Virginia Mayo, the stunning blonde actress who brought beauty and romance to films of the 1940s and 1950s with such co-stars as James Cagney, Bob Hope, Gregory Peck, Danny Kaye and Ronald Reagan, died at a nursing home in suburban Thousand Oaks. She was 84.
Mayo had been in declining health since battling pneumonia about a year ago and died Monday, her daughter, Mary Johnston, told reporters.
Her honey blonde hair and creamy, flawless face made Mayo ideal for the Technicolor musicals, westerns and adventures that were the rage in Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s.
"I really wanted to be a dancer, but I ended up as an actress, and I got to perform next to some of the greatest actors of our time," she recalled in 2001.
Starting as a chorus girl, she quickly advanced to co-star status, appearing opposite Hope in The Princess and the Pirate in 1944. She went on to make five films with Kaye before signing a contract with Warner Bros, where she became one of the studio's biggest stars.
Mayo became a valuable property for Warner Bros, appearing in five movies in 1949 alone. She also starred opposite Reagan in the romantic comedy The Girl from Jones Beach that year and again in the 1952 musical She's Working Her Way Through College.
Mayo's first assignment in Hollywood was a small role in Jack London (1943), a biography of the author starring Michael O'Shea. In 1956 she recalled how they met on the set: "He just sat there watching me, and then he walked right up and kissed me."
They married in 1947.
Mayo never remarried after O'Shea's death in 1973. She is survived by her daughter and three grandchildren.