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Friday, November 17, 2017
Mara Corday (born Marilyn Joan Watts; January 3, 1930) was a showgirl, model, actress, Playboy Playmate and 1950s cult figure.
Corday was born in Santa Monica, California. Wanting a career in films, she came to Hollywood while still in her teens and found work as a showgirl at the Earl Carroll Theatre on Sunset Boulevard. Her physical beauty brought jobs as a photographer's model that led to a bit part as a showgirl in the 1951 film Two Tickets to Broadway.
One of Corday's first professional jobs was being a dancer in Earl Carroll's Vanities. Accompanied by her mother, Corday auditioned when she was 15 years old. During the two and a half years that she was in the show, she advanced "from showgirl to actress in the sketches." This was also when she adopted the stage name Mara Corday, because it made her seem more exotic. The name Mara came from a bongo player who called her Marita when she was working as an usher at the Mayan Theater, while Corday was lifted from a perfume bottle.
Corday signed on as a Universal International Pictures (UI) contract player. With UI, Corday was given small roles in various B-movies and television series. In 1954 on the set of Playgirl she met actor Richard Long.
Her roles were small until 1955 when she was cast opposite John Agar and Leo G. Carroll in Tarantula, a Sci-Fi movie that proved successful (with Clint Eastwood in a brief role). She had two other co-starring roles in that genre with The Black Scorpion and The Giant Claw (both 1957), as well as in a number of Western films such as Man Without a Star and Raw Edge. Film critic Leonard Maltin said Corday had "more acting ability than she was permitted to exhibit."
A few years after her husband's death in 1974, Corday's friend Eastwood offered her a chance to return to filmmaking with a role in his 1977 film The Gauntlet. She had a brief-but-significant role in Sudden Impact (1983), where she played the waitress dumping sugar into Harry Callahan's coffee in that movie's iconic "Go ahead, make my day" sequence. And she acted with Eastwood again in Pink Cadillac (1989) as well as in her last film, 1990's The Rookie.
Corday appeared as a pinup girl in numerous men's magazines during the 1950s and was the Playmate of the October 1958 issue of Playboy, along with famous model and showgirl Pat Sheehan.
In 1956, Corday had a recurring role in the ABC television series Combat Sergeant. From 1959 to early 1961, Corday worked exclusively doing guest spots on various television series.
Following the death of Suzan Ball, the first wife of actor Richard Long, in 1955, Corday began dating Long, and they married in 1957. In the early 1960s, she gave up her career to devote herself to raising a family. During their 17-year marriage, they had three children: Valerie, Carey, and Gregory. Corday has also been a lifelong friend of actor Clint Eastwood, whom she met while working for Universal Pictures.
I am thought to be exiled gentry, a vagabond, a scandalous rogue, a troubadour, armchair tactician, amateur grifter, self taught mechanic, would be author, adventurer, rogue scholar, traveler of strange lands, and an all round near do well.