Virginia Mayo was a luminous actress-dancer who rose to stardom in the 1940s. As a young star known for her ash blond hair, peaches-and-cream complexion, green eyes and curvaceous figure, Mayo caught the fancy of the sultan of Morocco, who wrote her a fan letter in which he proclaimed her to be "tangible proof of the existence of God."
As a former vaudevillian, Mayo came under the wing of producer Samuel Goldwyn, who launched her movie career in 1943. "He guided my career so beautifully," Mayo said of Goldwyn in 1981. Goldwyn's daily mentoring, along with the studio's grooming in poise, wardrobe and makeup, made her the quintessential dream girl: men swooned and women wanted to be her best friend. "Back in those days ... we were selling glamour. All of the moguls ... knew the same thing: They were selling dreams, and that consisted of glamour."
Mayo's sparkling charm and beauty, combined with her ability to play the foil to comedic greats, such as Danny Kaye and Bob Hope, made magic dance off the screen in Technicolor splashes and into audiences hearts. Unforgettable was her pairing with Danny Kaye in "The Kid From Brooklyn" (1946), "A Song Is Born" (1948) and "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (1947), and as Princess Margaret saved by Bob Hope's Sylvester the Great in "The Princess and the Pirate" (1944).
The former chorus girl, who began her career as the foil opposite two comics inside a horse costume in the vaudevillian act, "Pansy and the Horse," appeared in more than 40 films in the 1940s and '50s, including "White Heat" with James Cagney, "The Girl From Jones Beach" with Ronald Reagan, "The Best Years of Our Lives" with Dana Andrews, "Captain Horatio Hornblower" with Gregory Peck, "The Silver Chalice" with Paul Newman, "The Flame and the Arrow" with Burt Lancaster, "Along the Great Divide" with Kirk Douglas, and "Colorado Territory" with Joel McCrea.