Mary Taylor Zimbalist

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ZIMBALIST--Mary Taylor. 1915--2008. Mary Taylor Zimbalist was born in Manhattan on February 13, 1915 to one of New York's prominent families. She grew up in New York, Martha's Vineyard, and Europe. At the age of sixteen, a diagnosis of bone-marrow cancer forced Mary to leave her boarding school in Bryn Mawr, and she received the new and very experimental treatment of radiation, which left her leg permanently injured. While recovering, Mary continued her studies in New York, and began work as a photographic model. Known for her exotic beauty and graceful demeanor, she was quickly given a modeling contract with Vogue, and became one of Cecil Beaton's favorite subjects, evidenced by pictures of Mary in all of Beaton's significant collections. Mary subsequently studied acting, and worked in summer stock theatre. In 1936, on the strength of her modeling, Mary was offered her first significant role in a film, Soak the Rich by Paramount Pictures. Soon after, she became a contract actress for Metro Goldwyn Mayer, and moved to California. In 1939 Mary appeared in the film Lady of the Tropics, which was produced by Sam Zimbalist, who was to become her husband. In 1941 MGM lent Mary to Warner Brothers for two films, "Blossoms in the Dust" and "Shining Victory", but when World War II broke out in December, she left acting to work full time as a nurse's aid for the Red Cross. Mary and Sam were politically active in many movements, including fighting the Hollywood Black List and McCarthyism in the late 1940s and 1950s. In the 1960s, Mary was active in the civil rights movement, marching in Selma, Alabama with Martin Luther King. Mary's marriage to Sam Zimbalist ended with his sudden death in 1958, just as he finished Ben Hur, for which he was the producer. Mary accepted the 1959 Academy Award for Best Picture on his behalf. Mary had first heard J. Krishnamurti speak in a public talk he gave in Ojai, California in 1944. In 1964 Mary began assisting Krishnamurti intermittently and in small ways. That assistance quickly grew and, when it became necessary in 1968 for Krishnamurti to disassociate himself from the organizations that had previously represented his work, he turned to Mary as his most trusted advisor and closest friend, and asked her to be a founding trustee of the trusts and schools he created in Europe and America. She was active in the founding of the Oak Grove School, Ojai, California and Brockwood Park School and Center, Hampshire, England She remained an active and beloved figure, known for her thoughtfulness, generosity, and grace, in all the organizations that represented Krishnamurti until the end of her life. Mary died quietly in her home in Ojai, California, as she had wished, on June 17, 2008.
Published in The New York Times on June 29, 2008
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