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Martin was born as a daughter of lawyer Preston Martin and music teacher Juanita Presley. She told in her autobiography that she had a happy childhood and grew up as a tomboy. She married at the age of 15, with Ben Hagman in 1931 and gave birth to a son, Larry Hagman. She was forced by school and opened her own dance school in California to make ends meet.
However, Martin had higher ambitions. She acted as a child in small theaters and took singing lessons at the age of 12. She appeared in several night clubs and eventually left her family behind in 1935 in order to fully to collapse on her career. In 1938 she made her debut on Broadway. Although she played a supporting role, she was noticed and were offered a contract at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood.
Martins first job in the film industry was the singing scenes of Margaret Sullavans character in The Shopworn Angel (1938). A year later she made her film debut with a starring role in the B-movie The Great Victor Herbert (1939). They appeared regularly in musical movies and played several times opposite Bing Crosby. In the meantime, they married in 1940 with producer Richard Halliday, with whom she had a daughter.
Martin had little fun in making movies. She made her last film in 1943 and returned to Broadway. She had the lead roles in several major musicals, including South Pacific, Peter Pan, The Sound of Music and Jennie. In the 1950s she also made career in the television industry, with leading roles in the television movies Annie Get Your Gun (1957) and Peter Pan (1960). She continued to work as an actress in the 1980s.
Martin died at the age of 76 to colon cancer.
|Filmography as an actress|
|1939||The Great Victor Herbert||Louise Hall|
|1940||Rhythm on the River||Cherry Lane|
|Love Thy Neighbor||Mary Allen|
|1941||Kiss the Boys Goodbye||Cindy Lou Bethany|
|New York Town||Alexandra Curtis|
|Birth of the Blues||Betty Lou Cobb|
|1943||Happy Go Lucky||Marjory Stuart|
|True to Life||Bonnie Porter|
|1957||Annie Get Your Gun||Annie Oakley||Television film|
|1960||Peter Pan||Peter Pan||Television film|
|1979||Valentine||Gracie Schwartz||Television film|
|1938-1939||Leave It to Me!||Dolly Winslow||Musical|
|1943-1945||One Touch of Venus||Venus||Musical|
|1949-1954||South Pacific||Ensign Nellie Forbush||Musical|
|1953-1954||Child Sir||Jane Kimball||Play|
|1954-1955||Peter Pan||Peter Pan||Musical|
|1955||The Skin of Our Teeth||Sabina||Play|
|1959-1963||The Sound of Music||Maria Rainer||Musical|
|1966-1968||I Do! I Do!||Agnes||Musical|
|1978||Do You Turn Somersaults?||Lidya Vasilyevna||Play|