That’s right, this month the amazing Allison Hayes, is my icon of the month.
Allison Hayes was born Mary Jane Hayes on March 6, 1930 to William E. Hayes (1880–1959) and Charlotte Gibson Hayes (1893–1977) in Charleston, West Virginia. She attended Holy Cross Academy, a parochial school in the city. She attended a private girls’ high school for two years, but persuaded her parents to let her graduate from a public school. She attended Calvin Coolidge High School and was member of the graduating class of 1948.
Mrs. Hayes made hats and was the secretary for a patent attorney. Charlotte also played the piano and encouraged her daughter to study the instrument. At the age of five, Mary Jane began taking lessons. At a tournament when she was age eleven, she received the highest marks possible from the judges from Julliard Music School. She also worked part time at the Palais Royale Shop during the latter part of World War II.
Mary Jane won the Miss District of Columbia title in the summer of 1949. She had no aspirations other than the desire to win the scholarship money to help her in her music education. She listed “studied piano for 13 years” and “now taking a course in fashion modeling” as special training on her Miss District of Columbia information sheet. Her talent was listed as “will play a piano solo.” She wrote that she liked sketching and dancing among other hobbies, and that her favorite sports were swimming and golf. Several photographs of her appeared in the local papers during her reign. She was also highly favoured to win the title of Miss America.
But it was not to be. Though she didn’t like the pageant experience itself (“I hated every minute of that. I hated it,” she told writer Barry Brown more than 25 years later. “I can’t stand that type of regimentation and parading.”), Mary Jane was determined to get that scholarship money. It was against the rules for any of the contestants to have any type of fraternization with the opposite sex. One afternoon, during the pageant, Mary Jane happened to be walking across the lobby of the hotel. There to surprise her was a cousin of her mother’s who was Mary Jane’s favourite relative.
She bounded across the lobby and gave him a warm embrace. The chaperones who were keeping an eagle eye on the contestants called for a discussion, and Mary Jane was booted from the competition. They didn’t bother to mention it to her. She competed in bathing suit, evening gown, and talent as though nothing had happened. The judges including Broadway columnist Earl Wilson were never told of her disqualification either.
The Peruvian Ambassador saw Mary Jane often during her reign as Miss District of Columbia. He invited her to represent the United States at the Peru Fair in Lima in 1949. Mary Jane and her mother made the trip and had a great time. When they got back, Charlotte encouraged Mary Jane to take some secretarial courses, She made an effort, but soon gave up. “That just wasn’t for me”, she told Brown. Instead she spent her time giving piano lessons and doing some part time modelling.
With her striking auburn hair and astonishing figure (36″-23″-36″), Mary Jane was chosen as a subject for some experimental color television tests that were before Congress in late 1949. She also worked as a radio co-host with Milton Q. Ford over WBAL-AM radio. The late night show catered to politicians and visiting dignitaries. Mary Jane was well read and was very interested in politics.
Because her schedule kept her so busy, and she hadn’t really made up her mind what she wanted to do with her life, Mary Jane was always ready to take a quick vacation to Florida. She would usually go a couple of times a year, enjoying swimming on the beach and relaxing. During one such trip in 1951, the couple that owned the hotel where Mary Jane always stayed when she visited encouraged her to enter the Miss Dixie Pageant. She entered when she found out the winner would receive a wardrobe courtesy of the Miami Fashion Council and the choice between a college scholarship or a savings bond. She won, but was put off by the pageant officials when she went to collect her prizes. She got neither the wardrobe nor the scholarship. She settled for a $375 savings bond. Mary Jane was ambivalent about the many other beauty titles she won, but she said philosophically, “….if the prizes are worthwhile, it’s a good chance for a girl.” The only title she was proud of winning was The Forget-Me-Not-Girl for the Disabled American Veterans.
The switch to television was in the U.S. and the program that Mary Jane and Ford had been doing was soon being seen locally on late night television. She helped Ford interview the politicians and celebrities that came through town and was very popular with viewers. In 1952, she also enrolled in Catholic University, majoring in music but also taking several theater courses. “I had always been quite shy and introverted,” she told Brown in 1976. “I thought if I could learn to get up on a stage and learn to project myself in another character, another role, that might help my self-confidence.” She did some stage work there – the only stage acting she would do in her career – and said, “Some of the things I did there, were the best things I ever did.”
