Born Mary Jane Hayes in Charleston, West Virginia, she was in the class of 1948 at Calvin Coolidge High School. Hayes won the title of Miss District of Columbia. She went on to represent D.C. in the 1949 Miss America pageant. Although she did not win the competition, it provided her with the opportunity to work in local television before moving to Hollywood to work for Universal Pictures in 1954. Taking the name Allison Hayes, she played small roles in a handful of films at Universal for a couple of years. In 1955 she filed a lawsuit against the studio over injuries she sustained while filming her second picture, SIGN OF THE PAGAN. Universal released Hayes from her contract, and she was subsequently signed by Columbia Pictures. After appearing in a handful of Columbia films including COUNT THREE AND PRAY, MOHAWK, and WOLF DOG, Hayes was given in the lead role in ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN (1958). The film would eventually gain a cult following and become the performance for which she is best known. However, it did not escalate Hayess career at the time.