Mary Kay Stearns, one of TV’s earliest, if now largely forgotten, sitcom stars who beat Lucille Ball to on-air pregnancy by at least four years, died Nov. 17 in Newport Beach, California. She was 93.
Her death was reported by her son Jonathan to The New York Times for an obituary this week; it had not been previously reported. A cause of death was not listed.
Stearns, along with her husband Johnny Stearns (who died at 85 in 2001), starred in a late-1940s domestic comedy called Mary Kay and Johnny. The sitcom debuted in 1947 as a live, 15-minute program on the DuMont Network, then moved to NBC, CBS and back to NBC, where it ended in 1950 as a 30-minute program. The production was based in New York City.
Though the series is remembered now mostly, if at all, by TV trivia buffs (there are no YouTube clips, for starters), Mary Kay and Johnny can lay claim to at least one achievement often credited to the vastly better known I Love Lucy: Mary Kay Stearns’ real-life pregnancy in 1948 was written into the show, and the episode about the birth aired the night the couple’s real son, Christopher, was born, pre-dating the 1953 births of Desi Arnaz Jr. and Little Ricky Ricardo.
In a 1999 interview with The Television Academy, the Stearnses recalled scriptwriter Johnny’s decision to incorporate real life into fiction. “I decided, well, Mary Kay and Johnny is about us, and Mary Kay is pregnant, so I just wrote it into the script.” (Watch the interview below.)
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