldn't admit this but I know it's true..."
Page D-13, The Washington DC Evening Star, April 3, 1955 - Source Library of Congress
Lydia Lane was a well-known beauty columnist and society reporter in Hollywood from the 1930s through to the 1980s.
*Poliomyelitis, also known as polio, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. Spreading from person to person most often through contaminated water, food or respiratory droplets from infected people sneezing and coughing. Polio mainly affects children under the age of 5, though people from any age can contract the ailment but most will show no signs of illness. A small percentage of people contracting the virus experience damage to nerve cells, leading to muscle weakness and even paralysis. There is no cure for polio. Reference: Mayo Clinic
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Original Page June 2023 | Last update June 27, 2023