Polly told me that she felt the Plaza Hotel was a selective venue, and The Persian Room—in that hotel—the most beautiful room in the world to work in. When I asked which talent she enjoyed the most, she replied singing, even though she became a household name through her numerous and varied stage appearances. Polly won an Emmy Award for her portrayal of singer Helen Morgan in The Helen Morgan Story. She also costarred with Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum in the very dramatic Cape Fear and again with Mitchum –almost twenty years later—in The Winds of War and “War and Remembrance” (garnering Emmy nominations in the process). Then Polly’s career took a comic turn in Kisses for My President, where she portrayed the first female president, and Move Over Darling with Doris Day and James Garner.
Polly attained star status when barely out of her teens when, just after studying math in community college, she caught the interest of legendary producer Hal Wallis. Mr. Wallis is best known for producing and winning an Academy Award Casablanca, but that is just one in a very extensive line of significant movies he produced. “I was playing a small club,” said Polly, “and I didn’t have an agent or manager or anybody at that point. Well, Clarence Freed came in, heard me sing, and said he’d like to handle my career. I said, ‘Great. Fine.’ And he sent a picture of me, along with a recording of me singing a wild hillbilly song—“Honky Tonking”—to all the well-known producers in Hollywood. The photo he sent was a very glamorous shot of me in a low-cut dress with my hair swept to one side to revel long rhinestone earrings. It was quite a combination—this very sophisticated looking girl and this honky-tonk song.
“One of the producers Clarence sent it to was Hal Wallis, and he was kind of mesmerized and asked me to come in. I met him, and he signed me that same day. He put me in my first three movies with Martin and Lewis.” Those films were At War with the Army, That’s My Boy, and The Stooge.
“I adored Dean Martin more than life itself, and I always played his wife or girlfriend. But I had a very hard time with Jerry. He wanted to screw everybody he worked with, and that was just the way it was. Jerry made my life a living hell, because I wouldn’t play ball with him. Every day on the set was so horrendous that I finally walked away. He would not take ‘no’ for an answer!”
Sadly, we lost Polly on September 20, 2014, but she lives on in her friends and her work.