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Answer Man: Was ’40s movie actress Virginia Mayo related to THE Mayos?

August 30, 2018

A publicity photo of Virginia Mayo circa 1950.

Dear Answer Man: You’re probably too young to remember the lovely Hollywood star Virginia Mayo. Turner Classic Movies featured a full day of her films last week, and I got to thinking … is she related to our Mayo family? —A curious movie fan

Yes, Curious, you can flatter me about my youthful appearance, but don’t forget there are ages of knowledge stuffed into this noggin of mine.

Ah, Virginia Mayo, who was once described as a pinup come to life. The blonde beauty was featured in light-hearted romantic comedies and musicals in the 1940s and 1950s. Some of her best reviews, though, came in the drama “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946), where she played an unfaithful hussy married to war veteran Dana Andrews. In 1949’s “White Heat” opposite James Cagney, Virginia demonstrated her acting chops as the scheming wife of a gangster.

Virginia herself said her favorite role was in the musical “She’s Working Her Way Through College” (1952). Unfortunately, while she was a wonderful dancer, Virginia couldn’t sing a note and her vocals were usually dubbed.

You’ll notice we aren’t using her last name. That’s because “Mayo” was strictly a stage name for the girl born as Virginia Clara Jones in 1920 in St. Louis. She had, as far as we can tell, no relation to the Mayos of Rochester.

However, she did get her Mayo stage name from the Mayo family in a roundabout way. As a young vaudeville performer, Virginia played the straight woman to a horse act. According to the Internet Movie Data Base, the horse was actually two men known as the Mayo Brothers, which is how the Mayo Clinic was frequently referred to at that time. Jones soon adopted the Mayo moniker as her professional name.

Virginia Mayo made her last movie appearance in 1990 and died in 2005.

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