Martha O’Driscoll, an actress popular in the 1940s who portrayed Daisy May in a film version of “Li’l Abner,” has died at the age of 76.
O’Driscoll, who had been married for many years to wealthy businessman Arthur Appleton, died Tuesday in the exclusive island community of Indian Creek Village near Miami Beach.
Born in Tulsa, Okla., she danced publicly at the age of 3, modeled at 4 and gravitated to Hollywood as an MGM dancer. At the age of 13, she lied about her age to assume a young adult role, making her film debut in “Collegiate.”
Usually seen as a blond, O’Driscoll made two dozen films over a dozen years. Among her credits were the 1940 version of “Li’l Abner,” with Buster Keaton, “Reap the Wild Wind” in 1942, starring John Wayne and Paulette Goddard, and “Follow the Boys” in 1944. She appeared in popular genre films of that period, including Westerns such as “Laddie” and “Wagon Train,” and horror shows like “House of Dracula.” Her final film was “Carnegie Hall” in 1947.
After a wartime engagement to a Canadian publishing magnate and a brief marriage to a Navy commander, O’Driscoll married Appleton, a Chicago electronics manufacturer, in 1947 and formally abandoned her Hollywood career.
“You can’t do two jobs and do them well,” she told The Times after the marriage. “Taking care of [Appleton] is a big enough job.”
In Chicago, O’Driscoll moved successfully into the role of wealthy matron, raising four children and serving as president of the Sarah Siddons Society, the Chicago Boys Clubs and the Chicago Junior League.
Wintering in Florida for many years before retiring there 25 years ago, the Appletons established a farm in Ocala to breed and raise thoroughbred racing horses.
They also established the Appleton Museum of Art in Ocala as a gift to Florida State University.
In addition to her husband, O’Driscoll is survived by her daughter, Linda Potter of San Diego; three sons, James and John of Dallas, and William of Hawaii; two stepsons, Tom of Los Angeles and Arthur Jr. of San Francisco; and a brother, Paul O’Driscoll of Los Angeles, and 13 grandchildren.
Memorial services are scheduled for Saturday in Bal Harbour, Fla. The family has asked that memorial donations be made to the Appleton Museum of Art, 4333 N.E. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala, Fla. 34470-5000.