One source mentions a brief marriage during this time for Mary Jane to a young executive of the Ford Motor Company. This was followed by an annulment. Her earliest Hollywood publicity lists her as “unmarried” rather than the more conventional “single” or “never married.” While no records have confirmed this detail of her life, if she had been divorced it would explain why Mary Jane – from a staunch Catholic family – never married again. In the winter of 1952, Mary Jane traveled back to Miami Beach for a modeling assignment. After the show one evening, she was approached by Harry Mayer, a talent scout for Warner Brothers. He offered her a screen test if she could get to New York City on her own. Because she had no compelling interest in an acting career, she turned him down. Mayer left his business card with her.
Nine months later, in late-1953, Mary Jane accepted a modeling assignment that took her to New York City. She had kept Mayer’s card and figured since she was going to be in New York anyway, she might give him a call. After she finished her job, she called Mayer and asked if he was still interested. Mayer, remembering the beautiful young girl, assured her that he was. A silent screen test that included walking, moving, standing, and sitting was filmed at the Warner Brothers facility at 1619 Broadway.
Because she was still a regular on the Ford television show, Mary Jane didn’t wait around to see what the results were. She was back working the next week. While the Warner Bros. executives were trying to make up their minds, a talent scout for Universal-International happened to be in Washington D.C., a later concocted publicity story said that the talent scout at a party heard Mrs. Earl Warren say as Mary Jane and her partner danced by: “That girl is pretty enough to be in the movies.” More likely is that he saw her picture in the paper and caught her on the television show. At any rate, he contacted her and asked her if she was interested in a screen test. Mary Jane told him that she had just done one for Warner Bros. and was waiting for the result.
The agent contacted Warner Bros. and asked to see the test. At first they were reluctant to let Universal International look at it. After a bit persuasion, though, it was loaned out to them. U-I promptly offered her a seven year contract. An astonished Mary Jane took her dilemma to her father who told her to take the offer. William told her: “If you don’t try, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.” She accepted the contract, signed the papers, and headed off to Florida for a vacation. Mary Jane didn’t get to spend much time lying on the beach. She received a call from her new bosses at U-I to report to the studio immediately. Within a few days, she found herself standing in front of the desk of Douglas Sirk. She had been assigned to play the part of ‘Idilco’, one of the wives of ‘Attila the Hun’, who was being played by Jack Palance.
So the young beauty pageant winner, who had never been inside a movie studio or met a real movie director, found herself in unfamiliar waters. Sirk asked about her experience. Mary Jane replied that she had none. Sirk, dressed in riding pants and brandishing a crop, looked her up and down and said: “I like you. You’re honest.” Mary Jane was rushed to wardrobe and makeup and given a few lines to learn (‘Idilco’ was basically a non-speaking part). Sirk gave her some basic directions and pronounced her fine. She was in the movies! Sign of the Pagan was an “A” project filmed in CinemaScope and Technicolor. It purported to tell the story of the brutal Hun who wanted to conquer the world.
Mary Jane’s name was changed to the more exotic “Allison.” She joined a cast that included Jeff Chandler, Rita Gam, and Ludmilla Tcherina. The 3-D feature had some exciting scenes. It took her awhile to realize that she should “save it for the camera.” She spent lots of rehearsals being dragged across the set while her hands were tied only to find out, the cameras hadn’t been rolling. Allison’s character gave Palance’s character the ultimate comeuppance in the final scene when she dispatched him with a sword, leaving the shadow of the cross on his lifeless body.
Allison and Jack Palance were reported to be dating. However during the filming of “Sign Of The Pagan”, Allison accused Jack of holding her too roughly and bruising her ribs in their first love scene. He had even kissed her with such passion, he split her lip with his teeth. She threatened to bring a lawsuit against him and U-I for the incident. The picture was finished under strained conditions.
A popular producer on the U-I was Ted Richmond. He had produced a couple of minor comedies that Sirk had directed and it was Sirk who introduced the starlet to the producer. Richmond had also worked with Tyrone Power when he came to U-I. Together they formed the company named Copa Productions. This company would produce a few films, most of them starring Power. Richmond also did his share of work on the popular comedy series that U-I was then producing. One of his pictures was “Francis Joins The WACS.”
