Childhood & Early Life
Mobley was born on February 17, 1937, in Biloxi, Mississippi, to Robert Mobley, a lawyer, and Mary (née Farish), an insurance executive. She had a sister, Sandra Young.
Mobley was a member of the ‘Chi Omega’ sorority at the ‘University of Mississippi’ and was the first ‘Carrier Scholar.’ Later, she became the first woman to be voted into the ‘University of Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame.’
She won the ‘Miss Mississippi’ crown in 1958. After completing her graduation in 1958, she won the ‘Miss America’ pageant in 1959. Mobley was the first ‘Miss Mississippi’ to win the ‘Miss America’ pageant. At the pageant, she sang Puccini’s ‘Un Bel Di’ as part of the talent competition.
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After serving her ‘Miss America’ term, Mobley ventured into acting. In 1960, she appeared on the TV show ‘Be Our Guest.’
Mobley began working in theater and appeared in the production of ‘The King and I.’ In 1962, she performed in the ‘Broadway’ production of the musical ‘Nowhere to Go, But Up.’ She also worked in the Los Angeles production of ‘Guys and Dolls,’ which featured her with Betty Grable.
Starting in 1963, Mobley made five appearances in the ‘ABC’ detective series ‘Burke’s Law.’ Her acclaimed stage performances got her roles opposite Elvis Presley in the movies ‘Girl Happy’ and ‘Harum Scarum,’ both released in 1965. Presley was a fellow Mississippian and a friend of hers. Her performance in the film ‘Get Yourself a College Girl’ won her the ‘Golden Globe Award’ for the ‘Most Promising Newcomer – Actress’ (1965), which she shared with Mia Farrow and Celia Milius.
Later, Mobley appeared in several TV series and films of the 1970s and the 1980s. Initially, she worked in a few popular series, such as ‘Perry Mason’ (1964), ‘The Virginian’ (1967), ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ (1966), ‘Mission Impossible’ (1966).
During the 1970s, Mobley reduced her workload to devote more time to her daughter, Mary Clancy, and made guest appearances in a few hit series of this period. She was seen in ‘Love, American Style’ (1969), the game show ‘Match Game’ (1973), ‘The Love Boat’ (1978–1985), and ‘Fantasy Island’ (1978–1984).
During the later years, Mobley appeared in series such as ‘General Hospital,’ ‘Vegas,’ and ‘Designing Women.’ She also appeared in ‘Matt Houston’ (1983) and ‘Hotel’ (1984). She appeared as ‘Maggie McKinney’ in the final season of ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ (1985–1986) and was seen as alcoholism counselor ‘Dr. Beth Everdene’ in ‘Falcon Crest’ (1988). Her final TV performances were in ‘Hardball’ (1994), ‘Sabrina, the Teenage Witch’ (1999), and ‘Dead Like Me’ (2003).
Apart from her movies with Presley, she had been seen in films such as ‘Three on a Couch’ (1966), ‘The King’s Pirate’ (1967), ‘Istanbul Express’ (1968), and ‘For Singles Only’ (1968).
Mobley was a frequent participant on various game shows. She was often seen as a panelist on ‘Match Game’ (1973). On several occasions, she and her husband, Gary Collins, performed daredevil acts on the show ‘Circus of the Stars’ (1977). She had also appeared on the shows ‘Password,’ ‘Family Feud,’ ‘He Said, She Said,’ ‘Dance Fever,’ and ‘The New Hollywood Squares.’ Mobley also performed as a guest co-host on her husband’s shows ‘Hour Magazine’ (1980) and ‘The Home Show’ (1988). In 2012, she appeared as a judge on the game show ‘Cupcake Wars.’
She co-hosted the 1989 ‘Miss America’ pageant,’ held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, along with her husband, Gary Collins.
In the recent years, Mobley performed in the musical ‘Senior Class,’ at the ‘Annenberg Theater,’ Palm Spring. She worked with this theater production for three seasons and also made a debut with a cabaret act.
Family & Personal Life
Mobley worked in Jerry Lewis’s 1966 film ‘Three on a Couch,’ where she met actor and TV host Gary Collins. The two got married in 1967. The couple had a daughter, Mary Clancy Collins-White, who is now the senior vice-president of drama development at ‘Warner Bros. Television.’ Mobley was a stepmother to Melissa Collins and Guy William Collins, her husband’s children from his first marriage.
In 2011, she and her husband separated. However, they reconciled later and were together till Collins’s death in 2012.
Mobley suffered from Crohn’s disease and helped raise funds for research related to the disease. She performed at numerous charitable concerts to raise money for educational funds in Mississippi and also participated in the ‘Mississippi Rising’ telethon (2005) to help ‘Hurricane Katrina’ victims. In 1985, the ‘Mary Ann Mobley Children’s Unit’ was opened at the ‘Crossgate River Oaks Hospital’ in her hometown.
Mobley was a notable documentary filmmaker and had produced documentaries about the condition of the starving, homeless children in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Mozambique, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Sudan.
She and her husband were philanthropists and active humanitarians. They helped raise funds for the ‘March of Dimes’ and the ‘United Cerebral Palsy Association.’
In 1966, Mobley received the ‘Outstanding Young Woman of the Year Award’ from First Lady Johnson (wife of President Lyndon B Johnson), for her charitable work.
In 2009, Mobley was diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer. She died of the disease on December 9, 2014, at her home in Beverly Hills, California.