Mary Carlisle

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Mary Carlisle
Mary Carlisle.jpg
Born Gwendolyn L. Witter
(1914-02-03) February 3, 1914 (age 102)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.[a]
Occupation Actress
Years active 1923–1943
Spouse(s) James Blakeley
(1942–2007; his death); 1 child

Mary Carlisle (born February 3, 1914) is a retired American actress, singer and dancer. Born in Los Angeles, California, she starred in several B movie-grade Hollywood films in the 1930s, having been one of fifteen girls selected as "WAMPAS Baby Stars" in 1932. She became a centenarian in 2014.

Life and career[edit]

Mary Carlisle was born as Gwendolyn L. Witter on February 3, 1914[1] in Los Angeles, California.[2] Her mother was Leona Ella Witter (née Wotton) .[3] Being born into a religious family, she was educated in a convent in Boston.[4] Her father died when she was four years old.[5] Leona Witter later remarried, to industrialist Henry J. Kaiser.[6] Carlisle and her mother then relocated to Los Angeles, where her uncle lived. He gave her the opportunity to appear in the Jackie Coogan vehicle Long Live the King in 1923. She was uncredited.[2]

Carlisle was discovered by studio executive Carl Laemmle, Jr. at the age of 14 when she was eating lunch with her mother at the Universal Studios commissionary. Carlisle, a petite 5 feet tall, with ash blonde hair, dimples and big round blue eyes, was praised for her angelic looks, and Laemmle offered her a screen test. Though she passed the test and started doing extra work at Universal, she was stopped by a welfare officer who noted that she was underaged and had to finish school first.[5]

After completing her education two years later, she headed to the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio for work in movies. The casting director asked if she could dance; when she replied that she could, he arranged for an audition to take place two days later. Carlisle, who had lied about her good dancing abilities, took a one-day basic tap dancing lesson. She signed a one-year contract with MGM[4] in 1930 and was used as a back-up dancer.[5]

In the beginning of her movie career, she had small parts in movies such as Madam Satan and Passion Flower. She also had a role in Grand Hotel in 1932.[4] She gained recognition when she was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars (young actresses believed to be on their way to stardom) in 1932.[7] Her major acting break came when Paramount Studios loaned her for the movie College Humor, where she played opposite Bing Crosby. The performance was critically acclaimed and she later went on making two more movies with him: Double or Nothing and Doctor Rhythm.[8] She continued working for different studios, mainly in B-movies as a leading lady.


Carlisle married actor James Edward Blakeley (1910–2007) on March 14, 1942,[9] who later became an executive producer at 20th Century-Fox. Carlisle retired from films shortly after getting married. The couple had one child during their nearly 65-year marriage. In her later life, she was in charge of the Elizabeth Arden Salon in Beverly Hills, California.[6]


On February 8, 1960, aged 46, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[10] With the deaths of Gloria Stuart and Barbara Kent, Carlisle became the only surviving "WAMPAS Baby Star".[7]

Carlisle is the model for the heroine, Starshine Hart, in Jacob Appel's novel, The Biology of Luck (2013).[11]


Year Title Role
1923 Long Live The King Bit role (uncredited)
1930 The Girl Said No Party guest
Montana Moon Party girl
Children of Pleasure Secretary
Madam Satan Little Bo Peep
Passion Flower Blonde party guest
Remote Control Young blonde violinist
The Devil's Cabaret (short) Impy
1931 The Great Lover Blonde autograph seeker
1932 This Reckless Age Cassandra Phelps
Hotel Continental Alicia
Grand Hotel Mrs. Hoffman
Night Court Elizabeth Osgood
Ship A Hooey
Down to Earth Jackie Harper
Smilin' Through Young party guest
Her Mad Night Constance 'Connie' Kennedy
1933 Men Must Fight Evelyn
College Humor Barbara Shirrel
Ladies Must Love Sally Lou Cateret
Saturday's Millions Thelma Springer
The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi Vivian
East of Fifth Avenue Edna Howard
Should Ladies Behave Leone Merrick
1934 Palooka Anne Howe
This Side of Heaven Peggy Turner
Once to Every Woman Doris Andros
Murder in the Private Car Ruth
Handy Andy Janice Yates
Million Dollar Ransom Francesca Shelton
That's Gratitude Dora Maxwell
Kentucky Kernels Gloria
Girl o' My Dreams Gwen
1935 Grand Old Girl Gerry Killaine
The Great Hotel Murder Olive Temple
One Frightened Night Doris Waverly
Champagne for Breakfast Edie Reach
The Old Homestead Nancy Abbott
It's in the Air Grace Gridley
Super-Speed Nan Gale
Kind Lady Phyllis
1936 Love in Exile Emily Stewart
Lady Be Careful Billie 'Stonewall' Jackson
1937 Hotel Haywire Phyllis
Double or Nothing Vicki Clark
That Navy Spirit Judy Hollan
1938 Tip-Off Girls Marjorie Rogers
Dr. Rhythm Judy Marlowe
Hunted Men Jane Harris
Touchdown, Army Toni Denby
Illegal Traffic Carol Butler
Say It in French Phyllis Carrington
1939 Fighting Thoroughbreds Marian
Inside Information Crystal
Hawaiian Nights Millie
Beware Spooks! Betty Lou Winters Gifford
Call a Messenger Marge Hogan
Rovin' Tumbleweeds Mary Ford
1940 Dance, Girl, Dance Sally
1941 Rags to Riches Carol Patrick
1942 Torpedo Boat Jane Townsend
Baby Face Morgan Virginia Clark
1943 Dead Men Walk Gayle Clayton

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "California, Birth Index, February 3, 1914". Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Mary didn't need an agent". Eugene Register-Guard, June 11, 1939. Retrieved February 25, 2014. 
  3. ^ "New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, March 16, 1936". Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c "Minute biographies: Mary Carlisle". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 20, 1933. Retrieved February 24, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c "Mary Carlisle sets record! Opposite Bing Crosby second time". Ottawa Citizen, May 29, 1937. Retrieved February 24, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "Mary Carlisle". The New York Times. Retrieved February 28, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Wollstein, Hans J. (2000–2001). "The WAMPAS Baby Stars". The Old Corral at 
  8. ^ "Eddie Cantor picks Mary Carlisle as lead". The Milwaukee Sentinel, July 3, 1933. Retrieved February 24, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Florida, Marriages, March 14, 1942". Retrieved February 28, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Mary Carlisle - Inducted to the Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960". walkoffame. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  11. ^ Appel, Jacob. Phoning Home. U of SC Press, 2014

a^ Her birth record indicates Los Angeles as place of birth

External links[edit]