It featured nearly all of the U-I starlet contingent of the day including Mamie Van Doren and Allison Hayes. The featured female role was played by Julie Adams. Allison played ‘Lt. Dickson’ who arrives at the WAC encampment late one night and finds herself in the same barracks at Peter (Donald O’Conner). It’s all a misunderstanding, but Allison strips down to her slip and screams appropriately when she discovers she is sharing a room with a man. She doesn’t have an encounter with the titular animal, though.
Allison’s agent, Jack Pomeroy thought that he should get his newest client in to see director deluxe Cecil B. deMille at Paramount. He took her to lunch on that lot. Sure enough, deMille noticed the statuesque beauty as she was herded past his table. DeMille was astonished because Allison looked almost exactly like the drawing he had prepared for the character of ‘Saphorah’ (Moses’ wife) in “The Ten Commandments”. Pomeroy was commanded to bring Allison to an appointment with the great director. Before the meeting, Pomeroy told Allison NOT to mention that she was under contract to U-I. She was puzzled, but took his advice.
Allison’s agent, Jack Pomeroy thought that he should get his newest client in to see director deluxe Cecil B. deMille at Paramount. He took her to lunch on that lot. Sure enough, deMille noticed the statuesque beauty as she was herded past his table. DeMille was astonished because Allison looked almost exactly like the drawing he had prepared for the character of Saphorah (Moses’ wife) in The Ten Commandments. Pomeroy was commanded to bring Allison to an appointment with the great director. Before the meeting, Pomeroy told Allison NOT to mention that she was under contract to U-I. She was puzzled, but took his advice.
DeMille liked what he saw and gave Allison a scene to work on. She came back the next week, but didn’t do very well. She was very nervous. But the legendary director liked her and said: “I am willing to work with you on this part, because I like the way you look.” He asked his close friend, actor Henry Wilcoxin to work with Allison. DeMille watched the scene through a one-way glass in what was called “The Fishbowl” at Paramount. Wilcoxin made an unrehearsed remark that made Allison react unexpectedly. Wilcoxin smiled. DeMille had said that he didn’t think Allison could ever react naturally and had been proven wrong.
DeMille was definitely planning on using Allison (Yvonne DeCarlo eventually played the role), but he received a call from another agent telling him that the girl he was testing was under contract to Universal-International, and that he would probably have to pay a high price to borrow her. DeMille was furious. Allison was dismissed curtly and her agent temporarily barred from the lot. “DeMille was so willing to work with me, If we had just been honest from the beginning, I am sure he would have been able to work out a deal with U-I. It just proves you have to think for yourself.”
While still at U-I, Allison had featured roles in “So This Is Paris” and “The Purple Mask”, both with Tony Curtis is the starring role. The former was a musical with a trio of sailors on the loose in France and Allison had a couple of scenes wearing a bathing suit. The latter was a Scarlet Pimpernel retread that had Allison working in the dress shop of Angela Lansbury and almost losing her head to the guillotine. In his autobiography, Tony mentions most of the starlets who appeared with him during these films, but he doesn’t mention Allison at all.
Actress Mara Corday has said that director Joseph Pevney wanted Allison for the role that she ended up playing in “Foxfire”. Corday isn’t sure why she was cast instead of Allison, but that threat of a lawsuit may have been a black mark against her. Corday said that Allison was a beautiful girl who didn’t have “a jealous bone in her body.” Corday has declared that U-I just “threw her away” without realizing her potential. Corday told writer Tom Weaver in as interview published in his book “It Came From Horrorwood”:
Allison did some freelance work during this period. She had been living at the famous Studio Club that had once housed such future stars as Marilyn Monroe and Shelley Winters. One press release says that Allison astonished her room mate when she unpacked twenty-two bathing suits and a fantastic collection of sunglasses and earrings. Allison soon bought a home of her own at 1757 North Orange Grove Avenue in what was then North Hollywood. It was written that she followed her horoscope closely (Pisces), wore mostly tailored clothes, was a fan of Paul Henreid, and read books on politics and dog training. Ted Richmond and Tyrone Power had moved Copa Productions over to Columbia Pictures, and Allison followed them there. In fact, workwise, 1955 turned out to be one of Allison’s best years. She was at M-G-M for an uncredited bit in the Lana Turner film “The Prodigal”. She played a leading lady (with blonde hair!) in the Republic crime drama “Double Jeopardy”.
