There were few in Hollywood who had burst to stardom so fast, then disappeared so completely as Maggie McNamara.
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers here to discuss The Moon is Blue and the actress who made her film debut in that “censored” film.
We put the word censored in quotes because anyone who was around in 1953 will remember that The Moon is Blue was “condemned” by the Catholic church, and was the first film to be released without the Film Production Code’s seal of approval.
Joe and Frank are personally familiar with those lists of “condemned” movies that used to be posted in church lobbies. That’s because both of us would check off the titles in the “condemned” category, and put them on our must-see list.
Why did The Moon Is Blue wind up on the “condemned” list? Because director Otto Preminger and playwright F. Hugh Herbert (it had been a big hit on Broadway) refused to change the dialogue which used words such as: Professional Virgin; Seduce; Pregnant; and Mistress.
Although this seems silly today, one has to remember that this was a very daring film for the uptight Fifties. It was considered a spicy sex comedy about a young woman who flaunts her virginity. Besides McNamara (who played the virgin), the cast included William Holden and David Niven.
New York City born in 1929, McNamara had the sort of wholesome innocent look that Hollywood valued highly in the Fifties. She was pert, petite, a “young Debbie Reynolds.”
She started out as a model and then was “discovered” by Preminger. She made the front cover of Life Magazine twice.
Her entire career encompassed only about a dozen movie and tv titles including another period studio item — big box office in 1954 but tough to sit through today — Three Coins in the Fountain, in which McNamara joined Dorothy McGuire and Jean Peters in making wishes at Rome’s Fountain of Trevi. (The movie’s title song is one of Frank Sinatra’s more inane recordings.)
We’re not exactly sure how McNamara’s career fell apart, but fall apart it did. (If you have information about this, please let us know.) At the time of her death, she was supporting herself as a typist.
Her obituary in The New York Times lists the cause of her death at age 48 as “an overdose of pills.” In that sense, McNamara’s end was much like that of another Preminger discovery, Jean Seberg. (For more on this ill-fated actress, check out our Jean Seberg — The Wholesome Cheerleader Who Cracked Up, published on Oct. 27, 2011.)