Mary Hatcher, Mickey Rooney's Co-Star in 'The Big Wheel,' Dies at 88

Mary Hatcher - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of John Stoller

A Paramount contract player and Broadway actress, Hatcher also worked with Desi Arnaz, Veronica Lake and DeForest Kelley.

Mary Hatcher, a dark-haired beauty who starred opposite Mickey Rooney in The Big Wheel and with Desi Arnaz in Holiday in Havana, has died. She was 88.

Hatcher died Tuesday of bile duct cancer in a hospital in Riverside, California, her grandson John Stoller announced.

Hatcher also played Laurey Williams during the original run of Oklahoma! on Broadway (Shirley Jones famously played the part in the 1955 movie version).

Hatcher, who had a wonderful soprano operatic voice, sang and danced with Arnaz in the musical comedy Holiday in Havana and portrayed Louise "Lou" Riley, the tomboy mechanic daughter of a race track owner, in the Indianapolis 500-set The Big Wheel. Both films were released in 1949.

She also appeared with DeForest Kelley in Paramount's cameo-filled Variety Girl (1947), played Veronica Lake's sister in Isn't It Romantic? (1948) and was Maid Marian in Tales of Robin Hood (1951), a TV pilot that was turned into a movie.

Born on June 6, 1929, in Haines City, Florida, Hatcher got her start after the Depression, her grandson said, when a wealthy man heard her singing on the radio and became her benefactor. He paid for opera lessons and for her to attend an all-girls school in New York.

She joined the cast of Oklahoma! for a road production when she was 14 and went on to portray Laurey on Broadway. Later, she had the lead in the Johnny Mercer musical comedy Texas, Li'l Darlin', appearing in more than 200 performances in 1949-50.

She came to Hollywood after she was signed to a contract by Paramount Pictures.

Her husband of 42 years, Alvin Stoller, a jazz and swing drummer and studio musician who performed with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey and Ella Fitzgerald, died in 1992.

In addition to her grandson, survivors include her children Elizabeth and Clay; grandchildren Elicia, Ashley, Aaron, Alyssa, Paul and Danny; great-grandchildren Cloe and Liliana; and brother Coleman.

Services are set for 10 a.m. on Thursday at Eternal Valley Memorial Park in Newhall, California.