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Mary Duncan; Socialite, Actress, Philanthropist

May 17, 1993

Mary Duncan, a screen siren of the 1920s and 1930s who became a Palm Beach socialite after marrying international polo star Stephen Sanford, has died. She was 98.

Mrs. Sanford died May 9 in her sleep at her home in Palm Beach, Fla. She also had three homes in New York.

As a philanthropist and society grande dame in her later years, she helped found the Florida city's Polo Ball and was active in the American Cancer Society, the American Red Cross and Planned Parenthood. She was for many years the national chairwoman of New York City's April in Paris Ball Committee, which raised money for such charities as the Leukemia Society of America and the Parkinson's Disease Foundation.

Born in Luttrellville, Va., she attended Cornell University for a year before turning to acting. After some success on Broadway, including the lead role in the play "Shanghai Gesture," she moved to Hollywood as a Fox contract player.

"There are few more colorful actresses in Hollywood than Mary Duncan," columnist Louella Parsons wrote in 1931. "Exotic and a capable actress, she has been much in demand as a screen siren."

Her films included "Very Confidential" in 1927; "Soft Living" and "Four Devils" in 1928; "Romance of the Rio Grande" and "The River" in 1929; "City Girl," "Kismet" and "The Boudoir Diplomat" in 1930; "Men Call It Love," "Five and Ten" and "The Age for Love" in 1931; "State's Attorney," "Thirteen Women" and "The Phantom of Crestwood" in 1932, and "Morning Glory" in 1933.

She retired from the screen in 1933 to marry the wealthy Sanford and move to Palm Beach. He died in 1977.

She is survived by a niece and a grandniece.

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