Did you know the girl who starred opposite Marlon Brando? She had also been in a film with James Dean and one with Steve McQueen.
Here’s another look at her. In a more glamorous pose.
Our mystery actress is — Mary Murphy.
Doesn’t ring a bell? Who can blame you.
Although she is credited with nearly 70 roles over the course of a largely anonymous career (mostly on tv), she may well be classic Hollywood’s most famous “one-note” actress. Murphy said she never set out to be a movie star, and she amply fulfilled her professional expectations.
She made just one movie with Brando, just one. It is 1953’s The Wild One, a somewhat dated lookback at how nasty motorcyclists go about take over a tiny town and abuse its residents. Murphy’s father is the weak-kneed sheriff who also runs the local cafe-confectionery. There is it pictured with Mary (above).
As ‘Kathie Bleeker,” the daughter of small town sheriff who quickly loses control of what’s left of his town’s law and order, Murphy is model gorgeous. A most welcome find in a picture pretty much stinks up the place today although Brando’s magnetic performance as lead motorcyclist rebel, Johnny, is memorable today as is the opening, over-the-titles sequence (check it out and you’ll see what we mean).
For her part, Murphy gets to be swept away by the noisily iconoclastic Brando, exclaiming such lines as “Why do you hate everybody?” Just for the hellevit, responds Brando. The Wild One is NOT a great movie.
Murphy appeared with James Dean in the 1952 Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedy, Sailor Beware. Both had tiny, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bits in a movie made three years before East of Eden, Dean’s first of the three films that made him a Hollywood star. The Martin-Lewis comedy had no similar effect on Murphy’s career.
With McQueen, Murphy had a more substantial part in director Sam Peckinpah’s 1972 rodeo fairy-tale, Junior Bonner. She plays Ruth Bonner. The movie is a good one, sparked by strong supporting performances from Robert Preston and Ida Lupino. Well worth another look.
But to this day, Murphy — who was born in 1931, and died in 2011 at age 81 — is remembered almost exclusively for her”good girl” turn opposite “bad boy” Brando in The Wild One.