Stuart in 1947.
July 4, 1926
Miami, Florida, U.S.
|Died||February 28, 2002 (aged 75)|
New York, New York, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Richard Krolik (1951–66; divorced); 2 children|
Wolfgang Neumann (1986–2002; her death)
A former silver screen starlet, she was perhaps best known for her starring role as Joanne on the CBS/NBC soap opera Search for Tomorrow, which she played for 35 years without interruption (1951-86). After her divorce from her first husband, with whom she raised two children, she began a side career as a guitarist and a singer/songwriter, first singing on Search for Tomorrow and then releasing her own album in 1973. At the time of her death, she had played the role of Meta Bauer on the CBS soap opera Guiding Light for six years. For her work in daytime drama, she was given the Lifetime Achievement Daytime Emmy Award.
She was born as Mary Houchins in Miami, Florida to Guy M. and Mary (née Stuart) Houchins. She grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she graduated from Tulsa Central High School and attended the University of Tulsa before embarking on her professional career. She left home at age 17 for New York City, where her career started, and where she returned after finding Hollywood too stressful. Her eventual stage name was her mother's maiden name.
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After appearing in various bit parts in several movies throughout the 1940s, Warner Brothers offered her a three-year contract in 1948. She appeared with such stars as Errol Flynn (in Adventures of Don Juan), Clark Gable (in The Hucksters), Esther Williams (in This Time for Keeps) and Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball (in The Big Street).
After her film career ended,[when?] CBS offered Stuart a role in a new undertaking that would become known as the soap opera, or daytime serial. Their first project, The First Hundred Years, was short lived. It had been canceled after just one year on the air. The executives at CBS were wary of launching a second show, but they saw a future in soaps in the person of Mary Stuart after her screen test. It was then that they commissioned a second series. Stuart was cast as housewife "Joanne Gardner". The new serial was called Search for Tomorrow and it turned out to be very successful. Stuart would become synonymous with her character. Search for Tomorrow ran for thirty-five years until 1986 when it was finally canceled. During that time she was widowed three times and went through many trials and tribulations.
She was the only soap star to receive a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for performance in a series but lost to Shirley Booth. During her stint as Joanne, she and co-star Larry Haines were given special Emmy recognition for their work. Executive producer Paul Rauch offered her the role of the crooked Judge Webber on ABC's One Life to Live which she played in 1988, then settled into retirement, having worked nearly 40 years. She wrote a short story that was published in a magazine, which was eventually made into a CBS movie of the week.
In 1996, she came out of retirement and accepted the role of Meta Bauer, Ed's aunt who became a confidante of his daughter, Michelle, on Guiding Light, a part which had been played earlier by Ellen Demming. Stuart would play the role until her death. Coincidentally, Demming and Stuart both died in 2002, within weeks of each other.
Stuart collaborated with Percy Faith on an album in 1956 and with Michel Legrand in 1973. She played guitar and she penned and sang songs on Search for Tomorrow, which fit into the script as her character was an amateur singer/songwriter, and she would sing songs to convey what she was feeling, usually when she was alone. Stuart also sang and played guitar on Christmas episodes, including, but not limited to, one notable Christmas in which Stuart sang "Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella" with actresses Ann Williams and Melissa Murphy, who played her sister and daughter at that time. Stuart performed at her first public concert on January 8, 1974, at Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina.
Stuart married Richard Krolik in August 1951, and gave birth to daughter Cynthia in 1955 and son Jeffrey in 1956. She and Krolik divorced in 1966 and she later alleged in her book, Both of Me, that Krolik was a frequently verbally abusive husband. She recounted that she had secretly been writing a children's book and when she told Krolik, he threw the manuscript across the room, yelling, "How do you expect to write a book if you've never read one?"  The incident discouraged Stuart and she never sought out a publisher. Her husband left New York to work at Time/Life Broadcasting in Washington, D.C.
While Jeffrey Krolik kept his birthname, Cynthia changed her name to Cynthia Stuart. Cynthia graduated from the North Carolina School of the Arts and eventually became a journalist, writing for the Detroit Free Press, before following in her mother's footsteps as an actress.  Jeffrey graduated from Dartmouth College and became a regional sales director for HBO and was later appointed the general manager for Fox Sports Net Bay Area. Both of Mary Stuart's children were raised and married in the Presbyterian Church.
Mary Stuart remained single for two decades after her divorce before marrying architect Wolfgang Neumann in 1986; they remained married until her death in 2002.
When she died in 2002 following a stroke, it was revealed that Stuart was also suffering from gastric cancer and bone cancer. She had previously undergone an endoscopy and an operation to remove a tumor in her stomach in 1999. Stuart had battled breast cancer earlier in her life. She was survived by her widower (Wolfgang Neumann), her two children and two grandchildren.
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