Birth Name: Virginia Clara Jones
Height: 5' 5"
Quote: "Working with comedians like [Bob Hope] and [Danny Kaye] taught me timing, pace and fine points of acting I never would have learned otherwise."
One of her first films was the 1943 hit Jack London, which starred her future husband Michael O'Shea. Other roles soon followed as she became a popular actress who personified the dream girl or girl-next-door image in a series of films. Her first starring role came in 1944 opposite comedian Bob Hope in The Princess and the Pirate. Remaining in the comedy genre, Mayo had several popular on-screen pairings with dancer-actor Danny Kaye, including Wonder Man (1945), The Kid from Brooklyn (1946), and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947).
Going against previous stereotype, Mayo accepted the supporting role of unsympathetic gold-digger Marie Derry in William Wyler's drama The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). Her performance drew favorable reviews from critics, as the film also became the highest-grossing film inside the US since Gone with the Wind. At the zenith of her career, Mayo was seen as the quintessential voluptuous Hollywood beauty.
She would continue a series of dramatic performances in the late 1940s in films such as Smart Girls Don't Talk (1948). Virginia Mayo was a constant fixture in the movie theaters in 1949 as she co-starred in many movies all released that year. Among them were Flaxy Martin, opposite Joel McCrea in the western Colorado Territory, co-starred with future United States President Ronald Reagan in The Girl from Jones Beach, and with comedian Milton Berle in Always Leave Them Laughing. Mixing drama with comedy roles all year, Mayo received rave reviews for her performance alongside James Cagney and Edmond O'Brien in 1949's White Heat and received equally impressive reviews for co-starring with George Raft in Roy Del Ruth's Red Light that same year.
At the beginning of the 1950s, Mayo scored success with the adventure film The Flame and the Arrow (1950) with Burt Lancaster. She co-starred again with James Cagney and a young Doris Day in The West Point Story (1950), singing and dancing with Cagney, and appeared in the all-star cast of Starlift (1951). She starred opposite Dennis Morgan in David Butler's Technicolor musical, Painting the Clouds with Sunshine (1951) which was a moderate success.
During the rest of the 1950s, Mayo continued to appear in films with varying genres. In 1953, she appeared in the comedy-drama-action film South Sea Woman with Burt Lancaster and Chuck Connors. She played Helena in Victor Saville's The Silver Chalice (1954) opposite Pier Angeli and Paul Newman in his film debut. Mayo co-starred with Rex Harrison and George Sanders in King Richard and the Crusaders (1954). Mayo played Cleopatra in the 1957 fantasy film The Story of Mankind with Vincent Price, Hedy Lamarr, Cesar Romero, Agnes Moorehead, and the Marx Brothers. Her last film of the decade was 1959's Jet Over the Atlantic with Guy Madison and George Raft.
By the 1960s, Mayo's film career had tapered off considerably, although she continued to appear in films throughout the next several decades, with one of her last prominent roles being in Fort Utah (1967) with John Ireland. She was also one of the several stars to make a cameo appearance in the all-star box office bomb Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976). Her final film appearance was in the 1997 film The Man Next Door.
Mayo died of pneumonia and complications of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles on January 17, 2005, aged 84.
1. Man Next Door, The (1997)
2. Burt Lancaster: Daring To Reach (1996) as Interviewee.
3. Midnight Witness (1993)
4. James Cagney: Top Of The World (1992)
5. Evil Spirits (1991)
6. French Quarter (1978)
7. Haunted (1977)
8. Fort Utah (1967) as Linda Lee .
9. Castle of Evil (1966) as Sable .
10. Young Fury (1965) as Sara McCoy .
11. Revolt of the Mercenaries (1964) as Lady Patrizia .
12. Jet over the Atlantic (1959) as Jean Gurney .
13. Westbound (1959) as Norma Putnam .
14. Fort Dobbs (1958) as Celia Gray .
15. The Story of Mankind (1957) as Cleopatra .
16. The Big Land (1957) as Helen Jagger .
17. The Tall Stranger (1957) as Ellen .
18. Congo Crossing (1956) as Louise Whitman .
19. The Proud Ones (1956) as Sally .
20. Great Day in the Morning (1956) as Ann Alaine .
21. The Silver Chalice (1955) as Helena .
22. Pearl of the South Pacific (1955) as Rita Delaine .
23. King Richard and the Crusaders (1954) as Lady Edith .
24. Devil's Canyon (1953) as Abby Nixon .
25. She's Back on Broadway (1953) as Catherine Terris .
26. South Sea Woman (1953) as Ginger Martin .
27. She's Working Her Way Through College (1952) as Angela Gardner, also known as Hot Garters Gertie .
28. The Iron Mistress (1952) as Judalon de Bornay .
29. Painting the Clouds with Sunshine (1951) as Carol .
30. Starlift (1951) as Herself .
31. Captain Horatio Hornblower (1951) as Lady Barbara Wellesley .
32. Along the Great Divide (1951) as Ann Keith .
33. The Flame and the Arrow (1950) as Anne .
34. Backfire (1950) as Julie Benson .
35. The West Point Story (1950) as Eve Dillon .
36. Colorado Territory (1949) as Colorado Carson .
37. Flaxy Martin (1949) as Flaxy Martin .
38. White Heat (1949) as Verna Jarrett .
39. Red Light (1949) as Carla North .
40. Always Leave Them Laughing (1949) as Nancy Egan .
41. The Girl from Jones Beach (1949) as Ruth Wilson .
42. Smart Girls Don't Talk (1948) as Linda Vickers .
43. A Song Is Born (1948) as Honey Swanson .
44. Out of the Blue (1947) as Deborah Tyler .
45. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) as Rosalind Van Hoorn
46. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) as Marie Derry .
47. The Kid from Brooklyn (1946) as Polly Pringle [Martin] .
48. Wonder Man (1945) as Ellen Shanley .
49. The Princess and the Pirate (1944) as [Princess] Margaret .
50. Seven Days Ashore (1944) as Carol Dean .
51. Up in Arms (1944) as Nurse .
52. Jack London (1943) as Mamie .