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Martha Hyer
Martha Hyer Sabrina.jpg
Hyer in 1954
Born (1924-08-10)August 10, 1924
Died May 31, 2014(2014-05-31) (aged 89)
Alma mater Northwestern University
Occupation Actress
Years active 1946–1974
C. Ray Stahl
(m. 1951; div. 1954)

(m. 1966; died 1986)

Martha Hyer (August 10, 1924 – May 31, 2014) was an American actress who played Gwen French in Some Came Running (1958), for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her autobiography, Finding My Way: A Hollywood Memoir, was published in 1990.

Early and personal life

Martha Hyer was born in Fort Worth, Texas, into a wealthy family, the daughter of Julien Capers Hyer, an attorney and judge, and Agnes Rebecca (née Barnhart). She was the middle of three sisters, with Agnes Ann and Jeanne. The Hyers were active in the Methodist church, where her father was a highly respected Sunday school teacher. Hyer graduated from Arlington Heights High School and then from Northwestern University with a degree in drama. She was in the sorority Pi Beta Phi with actress Patricia Neal. She then moved to California to study at the Pasadena Playhouse, and soon after was signed to a film contract with RKO. She was married twice, first to producer C. Ray Stahl and later to producer Hal B. Wallis. She converted to Judaism, Wallis's religion, after their marriage. Wallis and Hyer remained together until his death in 1986. Hyer and Wallis contributed funds towards the construction of The Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theatre, a black box theater, at Northwestern University. She had no children.

Film and television

Martha Hyer in Battle Hymn trailer
Hyer in trailer for Battle Hymn (1957)

Hyer's first film appearance was an uncredited speaking part in The Locket (1946). She appeared in uncredited and bit roles in B-movies for the next few years, occasionally working on television, as well. Eventually, she moved up the ranks, and starting in 1954, began receiving better roles, becoming a popular actress in Hollywood for the next decade.

Hyer had a supporting role in the drama So Big (1953), which stars Jane Wyman, and was directed by Robert Wise. She appeared as Janie in Abbott and Costello Go To Mars (also 1953). Hyer followed this with Westerns, Wyoming Renegades (1954) and The Battle of Rogue River (1954), and a musical comedy, Lucky Me (1954), which stars Doris Day. She then played Elizabeth Tyson, a socialite who almost loses her fiancé (William Holden) to Audrey Hepburn, in the Oscar-winning film Sabrina (1954). She next starred opposite Donald O'Connor in the comedy Francis in the Navy (1955) and in a 1956 televised version of Jezebel for Lux Video Theatre in which she played the lead role of Julie.

Some Came Running film premiere (1958-12-18) - Martin, Hyer, Sinatra publicity photo
Flanked by Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra at Some Came Running (1958) premiere

She had supporting roles in the war story Battle Hymn (1957) with Rock Hudson and in the drama Mister Cory (1957) with Tony Curtis, directed by Blake Edwards. She was featured in Kelly and Me, a comedy with Van Johnson, and as Cornelia Bullock in the 1957 remake of My Man Godfrey with David Niven. In 1958, Hyer appeared in a Playhouse 90 televised version of Reunion by Merle Miller, along with Frances Farmer. She next appeared in Paris Holiday (1958) with Bob Hope and Houseboat (1958) with Cary Grant. Hyer was the foil for soon-to-be TV icons Dan Rowan and Dick Martin of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In fame in their Once Upon a Horse... (1958) Western film by Hal Kanter. For the 1958 drama Some Came Running, directed by Vincente Minnelli, Hyer was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Soon after, she had supporting roles in The Big Fisherman (1959) and The Best of Everything (1959) with Joan Crawford. Also in 1959 Martha played the role of Hannah Haley in Rawhide (TV series) S1 Ep 8 Incident West Of Lano.

Hyer started the 1960s with a supporting role in Ice Palace (1960), a drama with Richard Burton, and The Last Time I Saw Archie (1961), a comedy with Robert Mitchum. Next she was in A Girl Named Tamiko (1962), Wives and Lovers, and The Carpetbaggers (1964).

By 1964, Hyer had turned 40 and after a decade of success, began having trouble finding good roles, and worked mainly in television and in European and American B-films. She did appear in two episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, ('"A Piece Of Action" in 1962 and "Crimson Witness" in 1965). Also in 1965, she was in The Sons of Katie Elder, a Western with John Wayne and Dean Martin. .....