At Columbia she had one of best roles as ‘Joyce Kern’ in “Chicago Syndicate”. Allison played a young lady who was out to get the mob for killing her father. She played opposite 40’s leading man Dennis O’Keefe. The supporting cast included Paul Stewart, Abbe Lane, Mark Hanna, Chris Alcaide, and Xavier Cugat. Alcaide, who played a gangster’s goon in the film, told writer Michael Barnum that while filming one particular scene, Allison and Abbe got the giggles. They were supposed to smash a vase over Alcaide’s head as he threatens them, and Abbe had fallen onto her ample rhumba shaker on the first take. Director Fred F. Sears was furious, it took several takes to get the scene in the can before the girls could contain their laughter. As it is, the scene ends abruptly with Allison avoiding Abbe’s eye, and looking down quickly. Bosley Crowther in his New York Times review of Chicago Syndicate wrote: “This is a standard melodrama in which the bright spot is Allison Hayes, a tall and agreeable young lady who gives considerable aid to the somewhat battered Mr. O’Keefe.”
Producer Ted Richmond was producing “The Calico Pony” at Columbia Pictures. Allison was offered the important supporting role of ‘Georgina DeCrais’. This was another big “A” assignment. It was photographed in CinemaScope and Technicolor. The director was George Sherman, the star above the title was Oscar-winner Van Heflin, playng the villain was Raymond Burr. The supporting cast included Phil Carey, Nancy Kulp, Jeanne Willes, and Myron Healey. But all of the attention was fixed squarely on the young New York Method actress making her film debut as ‘Lissy’ – Joanne Woodward. Woodward’s tiresome antics eventually pall. (“Ya wanted to be rid of me, well now yur rid! I got six brothers and ever one of ’em’s mean bad.”)
Much of Allison’s dialogue is spoken over closeups of Woodward as if her reaction were the key to the scene. There was no other sympathetic female allowed in the film. It was in her scenes with Raymond Burr as ‘Yancy’, that Allison shined. He is an evil man and she is forced to submit to him. Even though this assignment didn’t lead to bigger and better roles – Allison did make two life-long friends while working on “Count Three And Pray” (as it was titled when released). Raymond Burr and Nancy Kulp joined Allison’s tight circle of friends. She especially liked to play piano while Nancy sang. Burr was just a couple of years away from his break through role as ‘Perry Mason’. Allison also considered “Count Three And Pray” as her best work and her personal favourite of all of her films.
She drove a blue Morgan automobile and owned a poodle. She was photographed at the house for a feature in the December, 1955, issue of Hollywood Stars magazine. She borrowed agent Pomeroy’s pool for another shot. Allison did a lot of magazine photography during this period. She did “The Steel Jungle” (AKA “I Died a Thousand Times”, when being filmed) for Warner Brothers in 1956 it also starred Perry Lopez, one time room mate of James Dean, and Beverly Garland.
Co-starring with the popular Scott Brady and Lori Nelson, Allison also appeared that year in Edward Alperson’s colour Western “Mohawk”. She appeared as ‘Greta’, the daughter of the local saloon keeper in a small village in 18th century New York State. Brady played an artist from Boston who loved to paint the local colour – Allison. His fiancee played by Nelson shows up and before long there is a lot of jealousy and some wild Indian attacks. The Mohawks of the title included Neville Brand, Tommy Cook, Mae Clarke, and Rita Gam (who had also appeared in “Sign Of The Pagan”).
Allison also worked for director Roger Corman for the first time in 1956 on his western horse opera “Gunslinger”. The trio of stars of the picture were John Ireland, Beverly Garland, and Allison. She played ‘Erica Page’, a saloon owner who was also doing some land speculation on the side. Garland is the wife of the town’s sheriff. When hubby is shot, Garland takes on the badge and the job of cleaning up the town. She and Allison have a nifty cat fight.
Corman wrote in one of his books that the shoot was miserable. He claimed that Allison joking asked, “Who do I have to fuck to get off this picture?” It rained four of the six days and everything turned to mud. Near the end of the filming, Allison fell off her horse and broke her arm. While waiting for the ambulance, Corman took a closeup of her. Allison claimed that her horse had been frightened by gunfire – she was a pretty good horsewoman. Garland (the future Mrs. Fillmore Crank and hotelier) has said that Allison just wanted to get off the picture and slid off the horse on purpose. You can bet that Corman had his hands full with these two.
