Friday, June 21, 2013

TV's First Sex Symbol

Mary Hartline /Super Circus

Wholesome as apple pie and naturally appealing Mary Hartline was one of the first breakout stars in an era when there were very few TV stations even on the air across the nation.

A successful model, Mary Hartline broke into The Windy City's burgeoning broadcast industry in 1946, appearing on the ABC radio's Junior Junction (later known as Teen Town), about a city inhabited solely by teenagers.

The producer of the show was her husband Harold Stokes. They met the year before and were married in 1947, Stokes was forty-two and Mary twenty-one.

Mary Hartline left Teen Town in 1949 to join Super Circus, a weekly live kid's program also produced by her husband. Super Circus began life as a Chicago radio contest program in the 1940s starring former real-life circus barker turned commercial announcer Claude Kirchner.

Super Circus
Starting on TV as a Chicago local in 1948, Super Circus was presented live on Sunday afternoons beginning in 1949 (from the Civic Theater in Chicago) over the ABC network. In addition to lovely Mary Hartline, regulars included Cliffy, Scampy, & Nicky the clowns, and Mike Wallace (yes that Mike Wallace) as the show's commercial pitchman.

With an authentic circus feel and Mary's sparkling, low cut outfits, the program became an instant national sensation and Mary was catapulted to fame as one of TV's first bright shining lights, with both kid and adult appeal.

Mary would often open the show with a rousing number fronting the ultra-brassy Super Circus Band. Her rhythmic moves and smooth baton twirling were a real live manifestation of every '50s girl's dream - to be the lead majorette, as pretty as a china doll. Platinum blond, statuesque, and perfectly formed, Mary was wildly popular with the little girls - and their daddies - inspiring an entire line of dolls and other toys.