Mary Martin was remembered upon her death for a tomboyish charm and vibrancy that lighted up the stage whether she flew high in "Peter Pan" or sang to children in "The Sound of Music."
Martin, one of the New York theater's leading ladies for more than 30 years, died of cancer Saturday at age 76 at her home in Rancho Mirage.The actress captivated audiences with her spunk and her joyous singing in such Broadway musicals as "South Pacific," "The Sound of Music," "I Do! I Do!" and "Leave It to Me."
"Vibrant, exciting and always full of life, Mary gave her millions of fans the world over some of the most memorable and thrilling moments in the history of entertainment," said former first lady Nancy Reagan, who appeared with her in the 1946 musical "Lute Song."
"She was magnificent," said former President Reagan. "She was marvelous in everything that she did and I am really grieved."
Bob Hope, who featured Martin on two of his TV specials, called her a "tremendous" talent who "could do it all."
"The bright light and good cheer that Mary brought to the world will not fade merely because of her absence," said William Hammerstein, son of Oscar Hammerstein II, who wrote the lyrics for "South Pacific" and "The Sound of Music."
Martin won a Tony Award for her 1949 portrayal of the naive Army nurse Nellie Forbush in "South Pacific." Martin sang some of Rodgers and Hammerstein's most buoyant and warmhearted songs, including "A Cockeyed Optimist," "I'm in Love with a Wonderful Guy" and "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair" - during which she washed her hair on stage for 1,000 performances.
In "The Sound of Music," which opened in 1959, Martin played the irrepressible nun-in-training Maria and won another Tony. The Rodgers and Hammerstein score included "My Favorite Things," "Do-Re-Mi" and "The Lonely Goatherd." The show ran for more than three years in New York.
The role of Maria practically belongs to Julie Andrews, who got the part in the movie, while the part of Nellie Forbush in the film version of "South Pacific" went to Mitzi Gaynor. But the role of Peter Pan is all Martin's.
She was in her 40s when she played Peter Pan, the boy who never wanted to grow up, on stage and television.
"All my life, I wanted to be Peter Pan," Martin