During the mid-1950’s, only the biggest of motion picture stars stayed away from television. Allison moved to episodic television and made appearances on many shows. Most of these were guest shots, although she had a re-curring role on “Bat Masterson” as Elly Winters, a beautiful poker dealer/secret agent, in seven episodes of the popular western series starring Gene Barry. Even while she continued to do movies, During the 1950’s, she was visible on some of the most high-profile programs.
“Four Star Playhouse” was one of her first filmed television appearances. She played a secretary in the episode titled “Here Comes the Suit.” She played a nice supporting role in the Ford Television Theatre episode titled “Fate Travels East.” This mystery which took place on a train, starred Linda Darnell and John Forsythe. Allison played a movie star traveling east with her TV cowboy star husband (Sheb Wooley). Produced at Columbia Studios.
Other popular 1950’s series episodes with Allison include “The Alan March Story” episode of “The Millionaire”. She plays the love interest of a doctor who gets the titular sum. As ‘Linda Kendall’, she is wealthy on her own, and the conflicts keep us guessing until the last minute if she will be able to convince Alan she loves him for himself. She also sports a fancy ring, it is heart shaped and surrounded by stones. She would wear this ring in many TV shows and movies, it must have been a talisman of some kind for her.
Allison is a wife with a dead husband in the “Mike Hammer” episode “Mere Maid.” where she does some excellent screaming. Darren McGavin is the title hero. Episodes of “Rawhide”, “Death Valley Days”, “The Web”, “Rough Riders”, “Captain Grief”, “World of Giants”, “Warner Bros. Presents”, and “The Alaskans” were among those Allison filmed through the end of the decade. She rode a horse, danced, served drinks, played cards, and hardly ever got the hero at the close of the episode. Allison played a lot of tough gals. She dated a lot of men during this period, and her name was in the columns as often for her romances as it was for her work.
Allison’s first horror film was made in 1956. “The Undead”, directed by Roger Corman. Allison plays ‘Livia’ the witch intent on making Knight Pendragon (Richard Garland) her own even if it means causing innocent Helene (Pamela Duncan) to lose her head. Livia appears and disappears – changes form and generally makes a nuisance of herself throughout the story of time travel, mysticism, and reincarnation.
“The Undead” was filmed on the cheap at the Sunset Studios, a former supermarket and on location at the Witch’s House in Beverly Hills. A couple of unique innovations fell by the wayside including Charles Griffith’s original script written in rhymes and a shot of VeSota’s decapitated head on the axe! Actor Mel Welles who plays ‘Smolkin’ in “The Undead” says that Allison was “a real Fifties chick.” He says she drove a blue Morgan automobile and she must have been quite a sight racing down Sunset in that open car with her red hair flying on her way to agent Jack Pomeroy’s office.
Next up was “The Disembodied” (1957) Allison reminisced to Barry Brown that the dance was choreographed by an African student who was attending the University of Los Angeles, A. E. Okonu. She told Brown, “It never came off the way it should have. It came off as more of a bump and grind number instead of a voodoo dance.” She remembered the day she had to do the routine. It was to be the first shot of the morning. The stage was filled with people who’d come to see her prance about. Allison was anticipating enough trouble doing the number without having to be gawked at and so she asked to have the set cleared and director Walter Grauman (it was his first foray into feature films) obliged her. “And so I was starting the number”, she recalled, “and I looked and there was a man standing there with his arms crossed, very serious-looking, just watching – so I stopped and I said ‘You! Out!’. The man left.” Allison found out later that the man was Walter Mirisch, head of the studio.
In “Zombies Of Mora Tau” (1957). Allison plays ‘Mona’ the wife of ‘George Harrison’ (Joel Ashley) who nonetheless has eyes for ‘Jeff’ (Gregg Palmer). Lost diamonds, zombies above and below the water, deep sea diving, Autumn Russell and other scary things sustain the viewer’ interest. One story is told of Allison having a fit of temperament on the set of “Zombies Of Mora Tau” during her last day of filming. After stating her position, she leaves the set still wearing her negligee from wardrobe, gets into her car, and leaves the lot and no doubt she had carefully packed her street clothes in the trunk. This might be why her character just disappears from the story with no real resolution for her.
