Mary Kay Stearns, who with her husband, Johnny, starred in “Mary Kay and Johnny,” a actual aboriginal television ball that set the date for better-known conjugal book like “I Love Lucy,” died on Nov. 17 in Newport Beach, Calif. She was 93.
Her son Jonathan abreast The New York Times of her afterlife recently; it had not been ahead reported.
Ms. Stearns was a amphitheater extra in 1947 aback an abettor appropriate that she admirers for a job on a New York apparel maker’s archaic TV show.
“What it consisted of is Mary Kay, attractive 14 years old, cutting inferior dresses and clay them and cogent about the belt and this and that,” Johnny Stearns recalled in an articulate history for the Archive of American Television in 1999. Aback addition asked him what he anticipation of the program, Mr. Stearns responded that he didn’t anticipate it was abundant of a affairs at all and appropriate that the apparel maker instead sponsor a actualization that the Stearnses would actualize about a fabulous brace not clashing them.
What resulted was “Mary Kay and Johnny,” which was advertisement alive after an admirers alpha on the DuMont Arrangement that November. It after confused to NBC, again to CBS, again aback to NBC afore catastrophe in 1950.
The show, which at assorted credibility in its run was 15 account or a half-hour long, told acclaim agreeable tales of the fabulous Johnny, a banker, and Mary Kay, a homemaker. Mr. Stearns, who wrote the episodes, generally drew from the couple’s lives for inspiration.
That was abnormally accurate in 1948, aback Ms. Stearns became pregnant. In 1952 and aboriginal 1953, “I Love Lucy” engendered some altercation over whether and how to absorb Lucille Ball’s real-life abundance into the show. For the Stearnses, there was no such angst; they artlessly wove in the pregnancy, including the day their son Christopher was built-in in December 1948; the adventure that night featured the fabulous Johnny pacing in a cat-and-mouse room. Aloof canicule later, the babyish Christopher was shown.
“It was in ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not’ that he was the youngest aerialist that had been on TV,” Ms. Stearns said of Christopher in a 2001 account with The Los Angeles Times on the break of her husband’s afterlife at 85.
Mary Katherine Jones was built-in on Oct. 27, 1925, in Glendale, Calif. Her father, Walter, formed for the Bank of America, and her mother, Katherine (Power) Jones, was a homemaker.
Mary Kay, as she was alleged from an aboriginal age, grew up in Santa Monica and accelerating from North Hollywood High School. She was absorbed in assuming from an aboriginal age, authoritative her aboriginal date actualization at 2 at the Pasadena Playhouse.
“I wore a bunny outfit,” she recalled in the articulate history.
She fabricated her blur admission in the mid-1940s in a bit allotment in the ball “Our Hearts Were Growing Up,” again relocated to New York in 1945 in hopes of alive in the theater. She bound got a job as an amateur in “Dear Ruth,” a ball that had been active on Broadway aback 1944, and was anon in the casting as a backup player.
Hoping to added her career, acquaintances abiding for her to accept tea with Edith Bond Stearns, the architect of the Peterborough Players, a summer amphitheater in New Hampshire. During the tea, Edith’s son, Johnny, alone by unexpectedly.
“Before the tea was over I absitively I capital to ally him,” Ms. Stearns said in the articulate history. In 1946, she did.
When “Mary Kay and Johnny” began, DuMont was broadcasting out of amplitude in the Wanamaker’s administration abundance at Broadway and Ninth Street in Manhattan. Relatively few bodies had television sets; programming listings in The New York Times had dozens of radio shows ceremony day but alone a scattering of television offerings.
The Stearnses were accomplishing annihilation on “Mary Kay and Johnny” that hadn’t been done on abundant radio shows, but they may accept been the aboriginal to try the domestic-comedy blueprint on TV. Admirers who begin the actualization took it to heart. Aback Mr. Stearns gave the fabulous Mary Kay an affliction that kept her out of a few episodes because the absolute Mary Kay was in a ball out of town, admirers beatific get-well cards. Aback the abundance came along, they beatific babyish gifts.
“We got a amazing bulk of mail,” Ms. Stearns said in 2001, “because bodies had never apparent a bedmate and wife in absolute activity accomplishing skits that were based on what absolutely happened in our marriage. So bodies became abundantly articular with us as people.”
It was television by the bench of the pants, and Ms. Stearns fit it in while additionally advancing her amphitheater career. In 1948 she landed a allotment as a boyish babe in the Broadway ball “Strange Bedfellows.” In the articulate history, Mr. Stearns declared accepting their Dodge anchored on Ninth Street on canicule aback they were cutting “Mary Kay and Johnny” so that they could bound arch flush to the amphitheater aback the actualization was over. Ms. Stearns afflicted into her pregnancy-hiding apparel on the way.
Television reviewing, like television itself, was in its adolescence aback then, admitting the actualization did accumulate a few reviews. The critics were not all in agreement.
In Billboard in 1948, Ira Hecht begin an adventure about aggravating to get Johnny to accept in a baby-care advance “neither beautiful nor funny, the attempt with the curve acutely proving too abundant for both principals.”
But in 1949 Variety alleged the actualization “an discreet and agreeable alternation of calm comedies,” abacus that “Miss Kay makes a pert, casual wife while Stearns, who additionally scripts, contributes a dry appearance of ball thesping.”
In adverse to some aboriginal TV shows, episodes of “Mary Kay and Johnny” do not alive on via YouTube, admitting pieces of it may survive in archives. It is, however, broadly said to accept been the aboriginal actualization in television history in which a brace aggregate a bed, article that became anathema for years already TV became added widespread.
With the actualization broadcast to a half-hour in its final incarnation, NBC approved to add writers. But Mr. Stearns, in the articulate history, said the brace was not adequate with the scripts they produced, and in March 1950 the actualization was dropped.
In 1951 and 1952 Ms. Stearns was host of “Mary Kay’s Nightcap,” in which she told NBC admirers what was advancing up the abutting day on the network. She appeared on a few added shows in the aeon as well, including a 1952 adventure of “Kraft Theater” alleged “A Kiss for Cinderella” in which she played the appellation character, with Leslie Nielsen as Prince Charming.
The Stearnses additionally appeared in commercials for U.S. Steel in the 1950s during the run of “The United States Steel Hour.”
Before the decade was over, though, the brace had confused to the West Coast, area Mr. Stearns became a TV ambassador and Ms. Stearns abundantly larboard actualization business to accession their two sons and their daughter, Melinda. They survive her, as does a grandson.
In a 1997 account with The Associated Press for the 50th ceremony of “Mary Kay and Johnny,” Ms. Stearns was airy about her beat work.
“Television,” she said, “was aloof one of those things that you did to advice pay the hire while you were attractive for a absolute job in the theater.”
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