Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hardy, Mary Veronica (1931–1985)

by Brian McFarlane

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Mary Veronica Hardy (1931-1985), entertainer, was born on 14 October 1931 at Warrnambool, Victoria, youngest of eight children of locally born parents Thomas John Hardy, farm inspector, and his wife Winifred Mary, née Bourke. Mary’s childhood was spent at Bacchus Marsh, where she was educated at a convent. She made her first stage appearance at the Mechanics Hall. Following her father’s death (1943), she moved with her mother to Gardenvale, Melbourne. She sought auditions while taking a range of work, and gained roles with the National Theatre and the Council of Adult Education’s touring company. She played Peter Pan in a J. C. Williamson Ltd pantomime at the Princess Theatre in 1957-58, once outraging parents in the audience with a burst of profanity after the 'flying' mechanism jammed, leaving her in mid-air.

In the late 1950s Hardy won critical acclaim as a 'straight' actress with the Union Theatre Repertory Company: her roles included the cabin boy in Moby Dick—Rehearsed (1959) and the rebellious Beatie in Arnold Wesker’s Roots (1960). Yet, despite her striking talent, as Joy Westmore noted, Hardy really 'wanted to be a personality'. She starred in revues in Sydney and Melbourne and later returned to the stage as Agnes Gooch in Mame (1968), winning the Dolia Ribush award for best supporting actress (1969).

Hardy’s fast-talking, uninhibited approach, her gifts for ad-libbing and rapport with ordinary people, made her a greatly loved figure on long-running radio programs with Noel Ferrier on 3UZ (1965-68) and, from 1972, on 3AW’s 'Mary Hardy Show', a daily talkback program. On television she proved more than equal to such skilled improvisers as Graham Kennedy, and became co-host of 'The Penthouse Club' (Channel 7) in 1970. Seven times between 1966 and 1979 she was voted Victoria’s most popular female entertainer in the TV Week Logie awards. In 1978, however, she 'stormed out' of both programs, amid clashes with management and colleagues. While soon returning to 3AW, she did not again secure sustained work.

Success took its toll. Her friend Bob Hornery described her as a 'true eccentric' who was, in later years, very fragile. An insomniac, she also suffered from depression. Elfin and flamboyant, she mourned her lack of beauty. She had married Ian Gordon Pearce, a musician, on 5 April 1962 at St Mary’s Catholic Church, East St Kilda. The failure of their marriage (leading to divorce on 19 September 1975), her longing for children and her lapsed Catholicism contributed to her unhappiness. Her casting in Shut Your Eyes and Think of England (1980) gave hope of a 'comeback' but she was dismissed, allegedly because she was too outrageous for the mousy role of Joyce Pullen.

Hardy was never far from public attention: in April 1983 charges against her were dropped following her arrest for heckling the former prime minister, Malcolm Fraser; in June the press reported another 'nervous breakdown'. Between 4 and 7 January 1985 she shot herself in her Middle Park apartment; she was buried in New Cheltemham cemetery. Her last days were interpreted in a short film, The Mary Hardy Show (1987), directed by Barbara Karpinski; Mary Lives! , a biographical play by her brother Frank Hardy was first performed in 1992.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Sumner, Recollections at Play (1993)
  • J. Hocking, Frank Hardy (2005)
  • Herald (Melbourne), 9 July 1976, p 19
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 27 May 1977, p 37, 11 Feb 1978, p 25
  • National Times, 12 Apr 1985, p 16
  • Age (Melbourne), 14 Oct 1987, p 22
  • Australian, 23 May 1992, `Magazine’, p 8
  • private information.

Citation details

Brian McFarlane, 'Hardy, Mary Veronica (1931–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hardy-mary-veronica-12592/text22679, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 19 November 2017.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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