Buff Cobb dies; actress, theatrical producer was once married to Mike Wallace
Buff Cobb, who hosted the pioneering television talk show “Mike and Buff” in the early 1950s with Mike Wallace, who was then her husband, died July 12, her family announced. She was believed to be 83.
Cobb, a former actress and theatrical producer, died at a nursing home in Lebanon, N.H.
She was appearing with Tallulah Bankhead in a touring production of “Private Lives” when Wallace, then a relatively young newsman, interviewed her in 1949.
“She was an actress and a bit of a glamorous figure to me,” Wallace later said.
They soon married and launched the “Mike and Buff” show on CBS. They also roamed New York City to co-host “All Around Town,” an interview program that aired in 1951 and 1952.
“Mike and Buff” mixed light themes and more serious issues with the couple’s bickering. “Smarten up, Buff!” was one of Wallace’s catchphrases on the show.
“We overdid the personal exchanges,” Cobb said, according to the 1985 book “Whatever Became Of?”
CBS canceled the show in 1953, and their marriage ended two years later.
She was born Patrizia Cobb Chapman in Florence, Italy, where her father, opera singer Frank Chapman, was studying voice. Many references give her birth date as Oct. 19, 1928. But when she immigrated to the United States in 1929, her birth year was listed as 1926.
When her parents divorced, she was raised by her mother, Elisabeth Cobb, a writer who was the daughter of author and humorist Irvin S. Cobb.
After growing up mainly in New York and Santa Monica, she adopted Buff Cobb as a stage name.
Signed to a contract at 20th Century Fox, she played one of Rex Harrison’s wives in the 1946 film “Anna and the King of Siam.”
She had two brief early marriages, to Hollywood entertainment attorney Gregson Bautzer and actor William Eythe, a fellow contract player at Fox who introduced her to Bankhead, which led to Cobb being cast in “Private Lives.”
From 1953 to 1955, she was a panelist on the TV quiz show “Masquerade Party,” which involved identifying celebrities who were disguised with elaborate makeup.
“Cobb is very intense about everything,” the New York Times said in a 1955 review of the program.
She turned to stage producing and received a Tony nomination for the first play she produced on Broadway, the 1963 revival “Too True to Be Good,” which starred Lillian Gish.
In 1967 in her Manhattan apartment, Cobb married her fourth husband, H. Spencer Martin, a real estate developer. He died at 68 in 1987.
She is survived by her brother, Tom Brody.