Some Enchanted Evenings:
The Glittering Life and Times of Mary Martin
By David Kaufman
St. Martin's Press
(Martin Book Purchase Page)
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 13, 2017
David Kaufman, whose biography of Doris Day was a smash success, originally discussed his then-upcoming biography of stage and screen star, Mary Martin, over lunch in 2014. This book, published in July, 2016, is now a must-have on every coffee table, for theater critics, producers, designers, actors, and audience devotees to the musical theatre genre. Mary Martin is renowned for her leading Broadway roles in The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, and South Pacific, as well as roles on national tours, like Hello Dolly. Kaufman traveled on tour as well, researching the late Ms. Martin's background material, personal anecdotes, and professional relationships, so he could make his book highly entertaining, and that he did. I caught up with David once again in this written interview.
REZ: How did Mary Martin's upbringing in Texas, her marriage to Hagman, and their son, Larry, affect her life choices and show business career?
DK: Following her birth in Weatherford, Texas, on December 1, 1913, Mary Martin was born into a family of privilege. Her father was a prosperous lawyer, and his second daughter, Mary, was beloved by not only her parents, but also by their white-starched, uniformed housekeeper. When she was all of 16 years old, Martin was impregnated by Benjamin Hagman, a would-be lawyer, who found his way into Martin's father's offices. Their subsequent marriage quickly led to divorce, and their son, Larry, was raised by Martin's parents, while she turned to her childhood love of singing and dancing, opening a dancing school when she was 17 years old.
REZ: Tell me some highlights of Martin's stage career and the televised Peter Pan, perhaps her most renowned role.
DK: After trying, but failing, to break into Hollywood, Martin became an overnight sensation, introducing Cole Porter's "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" in Leave It to Me on Broadway, in 1938. This prompted her becoming a contract player at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood, where she made nine mostly forgettable films. Then, after touring with Annie Get Your Gun throughout the U.S. in 1947, she got her first starring Broadway role in Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. She is best remembered today for Peter Pan, which aired on NBC TV in 1955, when it was seen by 65 million people, or one out of every two Americans. Martin also introduced Maria von Trapp to the world, in The Sound of Music on Broadway, in 1959.
REZ: Tell me about Martin's second marriage to Richard Halliday, as well as her later years and various challenges.
DK: Martin met Richard Halliday at Paramount in 1939 and married him, before he turned the plain-Jane Martin into something of a beauty. A gay man, Halliday became Martin's manager, as well as her husband and the father of her second child, Heller Halliday, who performed with her mother in both Annie Get Your Gun and Peter Pan. The Hallidays lived in New York and in rural Connecticut, eventually building a ranch in central Brazil, near to the true love of Martin's life, actress Janet Gaynor. Martin was devastated by Halliday's death in 1973, but went on to have her own TV talk show, primarily for seniors in San Francisco, several years later.
REZ: Where did you conduct your interviews and research, and with whom did you meet? What was your most surprising finding?
DK: I had my interviews and did my research all over the country, including Dallas, Weatherford, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, and New York. I suppose among the most surprising things I learned were that Rodgers and Hammerstein were commissioned to write The Sound of Music for Martin, and also that, after her son Larry Hagman became a major star as J.R. Ewing in "Dallas", when Martin was asked what it was like to have a son who was a star, she said, "Larry is a star, but I'm an icon".
See a clip of Mary Martin singing "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" in Love Thy Neighbor, 1940.
"Some Enchanted Evenings" by David Kaufman
Courtesy of St. Martin's Press