Known For: Acting · Birthday: 1920-11-30 (99 years old)
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Early life. Born Virginia Clara Jones in St. Louis, Missouri, she was the daughter of newspaper reporter Luke and his wife, Martha Henrietta (née Rautenstrauch) Jones. Her family had roots back to the earliest days of St Louis, including great-great-great grandfather Captain James Piggott, who founded East St. Louis, Illinois, in 1797. Young Virginia's aunt operated an acting school in the St. Louis area, which Virginia began attending at age six. She also was tutored by a series of dancing instructors engaged by her aunt. Vaudeville. Following her graduation from Soldan High School in 1937, Jones landed her first professional acting and dancing jobs at the St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre (more commonly known as The Muny) and in an act with six other girls at the Hotel Jefferson. Impressed with her ability, performer Andy Mayo, recruited her to appear in his act "Morton and Mayo".Jones toured the American vaudeville circuit for three years, serving as ringmaster and comedic foil for "Pansy the Horse", as Mayo and his partner, Nonnie Morton, performed in a horse suit. They appeared together in some short films and were a huge hit at Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe nightclub in the Broadway theater district, where she was first spotted by Samuel Goldwyn. Broadway. In 1941 Jones, now known by the stage name Virginia Mayo, got another career break as she appeared on Broadway with Eddie Cantor in Banjo Eyes. Sam Goldwyn. In the early 1940s, Virginia Mayo's talent and striking beauty came to the attention of movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn, who signed her to an acting contract with his company. Goldwyn only made a few films a year and would usually loan out the actors he had under contract to other producers. Her first notable role was in Jack London (1943), which starred her future husband Michael O'Shea for producer Samuel Bronston.Goldwyn originally planned to feature her with Danny Kaye in the film Up in Arms, but he felt she needed more experience and gave the role to Constance Dowling. Mayo was placed in the chorus just so she could learn, but she was never officially a member of the Goldwyn Girls. Then RKO borrowed her for a support role in a musical, Seven Days Ashore (1944). Stardom. Mayo's first starring role came in 1944 opposite comedian Bob Hope in The Princess and the Pirate (1944), a spoof of pirate movies made by Goldwyn. It earned over $3 million at the box office.Goldwyn then made her Danny Kaye's leading lady for the musicals Wonder Man (1945) and The Kid from Brooklyn (1946), both very popular.Going against previous stereotype, Mayo accepted the supporting role of unsympathetic gold-digger Marie Derry in William Wyler's drama The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) for Goldwyn. Her performance drew favorable reviews from critics, as the film also became the highest-grossing film inside the US since Gone with the Wind. At the zenith of her career, Mayo was seen as the quintessential voluptuous Hollywood beauty. It was said that she "looked like a pinup painting come to life". According to widely published reports from the late 1940s, the Sultan of Morocco declared her beauty to be "tangible proof of the existence of God."Eagle-Lion Films borrowed her to play the lead in Out of the Blue (1947), a comedy with George Brent. Mayo was reunited with Kaye in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), another big success, and A Song Is Born (1948), a box office disappointment. In between, Warners borrowed her for the lead in a film noir, Smart Girls Don't Talk (1948). Warner Bros. Warner Bros ended up taking over her contract from Goldwyn. They starred her in another film noir, Flaxy Martin (1949) with Zachary Scott, then she did a Western with Joel McCrea and director Raoul Walsh, Colorado Territory (1949), and a comedy with Ronald Reagan, The Girl from Jones Beach (1949). Mayo received excellent reviews in another unsympathetic role, playing Jimmy Cagney's sultry and scheming wife in the gangster classic White Heat (1949), also for Walsh. Mayo admitted she was frightened by Cagney as the psychotic gunman in White Heat because he was so realistic.Roy Del Ruth borrowed her to play opposite George Raft in Red Light (1949) and she was Milton Berle's leading lady in Always Leave Them Laughing (1949). Mayo was top billed in the film noir Backfire (1950) and she was in a huge hit in The Flame and the Arrow (1950) as Burt Lancaster's love interest. She co-starred again with James Cagney and a young Doris Day in The West Point Story (1950), singing and dancing with Cagney, and was Gregory Peck's leading lady in Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. (1951), Warners most popular film of the year. She co-starred with Kirk Douglas in a Western for Walsh, Along the Great Divide (1951). Mayo starred opposite Dennis Morgan in David Butler's Technicolor musical, Painting the Clouds with Sunshine (1951) which was a moderate success. While Mayo appeared in several musicals, using her training in dance, her voice was always dubbed. Mayo appeared in the all-star cast of Starlift (1951) and was top billed in She's Working Her Way Through College (1952) with Reagan. She was Alan Ladd's leading lady in The Iron Mistress (1952), a popular biopic of Jim Bowie, and starred in another musical, She's Back on Broadway (1953). Mayo appeared in the comedy-drama-action film South Sea Woman (1953) with Burt Lancaster and Chuck Connors. RKO borrowed her for a Western in 3-D, Devil's Canyon (1953), and she co-starred with Rex Harrison