DCS: lori martin

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Dawn Menzer

Lori Martin entered the world as Dawn Menzer, four minutes before her twin sister Doree on April 18, 1947. She was the daughter of a commercial artist and set designer for Warner Brothers Studios, so show business was already in her blood.

Six-year old Lori — still using her real name — was signed up by her mother with a talent agent who specialized in children’s roles. Her first audition had disaster written all over it, when en route, the family car broke down. Determined Lori got out and walked alone the six blocks to the casting office. She told the receptionist who she was and the business that brought her there. She aced the audition — a Chrysler car commercial — by herself. For future auditions, Lori’s mother waited in the car.

Now, using the name “Lori Martin,” a name she initially disliked, but grew to appreciate, she landed roles in films and episodic television. Lori was featured in the Roger Corman gangster film Machine Gun Kelly, the James Garner-Natalie Wood romantic comedy Cash McCall, the epic The FBI Story with James Stewart. She also appeared in guest roles in Leave It to Beaver, Wagon Train and Medic, television’s first doctor show.

At 12, Lori auditioned with over 900 other hopeful young actresses for the lead in the proposed TV series based on the popular film National Velvet. When the pool was narrowed down to three, Lori was interviewed an additional ten times before finally winning the role because of her striking resemblance to film star Elizabeth Taylor.

At 14, she was cast in her most notable performance, as Gregory Peck’s young daughter in the original Cape Fear. The film’s director wanted Hayley Mills for the role. When he couldn’t get her, he treated Lori deliberately harsh during filming. Lori admitted that she had regular nightmares about Robert Mitchum’s menacing performance.

Lori made an attempt at a singing career, releasing the single “The Home of the Boy I Love” in 1963. The tune, a typical 60s vocal in the style of Annette Funicello, Lesley Gore or Shelley Fabres, did not live up to Lori’s aspirations. She concentrated on her acting, taking guest roles in Family Affair, The Donna Reed Show and Please Don’t Eat the Daisies. In 1970, she was paired with Jerry Mathers as newlyweds in an episode of My Three Sons. Years earlier, they played an adolescent couple on Leave It to Beaver. She retired from acting shortly after.

Lori married and moved to Oakhurst, California in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. She took care of her child and helped her husband run his medical supply company. Lori appeared to be happy leaving her show biz life in her past, but Lori fought a life-long battle with bipolar schizophrenia, exacerbated by the death of her husband. She began to use illegal drugs and, in 2010, Lori took her own life by self-inflicted gunshot. She was 62 years old.



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