Martha Stewart Dies: Fox Actress of the ’40s

Martha Stewart Perry ComoActress Martha Stewart (photo, with Perry Como), a pretty blonde who had supporting roles in a handful of Fox movies of the ’40s, died of "natural causes" in Northeast Harbor, Maine, last February 25. She was 89. Needless to say, that’s not the same Martha Stewart hawking "delicious foods" and whatever else on TV.

The Kentucky-born (Oct. 7, 1922) Stewart was reportedly discovered while singing at The Stork Club on Christmas 1944. Her film debut took place in Lewis Seiler’s Doll Face (1945), a musical film adaptation of Gypsy Rose Lee’s semi-autobiographical play The Naked Genius. Joan Blondell starred onstage for producer Michael Todd (Blondell’s, Evelyn Keyes’, and Elizabeth Taylor’s husband, at various times), but the show ran for only 36 performances. Vivian Blaine had the title role in the movie, a borderline B production — co-starring Carmen Miranda, but shot in black and white.

Additionally, Stewart supported Joan Crawford in Otto Preminger’s melodrama Daisy Kenyon (1947), June Haver in Lloyd Bacon’s musical I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now (1948), and Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame in Nicholas Ray’s film noir In a Lonely Place (1950). Stewart’s film career came to a halt after another supporting role, in the B musical Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick (1952). She’d have only one more film credit, the 1964 youth-oriented comedy musical Surf Party.

On Broadway, in late ’46/early ’47 Stewart played the young lead in the musical comedy Park Avenue, written by Nunnally Johnson (from his short story "Holy Matrimony") and George S. Kaufman, with music by Arthur Schwartz and Ira Gershwin — his last for a Broadway show. David Wayne, Ray McDonald, and Mary Wickes were also featured. [Note: Despite having Nunnally Johnson in common, Park Avenue and the 1943 movie Holy Matrimony came from different sources.]

On TV, Stewart guested in a handful of variety shows of the ’50s and early ’60s, before retiring from show business. She then worked as a school librarian for nearly four decades.

Her first husband, in the mid-’40s, was alcoholic comedian Joe E. Lewis, impersonated by Frank Sinatra in the highly romanticized Charles Vidor-directed 1957 biopic The Joker Is Wild. Mitzi Gaynor played Stewart.

Actor-writer George O’Hanlon, who appeared in dozens of "So You…" comedy shorts in the ’40s and ’50s and provided the voice of George Jetson in the 1990 animated feature The Jetsons, was her second husband. As per the IMDb, her third marriage was to a man named Jonathan Crowne; that union lasted considerably longer, from the early ’50s to his death in 2004. (I should add that the IMDb has Stewart married to both O’Hanlon and Crowne in 1951. Always a good reminder to take the information found there with a grain of salt.)

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3 Comments to Actress Martha Stewart Has Died

  1. Josh

    She actually married Crowne in 1952 after her divorce from O’Hanlon; she wasn’t married to the two in 1951. That change is still slowly taking place on her IMDb page.

  2. Gene C

    The first (and best) Martha Stewart was great with Bogie in the movie “In a Lonely Place”. An A+ character actress, she was very good in her roles.

  3. Mark

    Damn! Thought was Mitzi Gaynor that died. Only knew of Ms Stewart from Mitzi’s part in The Joker Is Wild. RIP

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