Mary Wickes in trailer for Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows (1968)
|Born||Mary Isabella Wickenhauser
June 13, 1910
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||October 22, 1995
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Surgical complications|
|Resting place||Shiloh Valley Cemetery in Shiloh, Illinois|
|Alma mater||Washington University in St. Louis|
Mary Wickes (June 13, 1910 – October 22, 1995) was an American film and television character actress.
Mary Isabella Wickenhauser (she later shortened her surname for acting) was born to Frank Wickenhauser (1880-1943) and his wife, Mary Isabella (née Shannon; died 1965), in St. Louis, Missouri of German, Scottish and Irish extraction, and raised Protestant. She graduated at the age of eighteen with a degree in political science from Washington University in St. Louis, where she joined the Phi Mu women's fraternity and was initiated into Mortar Board in 1929.
Wickes' first Broadway appearance was in Marc Connelly's The Farmer Takes a Wife in 1934 with Henry Fonda. She began acting in films in the late 1930s, and was also a member of the Orson Welles troupe on his radio drama The Mercury Theatre on the Air; she also appeared in Welles' 1938 film Too Much Johnson. One of her earliest significant film appearances was in The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942), reprising her stage role of "Nurse Preen".
A tall (5'10"), gangling woman with a distinctive voice, Wickes would ultimately prove herself adept as a comedienne. She attracted attention in the 1942 film Now, Voyager as the wisecracking nurse who helped Bette Davis's character during her mother's illness. (She had already appeared earlier that year with Davis in The Man Who Came To Dinner, and joined her again six years later in June Bride.) In 1942, she also had a large part in the Abbott and Costello comedy Who Done It?. She continued playing supporting roles in films during the next decade, usually playing wisecracking characters. A prime example was her deadpan characterization of the harassed housekeeper in the Doris Day vehicles By the Light of the Silvery Moon and On Moonlight Bay, a character type she would repeat in the holiday classic White Christmas (1954), starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. She played similar roles in two later movies with Rosalind Russell in the 1960s: The Trouble with Angels and Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows.
Wickes moved to the new medium of television in 1949, starring in the title role of a Westinghouse Studio One version of Mary Poppins. In the 1950s, Wickes played the warm yet jocular maid Katie in the Mickey Mouse Club serial Walt Disney Presents: Annette and regular roles in the sitcoms Make Room for Daddy and Dennis the Menace. She also played the part of a ballet teacher, Madame Lamond, in the I Love Lucy episode "The Ballet" in 1952. Wickes also served as the live-action reference model for Cruella De Vil in Walt Disney's One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), and played Mrs. Squires in the film adaptation of Meredith Willson's The Music Man (1962).
In 1953, Wickes played the housekeeper, Martha, to Ezio Pinza's character in NBC's short-lived Bonino sitcom. Pinza portrayed an Italian-American opera singer trying to rear six children. Among the child actors on the program were Van Dyke Parks and Chet Allen. In 1954-55, she played Alice on The Halls of Ivy.
In 1956, Wickes appeared with Thelma Ritter in "The Babysitter" episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Wickes also appeared in two episodes of Zorro. In the 1961-62 season, she appeared as Maxfield opposite Gertrude Berg in CBS's Mrs. G. Goes to College. For her work in the sitcom, Wickes was nominated for an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by an Actress". In 1964, she appeared on ABC's The Donna Reed Show in the episode "First Addition."
A longtime friend of Lucille Ball, Wickes played frequent guest roles on I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show, and Here's Lucy. In 1970-71, she guest starred on CBS's The Doris Day Show. (Day was another of her friends.) She was also a regular on the Sid and Marty Krofft children's television show, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, and the sitcom Doc. She made numerous appearances as a celebrity panelist on the CBS game show Match Game. By the 1980s, her appearances in television series such as Our Man Higgins, M*A*S*H, The Love Boat, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Murder, She Wrote had made her a widely recognizable character actress. She also appeared in a variety of Broadway shows, including a 1979 revival of Oklahoma! as "Aunt Eller".
