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1959

Mary Ann Mobley
Brandon, Mississippi

Since the year 1921 thousands of young American beauties have aspired to the crown of "Miss America." Some of the winners have gone on to careers in television commercials, public relations or marriage. In fact, their careers have been as different and as varied as the girls themselves.

But from the moment Mary Ann Mobley set foot on stage in Convention Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and sang Puccini's "Un Bel Di" and then belted out "There'll Be Some Changes Made" she was destined to become one of the most popular and most successful Miss Americas. She is probably the only Miss America ever to achieve success in film, television, Broadway, personal appearances, and as a documentary filmmaker.

Mobley's most gratifying work of late has been her visits to Cambodia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Somalia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and the Sudan where she has filmed hour-long documentaries that provided in-depth looks at the plight of millions of children who are helpless victims of war and deprivation. Mobley was the only woman in a five-man crew - the first American TV film team to enter communist Cambodia. "The trip was one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my life" she says. She returns to these countries frequently to continue her work in filming documentaries. She recently filmed Children Running Out Of Time on the work of the medical personnel in these countries. Mobley, having lived in Kenya during the filming of the TV series Born Free with her husband and star of the show, Gary Collins, and having seen first-hand the devastation there, feels a special personal commitment to help the underprivileged of the poor nations of the world.

She continues her courageous and tireless efforts to enter war zones and drought-ridden lands to film documentaries. After being shot at in Mozambique by the guerilla forces she commented, "I just pretended it was a movie set and waited for the director to yell cut."

Mobley has donated time, money and effort to other worthwhile causes. She has been involved with the March of Dimes for the past twenty-five years. For three years she served as the National Chairman of the Mother's March Against Birth Defects, and now serves on the National Board of Trustees of the March of Dimes. She is also a member of the Board of The National Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, and The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. By Presidential appointment she is currently serving on the National Council on Disability. Mobley is a member of SHARE, Inc., a Los Angeles-based women's organization that has raised over six million dollars for the Exceptional Children's Foundation for the Mentally Retarded. In her home state of Mississippi she has helped raise funds for the Willowood Foundation which provides homes for young adults with mental and physical learning disabilities. One of the homes is called the Mary Ann Mobley/Gary Collins Group Home. She is most proud of The Mary Ann Mobley Pediatric Wing at the-Rankin General Hospital in her hometown of Brandon. With her first $2,500 check as an entertainer she bought chimes for the Brandon Methodist Church. The bells can still be heard for miles.

Professionally she made her Broadway debut as the ingénue lead in the Kermit Bloomgarten musical Nowhere To Go But Up directed by Sidney Lumet and choreographed by Michael Bennet. Although it proved a great personal success for Mary Ann, her opening night flowers were still fresh when the play closed. It was while she was appearing with Hugh O'Brien and Betty Grable in a production of Guys and Dolls that she was signed for her first motion picture. She starred opposite another Mississippian, Elvis Presley, in Girl Happy and Harum Scarum at MGM. A five-year year contract followed. During that time she was nominated by the American Cinema Editors for "Best Performance by an Actress in a U.S. Film Debut". The United Theater Owners of America named her one of the "Top Ten Stars of Tomorrow". She also received the Motion Picture Herald Fame Award as one of the "Box Office Stars of Tomorrow" and the Hollywood Foreign Press presented her with a Golden Globe Award as the "International Female Star of Tomorrow".

She has appeared as a regular on the hit TV series Diff'rent Strokes as Maggie McKinney Drummond. She was a recurring character, Dr. Beth Everdeen, on Falcon Crest, and has appeared on Hearts Afire as recurring character Mary Fran Smithers. Also, she was Peaches Winnick in the Fox series, Hardball. Mobley is a frequent guest star on dramatic and comedy TV specials with more than one hundred guest appearances to her credit. One of her most treasured roles was in the American television premiere of Ingmar Bergman's The Lie with George Segal.

She has frequently appeared on the Miss America telecasts, and in 1988 co-hosted the event with her husband Gary Collins, helping him to fill twelve long minutes on live TV when the judges could not reach a decision.

While television and motion picture roles fill much of each year, Mobley spends at least some of her time on the stage, starring in musical productions such as Brigadoon, Oklahoma, Kiss Me Kate, Cabaret, The King and I, Hello Dolly, Irene, On A Clear Day, Guys and Dolls, Finian's Rainbow, and The Pajama Game. Together with husband Gary, she garnered rave reviews in playwright A.R. Gurney's Love Letters, reading missives that spanned decades of tea dances, summer camps, marriages and divorces. They are one of the few real-life husband and wife teams to appear in this popular play.

Not to be overlooked is Mobley's status as a daredevil and performer of death-defying circus acts. For five consecutive years Mobley performed in high-wire, trapeze, perch and web acts in the popular annual spectacular "Circus of the Stars". It takes weeks of training, blisters and strained muscles, but for her it's an exciting change of pace. She is also a certified scuba diver and is currently working on her advanced open water certification with an aim toward serving as a volunteer in underwater archeological expeditions. Mobley is an avid horsewoman, and participates in everything from showing Tennessee Walking Horses to riding in pro-celebrity rodeos in the team penning category.

Though she and husband Gary Collins live in Beverly Hills, California, she still maintains a home in Mississippi. Mississippi has not forgotten Mary Ann Mobley, and neither has one of the world's great authors and outstanding Mississippians, William Faulkner. They met while she was attending the University of Mississippi, and she is referred to fondly in the two-volume Faulkner biography written by Joseph Blotner. Mobley was voted into the University of Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame alongside Faulkner -- the first woman to be so honored.

Mobley makes public appearances throughout the United States speaking on world hunger, time management and the juggling of home and family. She is truly one of our most respected women in show business, and as one Hollywood reporter summed it up, "with her intelligence, beauty, vivacity, sincerity and concern for the underprivileged, Miss Mobley has become America's "Ambassador of Truth", a job we are all proud to have her serve..."

Mobley is married to Emmy-award winning actor and talk show host Gary Collins. Collins hosted Hour Magazine for nine years, and for five years hosted The Home Show on ABC. Collins and Mobley have a daughter, Mary Clancy Collins (named for her great-grandfather William Clancy Farish). Clancy is a graduate of Stanford University, after having studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and Oxford University in England. She is now Senior Vice President of Television Drama at Warner Brothers Studio Hollywood the Collins' life is unusual. They have had the same telephone number, the same house, and the same marriage for 44 years.

 

Mary Ann Mobley, Miss America 1959

Mary Ann Mobley, Miss America 1959

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