and George Sanders in King Richard and the Crusaders (1954). She was top billed in The Silver Chalice (1954) opposite Pier Angeli and Paul Newman in his film debut. The film was a notorious flop. Post Warners. Benedict Bogeaus gave her the lead in Pearl of the South Pacific (1955). Edmund Grainger cast her in Great Day in the Morning (1956), with Robert Stack, directed by Jacques Tourneur. Mayo went to 20th Century Fox to play Robert Ryan's leading lady in The Proud Ones (1956) then she did Congo Crossing (1956) at Universal. Mayo was reunited with Ladd in The Big Land (1957) made back at Warners. She played Cleopatra in the 1957 fantasy film The Story of Mankind with Vincent Price, Hedy Lamarr, Cesar Romero, Agnes Moorehead, and the Marx Brothers. Mayo did The Tall Stranger (1957) with McCrea for Allied Artists, Fort Dobbs (1958) with Clint Walker at Warners and Westbound (1959) with Randolph Scott at Warners. Her last film of the decade was 1959's Jet Over the Atlantic with Guy Madison and George Raft. Mayo also began guest starring on television shows such as Conflict, Wagon Train, The Loretta Young Show, and Lux Playhouse. 1960s. Mayo and her husband made a pilot for a TV series McGarry and His Mouse (1960), which was not picked up. She went to Italy to make Revolt of the Mercenaries (1961). Mayo's film career tapered off considerably. She appeared in Young Fury (1965) with Rory Calhoun, Castle of Evil (1966), and Fort Utah (1967) with John Ireland. She also guest starred on shows such as Burke's Law, Daktari and The Outsider and appeared on stage in shows like That Certain Girl (1967) and Barefoot in the Park (1968). Later career. Mayo continued to act on stage for the rest of her career, mostly in dinner theatre and touring shows. Productions included No, No Nanette (1972), 40 Carats (1975), Good News (1977), Move Over Mrs Markham (1980) and Butterflies Are Free (1981). Mayo continued to occasionally appear on television in shows such as Police Story, Night Gallery, The Love Boat, Remington Steele, and Murder, She Wrote, and a dozen episodes of the soap opera Santa Barbara.Mayo was in Fugitive Lovers (1975) and was one of several stars to make a cameo appearance in the all-star box office bomb Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976). She had roles in Lanigan's Rabbi (1977), Haunted (1977), and French Quarter (1978). Her later appearances were in Evil Spirits (1990), Midnight Witness (1993) and The Man Next Door (1997). Mayo was one of the first to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hers is located at 1751 Vine Street. In 1996, Mayo was honored by her hometown as she received a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame. In 1993, Mayo published a Christmas themed children's book entitled, Don't Forget Me, Santa Claus through Barrons Juveniles Publishers.
Mayo wed Michael O'Shea in 1947, and they remained married until his death in 1973. The couple had one child, Mary Catherine O'Shea (born 1953). The family lived for several decades in Thousand Oaks, California. In later years she developed a passion for painting and also occupied her time doting on her three grandsons. She converted to Roman Catholicism , inspired by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. A lifelong Republican, she endorsed Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972, and longtime friend Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Movies & TV Series
Jet Over The Atlantic
Director Byron Haskin's 1960 airplane-in jeopardy drama stars Guy Madison, Virginia Mayo, George Raft, Ilona Massey, Margaret Lindsay, George Macready, Brett Halsey, Anna Lee and Mary Anderson.
As the Civil War spills our nation’s blood, Capt. John Hayes (Randolph Scott) fights on a vital but little-known battlefront. He aims to ship gold to Union banks through a small Colorado town, defying...
The Big Land
Back home in Texas following the Civil War, former Confederate officer Chad Morgan (Alan Ladd) leads a cattle drive to Missouri, assuring fellow ranchers that their stock will bring $10 a head at auct...
The Story of Mankind
The devil and the spirit of mankind argue as to whether or not humanity is ultimately good or evil.
The Tall Stranger
A Union soldier returns to his western home at the end of the Civil War and finds himself caught in the middle of a land war between his greedy half-brother and a wagon train of Confederate homesteade...
Great Day in the Morning
After a card game Southerner Owen Pentecost finds himself the owner of a Denver hotel. Involved with two women - one who came with the hotel, and one newly arrived from the East to open a dress shop -...
The Proud Ones
Robert Ryan plays an aging sheriff responsible for law and order in a frontier cattle town. Virginia Mayo plays his fiancee. As if handling wild cattle drovers isn't enough, a crooked casino operator ...
Director Joseph Pevney's 1956 jungle drama, set in Africa, stars Virginia Mayo, George Nader, Peter Lorre, Michael Pate, Kathryn Givney, Raymond Bailey and Rex Ingram.
King Richard and the Crusaders
Based on Sir Walter Scott's The Talisman, this is the story of the romantic adventures of Christians and Muslims during the battle for the Holy Land in the time of King Richard the Lionheart.
The Silver Chalice
A Greek artisan is commissioned to cast the cup of Christ in silver and sculpt around its rim the faces of the disciples and Jesus himself. He travels to Jerusalem and eventually to Rome to complete t...
She's Back on Broadway
When Catherine Terris's career in Hollywood hits the skids, she heads back to the site of her first great triumphs...Broadway! She takes the lead in a play which is being directed by Gordon Evans, the...
