When Mary Martin Was the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up


Ben Yagoda | Longreads | December 2014 | 12 minutes (3,094 words)

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One day early in 1954, Mary Martin and her husband, Richard Halliday, were driving on the Merritt Parkway, near their home in Norwalk, Connecticut. On the car radio came Frank Sinatra’s new hit, “Young at Heart.” It was perfect! That is, the song had the exact sentiment and feel they wanted for the pet project they’d long been planning, a musical version of J.M. Barrie’s 1904 play Peter Pan (original subtitle: “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up”). Right on the spot, they decided they’d hire whoever had written the song to compose the score for their production.

It turned out that the words were by a young New Yorker, Carolyn Leigh, and the music by the veteran West Coast jazzman Johnny Richards. The next morning the phone rang in Leigh’s apartment…

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