Mary Casiday came to Hollywood as a pretty model, managed to nab a studio contract and stayed. She never did any serious dramatic work, but like most girls who had such careers, her whole life was shaped by Los Angeles, a town she would have probably never visited if not for Hollywood. Let’s hear more about her!
Mary Alice Irene Casiday was born in 1917 to Samuel Carlyle Casiday and Daisy Elizabeth Harrower in Des Moines, Iowa. Her father was a plumber. Her older brother was Carlyle Leure, born in 1916, and her younger sister was Daisy Elizabeth, born in 1919. The family moved to Omaha, Nebraska at some point and Mary grew up there. After she graduated from high school (St. Mary’s Convent), she found work as a model in Omaha.
Mary was a model for a short time when she decided to try the movies. Her story is actually a very inspiring one – in a town where many girls pine for months (and sometimes for years) for their chance to appear in movies , May had it very easy – she applied for a job on a Friday and got her first call the following Monday. As a complete newcomer, she knew so little about Hollywood that she went to the wrong studio on the first day of work. Luckily, she managed to find the correct studio and her career was of!
What to say about Dames? A typical Busby Berkeley musical, that is the same as most of his other work – no plot, lots of dancing, singing and scantly clothed chorus girls. And guess who Mary was? A chorus girl, of course! While I myself am not a fan of such movie,s it’s still very, very impressive to see the perfectly choreographed scenes and one can’t help but admire Busby’s impeccable sense for elegant but abundant (is there a word that can truly nail it down?) motion. While not his best, this one stand the test of time and it’s more than watchable today.
Westward the Women is a different story. While this is no work of art comparable to the bets movie ever made, it’s still a great movie from William Wellman, one of the undisputed masters of the 20th century. The movie is about a trail guide escorts a group of women from Chicago to California to marry men that have recently began settling there. And boy, is it one of the very few movies realistically depicting pioneer life! Like it usually does Hollywood glamorized the hard knock, very difficult pioneer life, but not so much here, as she movie tackled it head on and hides nothing. As a result, it’s not easy to watch it, but it’s incredibly interesting and even inspiring to see people who beat terrible odds to keep living on a normal life in such surroundings. The cast is also pretty good – from Robert Taylor, already past his pretty boy stage, to a whole arena of female actresses (Denise Darcel, Julie Bishop, Marilyn Erskine, Hope Emerson and so on), Wellman makes it work as smoothly as clockwork, and it’s a testament to his prowess as a director.
Unfortunately, that was it from Mary as far as IMDB claims. Her obituary tells a different story – allegedly she worked for Warner Bros and later William Randolph Hearst Production Co. all the way until the mid 1950s. That means she could have been in other movies or TV shows under different names, or IMDB just doesn’t have all the information, but now I guess we’ll never know unless somebody goes some through information digging. The obituary also states that she appeared in several Busby Berkeley movies with their lavish production numbers, and was selected Miss Golden Girl in the Berkeley troupe. But let’s leave it at that!
In 1939, Mary started dating Clifford Welch (whoever he was!). In typical Hollywood style, whenever Welch was not in town, she had other swains. Once they were Anthony Averill and Dick Purcell who were her “gay caballeros” (as the columnists called them) while Cliff was back in the East. They squirmed her at Grace Hayes’ Lodge.
However, Cliff was Mary’s one true hearty toddy. That same year, Clifford Welch flew in from New York just to help Mary celebrate her birthday. It seemed that they were a serious couple for a time, but it seems they broke up the next year.
Mary made a personal appearance at the San Francisco Fair last week-end for Princess Do Ling, former lady in waiting to the late Empress Dowager of China. A barbecued chicken dinner following a long horseback trek was enjoyed by the clever hostess (Mary).
In 1940, after she and Cliff called it quits, she nabbed Dick Purcell, her old swain, from her love rival Vicki Lester. Hollywood sure was a small place back then, and people dated extensively.
Here is a short, fun story about Mary’s chorus days in Hollywood:
Chorines just now are rehearsing from noon until 6 p. m.. and performing; from 8:30 until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. Yesterday evening, about 8 o’clock, Carroll’s chief aide-de-camp, Herman Hover was descending a flight of backstage stairs. Suddenly a bell began to jangle under his feet and with a horror-stricken shout of “TIME BOMB LOOK OUT:” Mr. Hover took the rest of the steps at a single bound. And from under the stairs where they had made a bed of blankets and pillows emerged Mary Casiday and Patti Sacks. Too tired to go home, they had set an alarm to insure waking up in time for the show
In 1940, there were news that Mary would undergo an appendectomy as soon as her strength is built sufficiently for the ordeal. It seems Mary was generally a fragile little thing and was not in the best of health for periods of time. The operation didn’t go as planned and Mary was allegedly hovering between life and death for some time afterwards. Time went by and she was no better and her friends were greatly worried. Luckily, after a dark time, she recuperated and resumes her Hollywood career.
It seems Mary was involved with handsome actor Lyle Talbot for a time – she gave him a big farewell party when he was scheduled to leave for Philadelphia to play in “Thanks for My Wife”. Unfortunately, the relationship ended soon afterwards. However, Mar’y love life continued unhindered. In 1941, she was getting a terrific rush from Edmund McDonald, in the construction business in San Francisco. Soon, there were stories all around how Edmund asked her to marry him and wedding bells would sound soon for the duo. And then nothing happened. I mean literary, no information about why they broke up or anything.
In May 1942, Mary was back in the hospital for another operation, but this time it all went well, and she got ready for the big event of the year – her wedding. In December 1942, Mary married Cecil Joseph Bye. Here is a newspaper clip about the marriage:
BYE-CASIDAY The wedding date of Dec. 30 for Miss Mary Casiday and Cecil Joseph Bye was announced at the surprise bridal shower given for the bride-elect by Mrs. Frederick Maxwell Karger in her Hollywood home. The marriage will be solemnized at the Sacred Heart of Mary. Miss Casiday is a graduate of St. Mary’s Convent, Omaha, and vice-president of the Army Camps Kmergency Service. Mr. Bye Is attending officers’ candidate school, Camp Davis, North Carolina, and is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati.
Mary Casiday Bye died on November 3, 1998 in Los Angeles.