South Sea Woman
Marine Sergeant James O'Hearn is being tried at the San Diego Marine base for desertion, theft, scandalous conduct and destruction of property in time of war. He refuses to testify or plead guilty or ...
An outlaw woman helps one Arizona convict stop another with a Gatling gun.
She's Working Her Way Through College
Shapely burlesque dancer Hot Garters Gertie aka Angela Gardner meets her future drama professor. Her new landlady proves to be the professor's wife. Angela helps breath life into the annual school sta...
The Iron Mistress
In this biopic, Jim Bowie goes to New Orleans, where he falls for Judalon and befriends her brother, Narcisse. Soon, Jim is forced to avenge Narcisse's murder, but Judalon takes up with another man. J...
Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N.
A naval adventure, based on the novels by C.S. Forester, about the heroic, 19th-century British seafarer. The story sails with his ship, the Lydia, through battles with Spain and then France won with ...
Painting The Clouds With Sunshine
The story of three gold-digging ladies searching for millionaires. A loose remake of Gold Diggers of 1933.
Air Force fliers Rick Williams and Mike Nolan attempt to meet film star Nell Wayne, with whom Rick shares a hometown but not much else. Fellow film stars Doris Day and Ruth Roman mistakenly believe Ri...
Along the Great Divide
New Federal marshal Len Merrick saves Tim Keith from lynching at the hands of the Roden clan, and hopes to get him to Santa Loma for trial. Vindictive Ned Roden, whose son Ed was killed, still wants p...
The West Point Story
A Broadway director helps the West Point cadets put on a show, aided by two lovely ladies and assorted complications.
The Flame and the Arrow
Dardo, a Robin Hood-like figure, and his loyal followers use a Roman ruin in Medieval Lombardy as their headquarters as they conduct an insurgency against their Hessian conquerors.
When he's discharged from a military hospital, ex-GI Bob Corey goes on a search for his army buddy Steve Connolly. A reformed crook, Connolly is on the lam from a trumped-up murder rap, and Corey hope...
The Girl from Jones Beach
Glamour artist Bob Randolph is world famous for his paintings of a stunning beauty dubbed "The Randolph Girl". What the world doesn't know is that his pin-up creation is really a composite of parts of...
Always Leave Them Laughing
A self-absorbed comedian steps all over his friends and colleagues in order to achieve success.
Messing with a mobster's girlfriend gets a lawyer framed for murder.
Nick Cherney, in prison for embezzling from Torno Freight Co., sees a chance to get back at Johnny Torno through his young priest brother Jess. He pays fellow prisoner Rocky, who gets out a week befor...
A psychopathic criminal with a mother complex makes a daring break from prison and then leads his old gang in a chemical plant payroll heist. After the heist, events take a crazy turn.
Western remake of High Sierra with Joel McCrea taking over the Humphrey Bogart role.
Smart Girls Don't Talk
A society woman gets involved with a gangster only to find he has hidden plans.
A Song Is Born
The story of seven scholars in search of an expert to teach them about swing music. They seem to have found the perfect candidate in winsome nightclub singer Honey Swanson. But Honey's gangster boyfri...
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Walter Mitty, a daydreaming writer with an overprotective mother, likes to imagine that he is a hero who experiences fantastic adventures. His dream becomes reality when he accidentally meets a myster...
Out of the Blue
Set in an apartment building whose occupants include Arthur Earthleigh, a meek and mild type married to the beautiful-but-domineering Mae; a Bohemian artist, David Galleo and his always-there model, D...
The Best Years of Our Lives
It's the hope that sustains the spirit of every GI: the dream of the day when he will finally return home. For three WWII veterans, the day has arrived. But for each man, the dream is about to become ...
The Kid from Brooklyn
Shy milkman Burleigh Sullivan accidentally knocks out drunken Speed McFarlane, a champion boxer who was flirting with Burleigh's sister. The newspapers get hold of the story and photographers even cat...
Road to Home
WWII U.S. Navy training film MN-5075a that addresses the end of the war. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby try to convince sailors not to desert but to wait for their government benefits and honorable dischar...
Boisterous nightclub entertainer Buzzy Bellew was the witness to a murder committed by gangster Ten Grand Jackson. One night, two of Jackson's thugs kill Buzzy and dump his body in the lake at Prospec...
Seven Days Ashore
Circumstances force a womanizing playboy on leave from the Merchant Marine to ask two shipmates to help him by dating two surplus girlfriends.
Up in Arms
Hypochondriac Danny Weems gets drafted and accidentally smuggles his girlfriend aboard his Pacific-bound troopship.
The Princess and the Pirate
Princess Margaret is travelling incognito to elope with her true love instead of marrying the man her father has betrothed her to. On the high seas, her ship is attacked by pirates who know her identi...
The true story of the adventurous and remarkable life of the American novelist Jack London(1876-1916).
In PRC's Follies Girl, Wendy Barrie plays dress designer Anne Merriday, who becomes the object of middle-aged millionaire J. B. Hamlin's (J.C. Nugent) affections. To save his dad from throwing his lif...