Mary Healy dies at 96; actress and singer during golden age of TV

Obituary: Actress and singer Mary Healy dies at 96; performer found fame in television's infancy

Mary Healy, a singer and actress who formed a popular comedy team with her husband, Peter Lind Hayes, during television's golden age, died of natural causes Tuesday in Calabasas. She was 96.

Her death was confirmed by her daughter, actress Cathy Lind Hayes.

Healy and Hayes gained television fame during that medium's infancy, when husband-wife acts — notably George Burns and Gracie Allen, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz — had strong appeal.

A replica of the stars' New Rochelle., N.Y., home provided the setting for "The Peter Lind Hayes Show," which ran on NBC in 1950-51. Each episode opened with a shot of the guest star on the telephone explaining to someone off-camera that he could not have dinner that evening because he was going to Peter and Mary's house. He then walked onto the set, where his talents were showcased along with those of the hosts.

A degree of verisimilitude also characterized the half-hour comedy "Peter Loves Mary," which NBC aired in 1960-61. Healy and Hayes portrayed a show-business couple who left New York City for life in the suburbs with their children. Peter misses the hustle-bustle of the city and his show-biz confreres, while Mary prefers the PTA and garden club scene.

In the early 1960s, the couple also hosted a WOR radio show, which was broadcast from the basement of their New Rochelle house. Their witty repartee about children, married life and other mundanities struck a chord with listeners, especially when they argued on the air. "We've even had letters saying, 'Please argue more,'" Healy told the New York Times in 1964.

Healy's career extended to movies and the stage. With her husband she co-starred with Hans Conried in "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T," a 1953 musical fantasy film based on a story by Theodor Seuss Geisel about a boy who hates practicing piano and dreams he has been taken to an island where he is forced to play on a giant keyboard with 499 other captive children. Healy portrayed the boy's mother.

On Broadway, she appeared in "Around the World," a 1946 Orson Welles production based on the Jules Verne novel about an adventurer who circumnavigates the globe in 80 days. Healy returned to Broadway in 1958 to star with Hayes in the comedy "Who Was That Lady I Saw You With?"

Healy was born April 14, 1918, in New Orleans, the youngest of four children of John Joseph Healy and Viola Armbruster. She was 17 when she became Miss New Orleans, in 1935.

Two years later, a 20th Century Fox talent scout who heard her sing at New Orleans' Roosevelt Hotel put her on a train to Hollywood. After a few bit parts, she earned her first major movie credit in the 1939 musical comedy "Second Fiddle," which starred Sonja Henie, Tyrone Power and Rudy Vallee.

She met the vaudeville-trained Hayes at a North Hollywood nightclub and married him in 1940.

One of their first high-profile jobs as a duo was in the musical revue "Inside U.S.A. with Chevrolet," which ran on CBS from 1949 to 1950. They sang Chevrolet's catchy jingle, "See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet," before it became a signature of Dinah Shore on her Chevrolet-sponsored variety show of the 1950s and '60s.

In addition to their TV and film work, Healy and her husband were popular on the Las Vegas nightclub circuit during the 1960s.

Hayes died in 1998. Besides their daughter, Healy is survived by a son, Peter, and a granddaughter.

elaine.woo@latimes.com

Twitter: @ewooLATimes

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