Mary Carlisle

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Mary Carlisle
Mary Carlisle.jpg
Born Gwendolyn L. Witter
(1914-02-03) February 3, 1914 (age 102)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Occupation Actress
singer
dancer
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 Boston, Massachusetts, 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. She was the only actress to appear as a leading lady in two Bing Crosby films.

Early life[edit]

Mary Carlisle was born as Gwendolyn L. Witter[citation needed] on February 3, 1914 in Boston, Massachusetts.[1] Her mother was Leona Ella Witter (née Wotton).[citation needed] Born into a religious family, she was educated in a convent in Back Bay, Boston[2] after her family moved to that city when she was 6 months old.[3] Her father died when she was four years old.[4] Carlisle and her mother relocated to Los Angeles when she was around eight years old.

Hollywood career[edit]

Carlisle's uncle, who lived in California, gave her the opportunity to appear in the Jackie Coogan silent movie Long Live the King in 1923. She was uncredited.[1]

Carlisle was discovered by studio executive Carl Laemmle, Jr. at the age of 14 while she was eating lunch with her mother at the Universal Studios commissionary. Carlisle, at 5 feet tall, with 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 noticed that she was underaged and had to finish school first.[4]

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 a couple of days later. Carlisle, who had lied about her good dancing abilities, took a one-day basic tap dancing lesson, won the part along with future star Ann Dvorak[3] and appeared briefly in one film. She signed a one-year contract with MGM[2] in 1930 and was used as a back-up dancer.[4]

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, where she played a bride named Mrs. Hoffman.[2] 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.[5] Her major acting break came when Paramount Studios loaned her to star in the 1933 musical comedy College Humor alongside Bing Crosby. The performance was critically acclaimed and catapulted her into a leading actress.[6] She went on to make two more movies with Crosby: Double or Nothing[4] and Doctor Rhythm.[1] She continued working for different studios, mainly in B-movies as a leading lady. Being an actress whose beauty was considered a favourable trait among the studios, she used to diet in order to keep her figure.[2]

Marriage & retirement from acting[edit]

On March 14, 1942, Carlisle married British-born actor James Edward Blakeley (1910–2007), who later became an executive producer at 20th Century-Fox.[7] She 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.[8]

Honours[edit]

On February 8, 1960, aged 46, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[9] With the deaths of Gloria Stuart and Barbara Kent, Carlisle became the only surviving "WAMPAS Baby Star".[5]

Carlisle is the model for the heroine, Starshine Hart, in Jacob Appel's novel, The Biology of Luck (2013).[10]

Filmography[edit]

Film
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
Now's the Time
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]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Mary didn't need an agent". The Register-Guard, June 11, 1939. Retrieved February 25, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Minute biographies: Mary Carlisle". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 20, 1933. Retrieved February 24, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Soanes, Wood (February 18, 1937). "Sad-Eyed Comedienne". Oakland Tribune. California, Oakland. p. 75. Retrieved June 28, 2016 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  4. ^ a b c d "Mary Carlisle sets record! Opposite Bing Crosby second time". Ottawa Citizen, May 29, 1937. Retrieved February 24, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Wollstein, Hans J. (2000–2001). "The WAMPAS Baby Stars". The Old Corral at b-westerns.com. 
  6. ^ "Eddie Cantor picks Mary Carlisle as lead". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 3, 1933. Retrieved February 24, 2014. 
  7. ^ Benoit, Sharon (January 2007). "Passagess". Editors Guild Magazine. Retrieved July 1, 2016. 
  8. ^ Biern, Shawn Patrick (2009). Orphans: A Hollywood Dream Come True. Dorrance Publishing Co. p. 79. ISBN 978-1434901422. 
  9. ^ "Mary Carlisle - Inducted to the Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960". Walk of Fame. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  10. ^ Appel, Jacob. Phoning Home. U of SC Press, 2014

External links[edit]