Sorry for the long hiatus! I’ve been trying to write a decent bio of Mary Ganley for two months now, with no luck – there is so little information about her, but I decided to post what little I have, and put aside any standards for minimum info. What to say about Mary? She was pretty, probably not completely untalented, but not enough of “anything” for Hollywood to notice her. Not the first nor the last girl to suffer such a fate, she still appeared in four not that bad movies.
Mary Y. Ganley was born on January 16, 1924, in New York City, New York, to a colorful family. Her father was Bartholdy Ganly and her mother Catherine Gandy (her ancestry was almost pue Irish). She was the third of four daughters – her older sisters were Genevieve (born in 1915) and Lillian (born in 1918), and her younger sister was Joan (born in 1926). Her mother died in the 1930s, and after her death the family continued to live together in (Genevieve even brought her husband, Al Ronca, in the Ganly home) Kings, New York.
I found this interesting tidbit of information about Mary’s dad on Ancestry.com, posted by Mary’s nephew or niece (no name was given):
MY GRANDFATHER’S NAME WAS BARTHOLDI GANLY. (B.1885 D.1957) FAMILY LEGEND SAYS THAT HE WAS BORN ON BEDLOW’S ISLAND, NOW LIBERTY ISLAND, NY. THE NAME BARTHOLDI WAS GIVEN TO HIM “IN HONOR” OF THE FRENCH SCULPTOR WHO GAVE US THE STATUE OF LIBERTY. HE HATED THAT NAME AND WAS CALLED “TOLLY”. TOLLY BECAME MY NICKNAME RATHER THAN ART OR ARTHUR. HE DESPISED THE ENGLISH AND LOVED THE IRISH. HE MARRIED AND HAD SEVERAL DAUGHTERS, THE YOUGEST OF WHICH WAS MY MOTHER.
Mary grew up in New York, and started dancing from her early teens, landing on Broadway not long after. She was spotted by a talent scout, and Hollywood bound in about 1942.
Despite being uncredited, Mary appeared in four not all that bad movies.
Her first appearance was in A Guy Named Joe, a charming and finely made Irene Dunne/Spencer Tracy vehicle. Irene and Spence work delightfully well together. He was one of the few “natrual” actors of the time, and is especially subtle in this movie – and Irene was always such a tranquil, ladylike presence. Even Van Johnson, a rather wooden and only modestly talented actor, comes across pretty good here. The stroy is very effective and quite touching. And no, it’s not very realistic, but it’s irrelevant in this kind of movie. The beautiful cinematography only adds the final touch to a already above average movie.
Mary went back to her dancing roots in Broadway Rhythm, a low(er) budget MGM musical. When I say MGM musical, you know all the information you need to know about a movie – flimsy story, cliche characters, singers/dancers in lead roles, and a variety of talented performers: impressionists, contortionists, nightclub acts, tap-dancers and the list goes on. This one is no exception, and if you’re not a nag who only watches “best of the best” MGM musicals with their top talents like Gene Kelly or Judy Garland, it’s sufficient enough to warrant an hour and a half of easy going fun. Ginny Simms is a wooden and stiff actress, but a good singer, and George Murphy could never compare to his better known counterparts (Kelly and Astaire), but he pulls the role decently enough. Only slightly bigger name is Gloria DeHaven, barely 20 here and in her full energetic late teens glory. There are a couple of good singing and dancing numbers, and you get the chance to see Lena Horne!
The musical stream continued with Meet the People. A modest film with no big production values, it’s far from a very good movie but it fits the bill of a mid tier musical. The plot is, surprise! surprise! closely connected to staging a musical show. Lucille Ball and Dick Powell are typically good in the leads, plus is features some other MGM musical stock actors and actresses like Virginia O’Brien, Bert Lahr and June Allyson.
Mary’s last movie was Bathing Beauty. It is the seminal Esther Williams musical extravaganza movie. Here she has the perfect partner – Red Skelton, one of the premiere comedians of the time. These kind of movies are never intellectually stimulating nor first class art, but if you like funny, breezy films, do not miss! And the “aquatic” numbers Esther excelled in are a feast for the sore yes even today, more than 60 years later!
Mary got married and left Hollywood not long after.
Mary was 5’4 and a half inches tall, weighted 110 lbs, and her bust and hips were 34 inches. Her favorite perfume was L’heure Bleue, and her hobby was collecting Degas’ work connected to ballet dancers (obviously not the originals, but still an admirable pastime 🙂 ). She was superstitious and never whistled in the dressing room. She enjoed reading works by O. Henry, and had a sweet tooth, especially for french pastries.
Despite her status as a pretty chorus girl, she did not gather that much newspaper notices. In October 1941, she was a duet with Buddy Allen. Then, she met the man she was to marry one day – Jack Hopkins, a handsome and wealthy youth from one of the most prominent Cleveland families (while I never found any final evidence to confirm it, I strongly suspect that Jack is a scion of the Hopkins family centered around William Hopkins, a noted lawyer and philanthropist in the Cleveland area. Today the Cleveland Hopkins Airport is named after him. William did not have any children, so could he a nephew or cousin).
Jack’s previous amorous record was far from stellar. He was, what I would call, a “romance star seeker”. Member of a rich family, educated in the best schools and probably an idle youth, he drifted, like many of his class, to Hollywood to try and nag themselves some luscious girls. Yep, Hollywood in the 1940s was a golden mine of stunnign beauty, as a greta number of girls who taught themselves lookers and wanted to make a dime, had at least a modicum of chance of living the high life and truly earn some money.
Hopkins was quite unsuccessful in his “seek a star” quest, but he tried very, very hard! First, he was an earnest contender for Judy Garland’s “serious boyfriend post”. When he first came to Hollywood in the late 1930s, he wormed his way into Judy’s bunch, along with such luminaries like Robert Stack, Bonita Granville, Forrest Tucker and so on. It seems that Jack was very much smitten with Judy, and even wanted to marry her – but she was less so and the attachment was broken. Judy went on to marry David Rose not long after. In 1940, Jack gave an engagement ring to June Pressier, the famous acrobatic actress, but she was so popular with the boys that Jack was probably nothing more than a back burner guy for her.
Not at all miffed, Jack continued his love pursuits, and tried to woo Linda Darnell. He send her 8 white orchids on her birthday in October 1941. Unfortunately, he was not Linda’s cup of tea – when you are dated by men like Milton Berle and Mickey Rooney, it’s no surprise. Then came Mary’s turn.
I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be thrilled to meet such a guy, let alone marry him! On the other hand, maybe he was a great person underneath, you just never know 🙂 Anyway, Mary and Jack started dating in early 1942, and he often flew to Los Angeles and New York to be with her. After several years of romance, they married in May 1945. Logically, she retired from movies and moved to Cleveland with her hubby. Their child, a 8 pound baby boy, was born in September 1946.
Mary falls off the radar from then on, but I hope she became a successful socialite in the Cleveland area and lived happily ever after!