Women News

Mike Connors and his ‘Mannix’ wife have been married for 67 years despite ‘huge temptations’ and their son’s illness

Despite studying law, Mike Connors decided to become an actor. And even with all the temptations that came with the territory, he remained devoted to his family. Against all odds, he remained married to his wife for 67 years. Follow their journey.

While Mike Connors was not new to the screens when he started in “Mannix” between 1967 and 1975, the character of Joe Mannix became his defining role, propelling him to unprecedented fame and winning him a Golden Globe. award in 1970.

But in addition to a successful film career, the star also had a unique marriage, one of the few in Hollywood that has stood the test of time and withstood 67 years of temptation.

Actor Mike Connors attends the eighth annual American Film Institute Golf Classic at the Riviera Country Club on September 19, 2005 in Brentwood, California. | Source: Getty Images

Connors met his future wife, Mary Lou Willey, when they were still students at UCLA, where Connors studied law on an athletic scholarship while Lou studied education.

After dating for a while, Connors wanted to marry her, but she kept stalling. At the time, she had dropped out of college and was at home in Laguna Beach, where Connors sold brushes and vacuums door-to-door to be close to her.

Since she wouldn’t give in, Connors gave her an ultimatum. Either they got married or they ended their relationship. With that, he left Laguna Beach and returned to school. A few weeks later, Lou said she would marry him. They finally married on September 10, 1949.


American actor Mike Connors and wife Mary Lou Willey attend the 40th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California on January 29, 1983 | Source: Getty Images

Note that the actor studied law at university and intended to become a lawyer. However, along the way, he turned to the theater arts. Even then, Lou stayed with him, even when his mother and friends disowned him, saying he would eventually come to his senses.

Her marriage was not without temptations, however. He remembers how he faced temptations but chose to remain faithful to his wife because he loved her. He told how he and Lou lived in a small apartment near Sunset Boulevard. He had just made his film debut in “Sudden Fear” with Jack Palance and Joan Crawford.

Being a newbie in the industry, he often visited actor friends at MGM and then at various networking sets with those who had time for him. One day he visited MGM, which was shooting a movie with Ricardo Montalban and Lana Turner.

Actor Mike Connors and wife Mary Lou at Sportsman Lodge luncheon on January 1, 1977 | Source: Getty Images

There he met a hairdresser he had worked with before, and as they stood there talking, Lana sent a girl to ask her name. Lana was interested in him, and after he gave her name, Lana emailed the girl again to ask if Connors would like to have a drink with her in her dressing room.

Connors pushed her away, saying he would have loved it, but he had a date and couldn’t stay longer. The hairdresser called him an idiot, asking him how he thought people advanced in the profession.

Connors, however, reminded him that he hadn’t been married long and was still in love with his wife. With that, he got into his car and drove home to his wife. When he got home, he was shocked that his wife already knew about what had happened between him and Lana.

Actor Mike Connors and wife Mary Lou on February 15, 1980 at the Canyon Hotel Convention Center in Palm Springs, California. | Source: Getty Images

A small player on set, known to both Connors and his wife, had called Lou to tell him that Lana had tried to get her husband to move.

Connors knew what he wanted when he started a family and he remained devoted to his wife and children, despite his son’s illness. Geoffrey Mark, the author of “The Lucy Book”, would say:

“Family was terribly important to him. Their home in Encino was beautiful, and you never felt like you walked into a fancy house, it was a home.”

Mike Connors and Mary Lou Wiley attend the premiere performance of Joan Collins and Linda Evans in ‘Legends’ on January 16, 2007 at the Wlishire Theater in Beverly Hills, California. | Source: Getty Images

He often spoke well of his wife, never saying a derogatory word about her. For him, his family was the most important thing. The only thing he ever said about his wife was:

“I’m the luckiest guy on the planet. I got married really well.”

In 1958, the couple welcomed son Matthew Gunner Ohanian, then daughter Dana Lee Connors in 1960. Sadly, at age 15, Matthew was diagnosed with schizophrenia and “eventually had to be institutionalized”.

Actor Mike Connors attends the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Primetime Television Crimefighters Roundtable at the Leonard H Goldenson Theater on November 1, 2010 in North Hollywood, California. | Source: Getty Images

Sadly, he died of heart failure in 2007. Between Mattews’ diagnosis and his death, Connors became very active in mental health charities.


Marriages that span nearly 7 decades aren’t typical in Hollywood, but Connor and Lou made it their own. Seeing them together shed light on the kind of bond they shared.

Marylou Connors and Mike Connors at the Los Angeles Premiere of ‘Crocodile Dundee II’ held at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California, United States. | Source: Getty Images

The couple opened up about their relationship, saying a sense of humor was the best coping mechanism and bound them together like superglue. Connor would say:

“Most of our friends that we have dinner with are all people with a lot of humor. They are very successful people in business and the nights are full of laughter.

Mike Connors and Mary Lou Connors at ‘ROAST THIS! An Evening with Muhammad Ali and Friends at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, November 16, 2000 | Source: Getty Images

The ‘Good Neighbor Sam’ actor has always considered himself and Lou lucky to have lived the life they had. He shared that they were blessed with their hit, traveled the world, met some of the wittiest and funniest people, and even dined with royalty and high-profile politicians. He added:

“We’ve been married for about sixty years and enjoyed every moment of it. We’ve had a great life.”

Looking back, Connors said the only negative thing that happened to them was the loss of their son. He ponders, “You then think, ‘What’s the grand plan to kidnap such a formidable young man.’ Who knows, maybe there is a formula and a plan in the world that you have to accept, no matter how hard and painful it is.”

Actor Mike Connors and his wife Mary Lou arrive at the Paramount Pictures 90th anniversary party July 14, 2002. | Source: Getty Images

The couple lived a full life and loved each other to the end, so much so that after almost seven decades together, they didn’t want to part ways when the time came. They died the same year, 2017, and Lou died shortly after Connors died.


Related Articles

Back to top button