The Unearthly (1957) was “guaranteed to frighten” and it is unknown how many people collected on the promise, but most of the scares must have been left on the cutting room floor. This film is the only remnant of an experiment in co-production and releasing between the American Broadcasting Company and Paramount Theaters. The government stepped in and it ended up being one of the last Republic Pictures releases (usually on a co-bill with “The Beginning Of The End”.) Allison played a sympathetic role in ‘Grace Thomas’, she starred alongside Reed Hadley, Tor Johnson and John Carradine.
After that was “The Hypnotic Eye” (1960), it was put together by the producers of “The Disembodied” who would also later do “Tickle Me” the Elvis film that was Allison’s last big screen appearance. Allison gets off a great line: “You like my face? Then you may have it”. In 1963 she did the film “The Crawling Hand”. Allison plays a supporting role as ‘Donna’ an assistant in a space lab, this movie is known by several different titles.
In 1957, Allison was still active on television, in addition to her film assignments. On television she did “The Web” and “Conflict” among other shows. In 1958, Allison did a film in Canada, “Wolf Dog” with Jim Davis, and a “B” crime drama “Hong Kong Confidential” with Gene Barry. Allison was also top-billed for the only time in her career when she played the title role in the sci-fi thriller “Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman”. She plays the part of an abused socialite who grows to giant size because of an alien encounter. She starred with William Hudson (twin brother of Mohawk John) and Yvette Vickers (with whom she shared agent Jack Pomeroy). Vickers remembers Hayes living in the guest house of Pomeroy’s Beverly Hills digs. She also says that Allison still hoped at this time to make the jump to “A” productions.
“Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman” director of photography and executive producer Jack Marquette told Tom Weaver in an interview published in “Attack Of The Monster Movie Makers” that “Allison was a great gal…very co-operative.” He also said that when Allied Artists saw the finished film that they wanted some of the special effects redone. Because they had all been done “in the camera” the expense would have been too great, so it was released as shot on a double bill with Roger Corman’s “War Of The Satellites” from The Showmen at Allied Artists. The sci-fi thriller is Allison’s most accessible film.
With its science fiction storyline and low budget, the film attained popularity with some movie fans, and in the subsequent years has attracted a cult film following based primarily on Hayes spending almost all the time she’s enlarged calling for “Harry!” as she angrily searches for her philandering husband. The film did not lead to better roles, though she remained constantly employed. In the October, 1958, issue of Gent magazine, Allison did a modest semi-nude pictorial. The article touted her role in “the Woolner Brothers production of The Astounding Fifty Foot Woman” [sic]. Allison also modeled for the Frederick’ of Hollywood catalogue around this time.
Allison’s father died in the fall of 1959. One account of her life during his period says that she had fallen madly in love with a director who was 5ft 3″ tall (Allison was 5ft 7″). The director would not divorce his wife and Allison was stung by the rejection. She apparently carried a torch for many years. The remainder of Allison’s career was taken up with typical movie-factory work. Films like “Pier 5 Havana” shot on location in Cuba, “Counterplot” shot on location in Puerto Rico, “The Hypnotic Eye”, “The High-Powered Rifle”, “Five Bold Women”, “Lust To Kill” and “Who’s Been Sleeping In My Bed”.
A close friend of Raymond Burr since filming “Count Three And Pray”, she made five guest appearances on his “Perry Mason” series during this time, including the role of ‘Pearl Chute’ in the 1962 episode, “The Case of the Bogus Books”. She also guest-starred with Scott (Mohawk) Brady in his series “Shotgun Slade”. She did a Warner Bros. Playhouse “The Big Freeze” and was on “Rawhide” with Clint Eastwood.
She did “Peter Gunn” and “Men Into Space”. One top-notch appearance in the early Sixties was in the series “77 Sunset Strip” in an episode called “The Parallel Caper”. Allison appeared regularly on “Acapulco” in early 1961 costarring with Ralph Taeger and Telly Savalas. During 1963 and 1964 she played a continuing role of ‘Priscilla Longworth’ in the soap opera “General Hospital” but by this time her movie career was virtually over. Her last big screen appearance was courtesy of her Hypnotic Eye producers in Elvis Presley’s musical “Tickle Me”.
