World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Virginia Mayo

Virginia Mayo
Mayo in the early 1950s
Born Virginia Clara Jones
(1920-11-30)November 30, 1920
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Died January 17, 2005(2005-01-17) (aged 84)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1939–1997
Political party Republican
Religion Roman Catholicism
Spouse(s) Michael O'Shea
(m. 1947–1973; his death); one child
Children Mary Catherine O'Shea (born 1953)
Website .com.virginiamayowww

Virginia Mayo (born Virginia Clara Jones; November 30, 1920 – January 17, 2005) was an American actress and dancer. Best known for a series of comedy films with Danny Kaye, Mayo was Warner Brothers's biggest box-office money-maker in the late 1940s.[1] She also co-starred in the 1946 Oscar-winning movie The Best Years of Our Lives.[2]


  • Early life and career 1
  • Hollywood stardom 2
  • Later career 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Death 5
  • Filmography and stage 6
    • Features 6.1
    • Short subjects 6.2
    • Live Theater 6.3
  • Radio appearances 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life and career

Born Virginia Clara Jones in St. Louis, Missouri, she was the daughter of newspaper reporter Luke and 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.[1] Young Virginia's aunt operated an acting school in the St. Louis area, which she began attending at age six.[1] She was also tutored by a series of dancing instructors engaged by her aunt.

Following her graduation from Soldan High School in 1937, Jones landed her first professional acting and dancing jobs at the St. Louis Municipal Opera[1] and in an act with six other girls at the Hotel Jefferson. Impressed with her ability, her brother-in-law, vaudeville performer Andy Mayo, recruited her to appear in his act "The Mayo Brothers".[3] Jones toured the American vaudeville circuit for three years, serving as ringmaster and comedic foil for "Pansy the Horse" as the Mayo brothers performed in a horse suit.[1] 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.[4]

Hollywood stardom

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. One of her first films was the 1943 hit Jack London, which starred her future husband Michael O'Shea.[2] Other roles soon followed as she became a popular actress who personified the dream girl or girl-next-door image in a series of films. A beneficiary of the Technicolor film process, it was said that audiences—particularly males—would flock to theaters just to see her blonde hair and classic looks on-screen.[1] Her first starring role came in 1944 opposite comedian Bob Hope in The Princess and the Pirate. Remaining in the comedy genre, Mayo had several popular on-screen pairings with dancer-actor Danny Kaye, including Wonder Man (1945), The Kid from Brooklyn (1946), and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947).[2]

Going against previous stereotype, Mayo accepted the supporting role of unsympathetic gold-digger Marie Derry in Roy Del Ruth's Red Light that same year. In a later interview, Mayo admitted she was frightened by Cagney as the psychotic gunman in White Heat because he was so realistic.[3]

Mayo in White Heat (1949) with James Cagney

At the beginning of the 1950s, Mayo scored success with the 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.

During the rest of the 1950s, Mayo continued to appear in films with varying genres. In 1953, she appeared in the comedy-drama-action film George Raft.

Later career

By the 1960s, Mayo's film career had tapered off considerably, although she continued to appear in films throughout the next several decades, with one of her last prominent roles being in The Love Boat, Remington Steele, and Murder, She Wrote, and a dozen episodes of the soap opera Santa Barbara.[3]

Mayo was one of the first to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[1] 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.[5]

Personal life

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.[3] She converted to Roman Catholicism by way of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. A lifelong Republican, she endorsed Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972, and longtime friend Ronald Reagan in 1980.[6]


Mayo died of pneumonia and complications of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles, on January 17, 2005, at the age of 84, at a nursing home in Thousand Oaks. Her death was reported the next day in the New York Times.[7] She is buried next to her husband in Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Park in Westlake Village, California.[8]

Filmography and stage


Short subjects

  • Gals and Gallons (1939)
  • So You Think You're Not Guilty (1950)
  • Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Night Life (1952)
  • Screen Snapshots: Salute to Hollywood (1958)

Live Theater

  • That Certain Girl (1967, Thunderbird Hotel, Las Vegas)
  • Barefoot in the Park (1968 National Company)
  • No, No Nanette (1972 National Company)
  • 40 Carats (1975/May–June, Hayloft Dinner Theatre [Theater-in-the-Round], Lubbock, Texas)
  • Good News (1977, Paper Mill Playhouse)
  • Mover Over Mrs. Markham (1980 National Tour)
  • Butterflies Are Free (1981 Tour)
  • Follies (1995, Houston and Seattle)

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1953 Lux Radio Theatre This Woman Is Dangerous[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ a b c d e
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Mayo, Virginia. Virginia Mayo: The Best Years of My Life (2002), pp. 194–95.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.