In 1966, she was in The Chase, directed by Arthur Penn and starring Marlon Brando and Robert Redford. On television, she guest-starred on The Beverly Hillbillies in the episode "The Richest Woman", in which she plays Tracy Richards, the world's richest woman. In the late 1960s, she starred in the film drama Some May Live, the crime comedy The Happening, and the suspense film Crossplot. In 1967, she guest-starred on Family Affair in the episode "Star Dust", in which she plays Carol Haven, a movie star.

Her final film role was in The Day of the Wolves (1971) and her final television role was in a 1974 episode of McCloud. At age 50, she retired from acting, although she later wrote the screenplay to the 1975 Western Rooster Cogburn, starring John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn.

Retirement and death

Hyer enjoyed a quiet retirement through the 1980s and 1990s. She died on May 31, 2014, at the age of 89 from natural causes in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she had lived for many years.

Selected filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1946 The Locket Bridesmaid Uncredited
1947 Born to Kill Maid Uncredited
Thunder Mountain Ellie Jorth
The Woman on the Beach Mrs. Barton Uncredited
The Judge Steps Out Catherine Bailey Struthers III
1948 The Velvet Touch Helen Adams
Gun Smugglers Judy Davis
1949 Rustlers Ruth Abbott
Roughshod Marcia
The Clay Pigeon Miss Harwick - Wheeler's Receptionist
1950 Outcast of Black Mesa Ruth Dorn
Salt Lake Raiders Helen Thornton
The Lawless Caroline Tyler
Frisco Tornado Jean Martin
The Kangaroo Kid Mary Corbett
1951 Oriental Evil Cheryl Banning
1952 Wild Stallion Caroline Cullen
Geisha Girl Peggy Burnes
Yukon Gold Marie Briand
1953 Abbott and Costello Go to Mars Janie Howe
So Big Paula Hempel
1954 Riders to the Stars Dr. Jane Flynn
The Scarlet Spear Christine
The Battle of Rogue River Brett McClain
Lucky Me Lorraine Thayer
Down Three Dark Streets Connie Anderson
Sabrina Elizabeth Tyson
Cry Vengeance Peggy Harding
1955 Wyoming Renegades Nancy Warren
Francis in the Navy Betsy Donevan
Kiss of Fire Felicia
Paris Follies of 1956 Ruth Harmon
1956 Red Sundown Caroline Murphy
Showdown at Abilene Peggy Bigelow
1957 Kelly and Me Lucy Castle
Battle Hymn Mary Hess
Mister Cory Abby Vollard
The Delicate Delinquent Martha Henshaw
My Man Godfrey Cornelia Bullock
1958 Paris Holiday Ann McCall
Once Upon a Horse... Miss Amity Babb
Houseboat Carolyn Gibson
Some Came Running Gwen French Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1959 The Big Fisherman Herodias
The Best of Everything Barbara Lamont
1960 Ice Palace Dorothy Wendt Kennedy
Mistress of the World Karin Johansson
Desire in the Dust Melinda Marquand
1961 The Right Approach Anne Perry
The Last Time I Saw Archie Peggy Kramer
1962 A Girl Named Tamiko Fay Wilson
1963 The Man from the Diner's Club Lucy
Wives and Lovers Lucinda Ford
1964 Pyro... The Thing Without a Face Laura Blanco
The Carpetbaggers Jennie Denton
First Men in the Moon Kate / Kate Callender
Bikini Beach Vivien Clements
Blood on the Arrow Nancy Mailer
1965 The Sons of Katie Elder Mary Gordon
War, Italian Style Lt. Inge Schultze
1966 The Chase Mary Fuller
The Night of the Grizzly Angela Cole
Cuernavaca en primavera Segment "El nido de amor"
Picture Mommy Dead Francene Shelley
1967 The Happening Monica
The House of 1,000 Dolls Rebecca
Another's Wife Ana María
Some May Live Kate Meredith
Catch as Catch Can Luisa Chiaramonte
1969 Once You Kiss a Stranger Lee
Crossplot Jo Grinling
1971 The Day of the Wolves Maggie Anderson Final film role
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