Martha Sleeper

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Martha Sleeper
Born Martha Sleeper
(1910-06-24)June 24, 1910
Lake Bluff, Illinois, U.S.
Died March 25, 1983(1983-03-25) (aged 72)
Beaufort, South Carolina, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1923–1945
Spouse(s) Hardie Albright (1934-1940)

Martha Sleeper (June 24, 1910 – March 25, 1983) was a silent film comedienne of the 1920s and Broadway and film actress of the 1940s.


Martha Sleeper reputedly spent her first years on a sheep ranch in Wyoming. Her father, William B. Sleeper, was an official of the Keith-Albee-Orpheum vaudeville circuit in New York City. Her mother was Minnie Akass.[1] He retired to Los Angeles, California in 1923 because of ill health. She was under contract to Hal Roach studios beginning in 1924, when she was 14 years old. Her father was found dead of heart disease on September 1, 1925, in bed at his home on 1756 North Tamarind Street. Martha, then 15 years old, with her mother and sister, had taken a short trip to New York City.[citation needed] Martha Sleeper is a direct descendant of Edward Akass, who emigrated to the USA from England around 1858.

Martha Sleeper married Cree Stelling, and they made their home on the bluff at Lucy Creek in Beaufort, SC; they had no children.

Dancer who studied ballet[edit]

She studied dancing for five years with the Russian ballet master, Louis H. Chalif, in his New York dancing studio. Her first public exhibitions were at Carnegie Hall at his class exhibitions. One of her dancing photos was sent to an uncle in Los Angeles, California. He framed and displayed it on a wall of his home. The home was sold to Emory Johnson and his mother, Emily Johnson. Emily wrote The Mail Man and recommended Martha Sleeper for a part in films after noticing the teenager's photo.[citation needed]


In 1926, aged 16, the young actress wrote and published a book entitled Hollywood Be Thy Name. She wrote the story while doing screen work and performing four hours of school work daily. The volume was a romance of work, adventure, and success in Hollywood.[citation needed]

Film career[edit]

Martha Sleeper's film career began in 1923 and continued until 1945. Her early comedy efforts with Hal Roach include The Mailman (1923), The Racing Kid (1924), Trailing Trouble (1924), Please, Teacher! (1924), A Ten Minute Egg (1924), Sweet Daddy (1924), and Outdoor Pajamas (1924). She also appeared in a handful of silent Our Gang shorts including: Better Movies (1925), Baby Clothes (1926) and Thundering Fleas (1926),and also had a small role in a Laurel and Hardy short The Chimp (1932). Martha's final movies were mainly in the late 1930s, concluding with a small role in The Bells of St. Mary's (1945).


After achieving prominence on the New York stage, Sleeper left abruptly in 1949. She sailed from New York on a 40-foot schooner. Her destination was the Virgin Islands and a vacation with her husband. However, when she reached Puerto Rico she fell in love with the island and opened a hand-made clothing shop there in 1950. Sleeper sewed native dresses in San Juan and resolved never to return to the US mainland.

Before World War II, Sleeper designed jewelry, selling many of her '"Martha Sleeper Creations" to stores in neighboring islands and on the United States mainland.


Sleeper died in Bayview Nursing Home in Beaufort, South Carolina on March 25, 1983, survived by her husband. She had swum in her backyard pool daily until she became too ill .

Year of birth[edit]

Many sources cite 1907 as Sleeper's year of birth, but this appears to be incorrect. She was born just after the 1910 census was taken, and a "Martha Sleeper" does not appear in 1910 census records; however, a "Martha Sleeper" is listed as 9 years old in the 1920 census and 19 years old in the 1930 census.[citation needed] In addition, the Social Security Death Index records the date of birth of a "Martha Stelling" (Sleeper's third husband's surname) who died in March 1983 in Beaufort County, South Carolina (as Sleeper did), as June 24, 1910.[2] This, too, confirms the inaccuracy of sources listing 1907 as the year of her birth, as does Sleeper's 1983 New York Times obituary, entitled "Martha Sleeper Is Dead At 72."[3]


