MARY ANN MOBLEY: WHY I SAID NO TO LEE MAJORS
Article by Todd Nolan / Movie Life / May 1967
Mary Ann Mobley and Lee Majors. You could almost type-cast them as the perfect couple. And at least one of them – Lee Majors – thought so, too. There even was a time when it appeared that Mary Ann shared that opinion.
Mary Ann Mobley is one of the most pertly beautiful of all of Hollywood’s young actresses. A charming southern girl, with all the charm that excellent rearing and pleasant surroundings can produce. Add to that Mary Ann’s cute, curvaceous figure, her warm smile, her happy, outgoing nature, and you have a really stunning total.
Which is exactly why she was named Miss America. And why her very real talents got a chance in Hollywood when a lot of other pretty girls failed.
Lee Majors, a young man also from the South, found Mary Ann Mobley irresistible. Lee, with his quietly handsome face and beautifully developed physique, and his blond hair, was a perfect foil for this girl’s dark, twinkling prettiness.
It was a lovely romance – until Lee Majors bombed it. By forgetting that, in addition to every thing else, Mary Ann Mobley is that rarity among Hollywood actresses – a real lady.
Mary Ann and Lee first met on, of all places the set of the movie Girl Happy, in which Mary Ann was starring with Elvis Presley, another southerner of note. It was her first starring role, and she had been in Hollywood only a short time, having come there originally to appear in the stage show Guys and Dolls, with Betty Grable and Hugh O’Brian. She was an instant hit. So much so that she drew the attention of a well-known motion picture director who gave her co-starring billing opposite Elvis in her very first picture. There were those who predicted a romance for the couple. But that quickly changed the day Lee Majors walked onto the set and met Mary Ann.
Lee had not yet gained his present success and popularity. In fact, he had not as yet done one major acting role. He was a visitor that fateful day – a young, unknown hopeful who was on the lot to make a test for an upcoming series. But Lee had important friends who believed in him, among them Rock Hudson. Rock, who had met Lee while on location for a picture, had become fast friends with the younger man and encouraged him in his desire to act.
And, at the time, Lee had not been parted from his first wife very long. He was still reeling from the effects of that failure and the separation from his baby son. Oh, true, Lee Jr. still lived in Hollywood, but Lee, working hard to get his acting career going whilst putting in full time as a recreation instructor for the city, didn’t get to see his little boy as much as he’d have liked.
Mary Ann was just the tonic needed to bring the introverted young acting aspirant out of his doldrums.
She did. Mary Ann was drawn to Lee too. Greatly drawn. Long before he was famous, long before Lee Majors even owned an automobile, he and Mary Ann dated. Dated at all the inexpensive places a young man with financial difficulties takes a girl. And Mary Ann, content to be in his company, had the time of her life. She had never been overly impressed with the expensive, glamorous places in town – any town, whether it be New York or Hollywood.
Then lightening struck Lee Majors and the test he was making the day he met Mary Ann paid off. He won a leading role in the TV series The Big Valley.
With his first money, Lee moved to a small secluded ranch in Malibu Canyon, a long way from the studio. So far that he often found it impossible to go home at night, so he slept where he filmed.
And one night, when Mary Ann dropped him off there at the end of a pleasant evening, Lee ran into trouble. The guard at the gate didn’t recognise the newcomer, and refused to let Lee inside. Unable to convince the guard, Lee went back to the car, and he and Mary Ann drove off.
Apparently. In actuality, laughing gleefully at their own young daring, they drove only around the corner, out of the eyesight of the recalcitrant guard. There Mary Ann stopped her car, and Lee got out once more. Glancing quickly from left to right, he ran, leaped, and grabbed the top of the wall around the lot.
So it went. A real romance. With Lee Majors on the telephone several times a day from the studio. And when he was sent on location or on promotional tours for the program, he was amazingly constant in writing to Mary Ann. Love letters that only a moon-struck young man away from the girl he adored could write. Both careers blossomed. Mary Ann immediately became one of the most-in-demand actresses in town. And Lee Majors was granted instant stardom when ABC’s The Big Valley went on air.
And being sensible as well as young, the two had other dates as well. Perhaps they wanted to test, to see if their love was the real thing, or only a mutual passing fancy. Mary Ann did not limit her dates to any one person. She was too popular for that. But Lee did. To Patti Chandler, whom he had recently met. He saw so much of her that when Patti left town on a personal appearance tour of her own, she left her car with Lee. Lee, at the time, had not yet found it monetarily feasible to buy one of his own.
During Patti’s absence from Hollywood, Lee made a date with Mary Ann. He called for her in Patti Chandler’s car. A mistake beyond repair.
Mary Ann somehow could not see a fellow using one girl’s car to pick up another for a date. It went against the grain of every bit of her upbringing, and she protested. It just wasn’t done; she tried to explain to Lee. It wasn’t courteous. In a way, it was an insult to both girls. Lee didn’t see it that way. Or perhaps he didn’t want to. Whatever, they had words. And Lee saw Mary Ann looking at him keenly several times during the evening. But when the date was over, and Lee brought Mary Ann home, everything seemed all right to him. He asked to see her again the next night.
He got knocked right off his seat when the beauty from Mississippi replied coolly, “I don’t think so, Lee.”
That was the very last date Lee Majors ever was able to get with Mary Ann Mobley. No matter how often he called, nor how many times he asked, she would never go out with him again. Since then, Lee’s romance with Patti Chandler has run hot and cold. Right now, it’s in a deep freeze. Popular, handsome, now affluent, Lee has dated just about every young beauty in town. Often in the company of also-divorced Ryan O’Neal, who has become one of his closest friends.
But Lee hasn’t dated Mary Ann Mobley. Not since the night when he was foolish enough to commit what Mary Ann considered to be a failure in manners. It was a bitter lesson Lee learned. One that taught him that, whilst Mary Ann Moberly doesn't care about a fellow having money or being famous, she definitely cares about one thing.
Mary Ann Moberly cares that about a man's being a gentleman. If he's not that, he doesn't qualify.
It's the test Lee Majors failed.