Religion and Broadway editor Hans Holznagel has just completed a new profile of Mary Martin, one of the brightest stars of the American stage in the 1950s. She created the title role of Peter Pan on Broadway in 1954, and of Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music in 1959.
Here’s the surprise: Mary Martin was born in December of 1913. That means she was 40 when she began playing “the boy who wouldn’t grow up,” and nearly 46 when she began playing the sweet young nun who falls for Captain von Trapp. Yowza!
By comparison, that would be like Meg Ryan or Demi Moore (or Dennis Rodman, always an entertainer) playing Maria on Broadway today. Not that those ladies are old-timers by any means, but no one would buy them (or Daryl Hannah either) as an exuberant young nun, either. Or, for that matter, as a young boy. (Rodman, it’s true, has the “boy who wouldn’t grow up” act down pat.)
Mary Martin is also known as the mother of Larry Hagman, star of TV’s I Dream of Jeannie and Dallas. But you have to give it up for her ageless wonder years of the 1950s.