Year Film Role Notes
1923 The Mailman Betty
1924 The Racing Kid
Trailing Trouble
Please, Teacher!
A Ten-Minute Egg Mrs. Dugan
Seeing Nellie Home
Sweet Daddy
Outdoor Pajamas
Low Bridge
Should Landlords Live?
Too Many Mammas The Apache Dancer
Every Man for Himself Lady with rings around her eyes
All Wet (uncredited)
The Royal Razz
1925 The Rat's Knuckles Flirty McFickle
Plain and Fancy Girls
Bad Boy Jimmie's Girl Friend
Are Husbands Necessary?
Big Red Riding Hood The Maid, Book Store Clerk
Wild Papa (uncredited)
Sure-Mike! Vermuda
Sherlock Sleuth Hotel Operator
Innocent Husbands Girl at Party (uncredited)
Tame Men and Wild Women
There Goes the Bride
Better Movies Teenaged 'Vamp'
Should Sailors Marry? Smyrna
Laughing Ladies
Hold Everything
1926 A Punch in the Nose
What's the World Coming To? Butler
Your Husband's Past
Madame Mystery
Dizzy Daddies
Ukulele Sheiks
Baby Clothes Leggy Lady
Mum's the World The Nervous Little Girl
Say It with Babies Hector's Wife
Don Key (Son of Burro) Maid
Long Fliv the King Princess Helga of Thermosa
Never Too Old
Thundering Fleas Bride
Along Came Auntie Marie, the Maid
The Merry Widower (unconfirmed)
Crazy Like a Fox The Bride
Should Husbands Pay? His Wife
Bromo and Juliet Bit Role (uncredited)
Wise Guys Prefer Brunettes
1927 The Honorable Mr. Buggs The Fiancée
Jewish Prudence Rachel Gimplewart
Fluttering Hearts Daughter
The Way of All Pants (uncredited)
Love 'Em and Feed 'Em Martha, a stenographer
Fighting Fathers
Flaming Fathers Daughter
1928 Pass the Gravy Daughter
Should Tall Men Marry? Martha Skittle
Skinner's Big Idea Dorothy
The Little Yellow House Emmy Milburn
Danger Street Kitty
Taxi 13 Flora Mactavish
1929 The Air Legion Sally
The Voice of the Storm Ruth
1930 Our Blushing Brides Evelyn Woodforth
Madam Satan Fish Girl
War Nurse Helen
1931 Girls Demand Excitement Harriet Mundy
Ten Cents a Dance Nancy Clark
A Tailor Made Man Corrine
Confessions of a Co-Ed Lucille
1932 Huddle Barbara Winston
The Chimp Landlord's wife Ethel (uncredited)
Rasputin and the Empress (uncredited)
1933 The Secret of Madame Blanche Chorus Girl Who Hears 'My Country Tis of Thee' (uncredited)
Midnight Mary Barbara Loring Mannering
Penthouse Sue Leonard
Bombshell Lola's Hair Stylist (uncredited)
Broken Dreams Martha Morley
1934 Spitfire Eleanor Stafford
Hollywood Party Show Girl (uncredited)
West of the Pecos Ril Lambeth
1935 Tomorrow's Youth Mrs. Hall
Great God Gold Marcia Harper
The Scoundrel Julia Vivian
Two Sinners Elsie Summerstone
1936 Rhythm on the Range Constance
Four Days' Wonder Nancy Fairbrother
1945 The Bells of St. Mary's Mary Gallagher, Patsy's mother


  1. ^ Who Was Who in the Theatre: 1912-1976 vol.4 Q-Z p.2206; compiled from editions originally published annually by John Parker; this 1976 version by Gale Research
  2. ^ SSDI search engine
  3. ^ "Mary Sleeper Is Dead At 72," New York Times Obituary, April 7, 1983
  • Hayward Daily Review, Silent Film Dream Gal Found in Puerto Rico, May 27, 1955, Page 24.
  • Los Angeles Times, Her Youth No Bar To Mature Roles, May 10, 1925, Page 18.
  • Los Angeles Times, Keith-Orpheum Former Official Succumbs Here, September 2, 1925, Page A3.
  • Los Angeles Times, Here and There, October 29, 1926, Page A8.
  • Oakland Tribune, Comedienne Writes, Sunday, October 31, 1926, Page W3.

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