Margaret Ann McCay (born November 3, 1927), known professionally as Peggy McCay, is an American actress whose career began in 1949, and includes theatre, television, soap operas, and feature films. She may be best known for originating the roles of Vanessa Dale on the CBS soap opera Love of Life (a role she played from 1951–55), and Caroline Brady, which she has played since 1983 on NBC's Days of Our Lives.
The Manhattan-born McCay was the only child of Michael, a construction company owner who specialized in building schools, and his wife, Catherine (or Cathryn) McCay. She attended St. Walburga's Convent School and Barnard College, graduating from the latter in June 1949. After her father's sudden death, she and her mother ran his construction company for a period of time.
After graduation, she joined impresaria Margo Jones's Texas-based theatre company and graduated to repertory, where she essayed numerous roles. She studied with Lee Strasberg in New York, later helping to set up Strasberg's West Coast studio.
One of her first New York roles was in an off-Broadway production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, opposite Franchot Tone; they reprised their roles in the 1957 film version of the play. Her role as Sonya earned her the off-Broadway award "OBIE" for Best "Off-Broadway" Young Actress of the Year.
McCay accepted her first major role as the heroine Vanessa Dale on the soap opera Love of Life, which premiered in 1951. After four years, she left in 1955 to pursue other options. In 1958 she appeared on Perry Mason as defendant Stephanie Falkner in "The Case of the Long-Legged Models", and in 1959 as conwoman Melissa Maybrook in the Maverick episode "The Sheriff of Duck 'n' Shoot". Soon after, she was cast in an episode of the CBS anthology series, Appointment with Adventure. She appeared in four feature films in the late 1950s before landing a lead role in 1962 in the ABC television series Room for One More as Anna Perrott Rose, who had written a memoir about her family life as a foster mother. In 1962, McCay starred in the feature film, Lad, A Dog.
On February 4, 1963, she appeared as Sheriff Taylor's old girlfriend Sharon DeSpain in the "Class Reunion" episode of The Andy Griffith Show. On April 9, 1963, McCay appeared in the episode "Broken Honor" of NBC's Laramie; she and Rod Cameron played Martha and Roy Halloran, a farm couple who stumble upon $30,000 in money found inside a strong box on their property. The loot had been seized by bandits in a stagecoach heist and hidden away for later retrieval. Roy, who is wheelchair-bound, insists on keeping the money until Jess Harper, played by series regular Robert Fuller, arrives at their farm amid grave danger to all from the bandits.
McCay guest-starred on ABC's The Roaring 20s, The Greatest Show on Earth, and Jason Evers's Channing. In 1963, she appeared on NBC's Redigo, with Richard Egan, and on CBS's Perry Mason (as defendant Margaret Layton in "The Case of the Skeleton's Closet").
In 1964, she returned to daytime television as a lead on ABC's The Young Marrieds. When the show went off the air in 1966, she was written into the story line on ABC's General Hospital (as Iris Fairchild) until 1970. In the 1970s, McCay appeared in Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years, How the West Was Won, and The Lazarus Syndrome. She appeared in a 1975 television movie, John O'Hara's Gibbsville (also known as The Turning Point of Jim Malloy), and was a regular in the cast of the short-lived 1976 series Gibbsville.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, she had a recurring role as Marion Hume in the CBS drama Lou Grant. She may be best known as matriarch Caroline Brady on Days of Our Lives. First appearing on the program in February 1983, she signed a long-term contract with the serial in 1985 and has appeared on a regular basis ever since.