Mary Martin by Carl Van Vechten

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Portrait of actress Mary Martin singing 'Him' in 'One Touch of Venice' by Carl Van Vechten, January 12, 1949, studio and blindstamp, 7' x 9-1/2'. Mary Martin was a wife, mother, and stage performer before she'd reached her 18th birthday. She became an overnight sensation in the 1938 Cole Porter Broadway musical Leave It to Me, stopping the show with her sly striptease number 'My Heart Belongs to Daddy' (she would revise this piece in two Hollywood films, 1941's Love Thy Neighbor and the 1946 Cole Porter biopic Night and Day). From 1939 through 1943, Martin appeared in such Paramount films as New York Town (1941), Birth of the Blues (1941) and Happy Go Lucky (1942). She gave up Hollywood to return to the stage, where she became one of the biggest musical comedy attractions in Broadway history, starring in the original productions of One Touch of Venus, South Pacific, The Sound of Music, I Do I Do, and many others. Her 1953 Broadway hit Peter Pan was re-created on television several times, the 1960 telecast happily videotaped for posterity. She also had a successful run in both the Broadway and touring companies of Hello Dolly. In 1983, Martin and actress Janet Gaynor were seriously injured in a car accident; Gaynor eventually died from her injuries, but Martin recovered to the extent that she was able to continue playing guest roles on television. Mary Martin was the mother of actors Larry Hagman and Heller Halliday.

Carl Van Vechten (June 17, 1880 - December 21, 1964) was an American writer and photographer who was a patron of the Harlem Renaissance and the literary executor of Gertrude Stein.

Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he graduated from the University of Chicago in 1903. In 1906, he moved to New York City. He worked as a journalist. After an earlier, unsuccessful marriage, Van Vechten wed actress Fania Marinoff in 1914.

Several books of Van Vechten's essays on various subjects such as music and literature were published between 1915 and 1920. In 1922 and 1930 seven novels were published, starting with Peter Whiffle: His Life and Works and ending with Parties.

Van Vechten was interested in black writers and artists, and knew and promoted many of the major figures of the Harlem Renaissance, including Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and Wallace Thurman. Van Vechten's controversial novel Nigger Heaven was published in 1926. An essay of his entitled 'Negro Blues Singers' was published in Vanity Fair in 1926.

In the 1930s, Van Vechten began taking portrait photographs. Among the many individuals he photographed were Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, Marc Chagall, Horst P. Horst, and Billie Holiday.

Van Vechten initially met Gertrude Stein in Paris in 1913. They continued corresponding for the remainder of Stein's life, and at her death she appointed Van Vechten her literary executor; he helped to bring into print her unpublished writings.

After the 1930s, Van Vechten published little writing, though he continued to write letters to many correspondents. Most of Van Vechten's papers are held by the Beinecke Library at Yale University.

Although Van Vechten was married to Fania Marinoff through the end of his life, he was a homosexual. Some of his papers were kept under seal for 25 years after his death, and when they were examined after that time, they were found to include scrapbooks of photographs and clippings related to homosexuality.

He died at the age of 84 in New York City.

$500  No. 153
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