Her working days were numbered, though. Allison first contacted Dr. Henry Bieler in 1962. He was recommended by actress Gloria Swanson who had been his patient for many years. On Dr. Bielerï’s recommendation and with his prescription, Allison began talking a calcium food supplement daily. Dr. William H. Crosby later wrote that the supplement would have done nothing to correct the problem Allison originally went to Dr. Bieler for.
In 1964, Allison returned to Dr. Bieler with a variety of complaints. The doctor told her to increase her daily intake of the supplement. By 1967, she had experienced a multitude of symptoms. She was unable to walk without a cane and her career virtually came to an end making her final appearances in a guest role on “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C”. . Her auburn hair turned black and had began to fall out. She had wrist-drop syndrome in her right hand and a constant gnawing sensation across the bridge of her nose. She also became surly. Something she had never been. Her friends were worried. She consulted over 20 doctors and endured over 340 X-ray examinations. Most doctors told her that her symptoms were psycho-neurotic. None were able to identify the source of the problems. In 1968, during hospitalization for a fever, Allison stopped taking the supplement on her own.
Allison herself wrote:
First she got copies of her medical records – a process she likened to “pulling teeth.” Then Allison enlisted the help of friends who carried her to the medical library at UCLA. Because she had lost the use of her right arm, she sat on the floor making notes with her left hand. The technical books could not be checked out, so she would stay for hours, her friends picking her up sometimes after midnight. While reading a book called “Toxicology Of Industrial Metals” Allison came across a description of the metal poisoning of factory workers. She writes: “…the descriptions of some of the illnesses fit my own like a glove…ultimately I learned the truth; I had been poisoned!”
The lead content as shown by later analysis of the supplement she had taken daily for six years was 190 parts of lead per million. As was later discovered, the supplement was made in England from the bones of horses over 30 years old. Horses that had been sold to glue factories. The older the horse, the higher the lead content of the bones. The supplement had been imported into the US in 500lb drums and used in a number of products including baby food, and Dr. Bieler was still prescribing it to his patients.
After contacting a toxicologist (Dr, Karl Schwarz a researcher at Veterans’ Hospital in Long Beach) and sending him a sample of the supplement, Allison got a telegram that told her to contact him immediately. Allison writes more:
Allison started a campaign to get the FDA to stop import of the supplement Its lack of interest was based on the official judgment that food supplements were a “gray area”. That changed when the FDA wrote: “We are incorporating health food issues into our FY ’77 and ’78 compliance programs, including the bone meal and heavy metal matter. Your case is a key stimulus for so doing.” By then, Allison had begun then dropped a lawsuit again Bieler, when he pleaded for her to. He died soon after. She did win a settlement of $50,000 against the Los Angeles distributor of the supplement.
Allison’s last years were spent in a lovely ocean-front home in San Clemente. She was home-bound for much of the time. A neighbour remembers only that “…she was an actress of some sort. She kept mostly to herself and was very concerned with her diet…” Her mother Charlotte lived with her much of the time. (Mr. and Mrs. Hayes had moved to California in 1953.) Allison entered the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla in October of 1976. She was diagnosed with leukemia. The cause could have been the supplement or the many X-Ray examinations she had had over the years. She was released just in time for Christmas, December 21, 1976.
She had a periodic check-up on February 24, 1977. Allison drove herself to the hospital on February 26, 1977, and checked herself in to receive a scheduled blood transfusion. This is something she had done often in prior years. The transfusion was begun at 4:15 p.m. and discontinued about 2/3rds of the way through because Allison felt chilled. She was also experiencing a multitude of flu like symptoms and was in extreme pain At 11:15 pm. Allison was taken by ambulance from the Scripps Clinic to the University of California Medical Center in San Diego at 3:15 am, She died there at 6:03 am, February 27, 1977, one week before her 47th birthday. Her mother Charlotte died on October 1, 1977.
Allison Mary Jane Hayes played strong women on the screen, but she fought her bitterest battles off screen against the medical establishment. She is spoken of fondly by those her worked with her.
She also wrote poetry and this is one of her last efforts:
Her greatest wish toward the end of her life was that her story be told so that others might not suffer her fate. Allison Hayes was interred with her father at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. Her mother Charlotte was buried in a nearby unmarked grave. In a letter that arrived after her death, the FDA advised her that amendments were being made to the laws governing the importation of nutritional supplements, largely as a result of her situation.