Mari Blanchard did some things in real life which you might think only happened in the movies. At nine, she was stricken with polio; by twelve, she’d recovered, but she kept up an exercise schedule for many years to follow. At seventeen, she ran away to join the circus. At twenty-five, she was spotted by cartoonist Al Capp (Li’l Abner), who was thus inspired to create Stupefyin’ Jones, so utterly gorgeous that any male who glimpsed her was frozen solid, unable to move. At thirty-four, while shooting She-Devil, she came down with appendicitis; she recovered and finished the film. At forty, she was diagnosed with cancer; she did not recover, but it took seven years for the disease to finish her off.
It seems perhaps unfair that she’s best remembered as Allura, Queen of Venus, in Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, a 1953 epic in which Bud and Lou first land in a place weirder than anywhere else in the solar system: New Orleans during Mardi Gras. There are, it seems, no men on Venus; they’d been banished, um, generations ago. The Queen, though, thinks Lou is sort of cute.
Blanchard even outshines Anita Ekberg, who plays one of Allura’s guards. Identified merely as “Boy”: a nine-year-old Harry Shearer. And not one second of the 77-minute running time takes place on Mars.
Mari Blanchard’s last film role was in the John Wayne vehicle McClintock! (1963); she continued to take television roles until the cancer overwhelmed her. She died in 1970.