Actress and philanthropist Mary Howard, a minor MGM leading lady in the early 1940s, died at age 96 on June 6.
Born Mary Rogers on May 18, 1913, in Independence, Kansas, she performed on the New York stage – including the Ziegfeld Follies – before moving to Hollywood in the early 1930s.
The young actress spent several years playing mostly bit parts in assorted films before changing her name to Mary Howard. At that point, she landed bigger roles in MGM fare such as Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), starring Mickey Rooney, and S. Sylvan Simon’s accomplished B melodrama Four Girls in White (1939), with Howard, Florence Rice, Una Merkel, and Ann Rutherford as young nurses.
Frank Morgan & Edgar Allan Poe
Also at MGM, in 1941 she was con artist Frank Morgan’s daughter in The Wild Man in Borneo (photo) and Robert Taylor’s leading lady (in what actually amounted to a supporting role) in the color Western Billy the Kid. Neither film did much for her career. She had better luck at RKO, where she played Ann Rutledge to Raymond Massey’s Abraham Lincoln in Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940).
Following her appearance in a supporting role in the Fox production The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe (1942), Howard moved back to New York. She married Broadway producer Alfred de Liagre Jr in 1945 and retired from show business. Alfred de Liagre died in 1987.
Mary Howard later became active in several philanthropic organizations, including Recording for the Blind, the Princess Grace Foundation, and various AIDS charities. She also helped to set up the Meredith Harless Memorial Endowment at Arizona State University. Harless, who was one of Howard’s twin sisters, was the first woman to broadcast on Arizona television.