She was cast as the mother of Shirley MacLaine's character in the 1990 film Postcards from the Edge and from 1989 to 1991 portrayed Marie Murkin in the television movie and series adaptations of Father Dowling Mysteries. She played Sister Mary Lazarus in Sister Act (1992) and in the sequel Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993). She appeared in the 1994 film version of Little Women before she became ill.
Death and legacy
Wickes suffered from numerous ailments in the last years of her life including kidney failure, massive gastrointestinal bleeding, severe low blood pressure, ischemic cardiomyopathy, anemia and breast cancer (stage of cancer unknown), which cumulatively resulted in her death from surgical complications on October 22, 1995, at age 85.
Her final film role, voicing the gargoyle Laverne in Disney's animated feature The Hunchback of Notre Dame was released posthumously in 1996. She was interred beside her parents at the Shiloh Valley Cemetery in Shiloh, Illinois.
Unmarried, Wickes left a large estate and made a $2 million bequest, in memory of her parents, establishing the Isabella and Frank Wickenhauser Memorial Library Fund for Television, Film and Theater Arts.
- The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)
- Blondie's Blessed Event (1942)
- Private Buckaroo (1942)
- The Mayor of 44th Street (1942)
- Now, Voyager (1942)
- Who Done It? (1942)
- How's About It (1943)
- Rhythm of the Islands (1943)
- My Kingdom for a Cook (1943)
- Happy Land (1943)
- Higher and Higher (1943)
- June Bride (1948)
- The Decision of Christopher Blake (1948)
- Anna Lucasta (1949)
- The Petty Girl (1950)
- On Moonlight Bay (1951)
- I'll See You in My Dreams (1951)
- Young Man with Ideas (1952)
- The Story of Will Rogers (1952)
- Bloodhounds of Broadway (1952)
- By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953)
- Half a Hero (1953)
- The Actress (1953)
- Ma and Pa Kettle at Home (1954)
- White Christmas (1954)
- Destry (1954)
- Good Morning Miss Dove (1955)
- Dance with Me Henry (1956)
- Don't Go Near the Water (1957)
- The Proud Rebel (1958)
- It Happened to Jane (1959)
- Cimarron (1960)
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) (voice)
- The Sins of Rachel Cade (1961)
- The Music Man (1962)
- Fate Is the Hunter (1964)
- Dear Heart (1964)
- How to Murder Your Wife (1965)
- The Trouble with Angels (1966)
- The Spirit Is Willing (1967)
- Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows (1968)
- Napoleon and Samantha (1972)
- Snowball Express (1972)
- Sanford and Son (1972)
- Touched by Love (1980)
- The Canterville Ghost (1985)
- The Christmas Gift 1986
- Almost Partners (1987)
- Postcards from the Edge (1990)
- Sister Act (1992)
- Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993)
- Little Women (1994)
- Life With Louie (1995)
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) (voice)
- Watch the Birdie (1935)
- Too Much Johnson (1938)
- Seeing Red (1939)
- Keeping Fit (1942)
- Open Window (1972)
- U.S. Census, 1920, State of Missouri, City of St. Louis, enumeration district 410, p. 18-B, family 470.
- U.S. Census, 1880, State of Missouri, City of St. Louis, enumeration district 333, p. 160-A, family 147.
- Maltin, Leonard (host) (2008). Walt Disney Treasures: The Mickey Mouse Club Presents Annette (DVD). Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
- Bonino profile at IMDb
- IMDB, The Gertrude Berg Show, Emmy nominations: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054542/awards
- "Mary Wickes". Intenet Movie Data Base. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
- St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". stlouiswalkoffame.org. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
- Mary Wickes at the Internet Movie Database
- Mary Wickes at the Internet Broadway Database
- Washington University Library Site - Papers of Mary Wickes
- Wickes' Entry on the St. Louis Walk of Fame
- Mary Wickes at Find a Grave