Mary Ann Mobley was a raven-haired Mississippian who was crowned Miss America in 1958 and parlayed her victory into an acting career. The highlight was when she twice played opposite Elvis Presley in 1965.
She was far down in the cast of Girl Happy but the former beauty queen proved fetching in a bikini and was elevated to a lead role in Harum Scarum as a princess bedecked in what she described as “about 17 million yards of orange chiffon and I don’t know how many pounds of fake hair.” She recalled that Presley, who also was born in Mississippi, put on his finest Southern manners with her and did all he could to help her overcome her nervousness before the camera. His efforts perhaps worked too well; she accidentally hit him with a vase while filming a scene in Girl Happy. “He said, ‘Mary Ann, you’re supposed to miss me,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, but you forget I played softball.’”
After studying drama Mobley sang the Puccini aria “Un Bel Di” and a sultry version of the jazz standard “There’ll Be Some Changes Made” in the talent portion of the 1958 Miss America competition. She made her debut on Broadway in Nowhere to Go But Up, a short-lived 1962 musical, then went to Los Angeles. She was a guest star on shows like Perry Mason, Mission: Impossible and Falcon Crest.
She made documentaries about children in African war zones. Once, she came under hostile fire in Mozambique. “I just pretended it was a movie set,” she recalled, “and waited for the director to yell cut.”
Mary Ann Mobley, actress: born Biloxi 17 February 1937; married 1967 Gary Collins (died 2012; one daughter, two stepchildren); died Beverly Hills 9 December 2014.
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