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Mary Carlisle
Carlisle in 1933
Gwendolyn Witter

(1914-02-03)February 3, 1914
DiedAugust 1, 2018(2018-08-01) (aged 104)
Resting placeWestwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
Occupation(s)Actress, singer, dancer
Years active1923–1943
James Blakeley
(m. 1942; died 2007)
RelativesLeotta Whytock (aunt)

Mary Carlisle (born Gwendolyn Witter; February 3, 1914 – August 1, 2018) was an American actress, singer, and dancer, best known for her roles as a wholesome ingénue in numerous 1930s musical-comedy films.

She starred in more than 60 Hollywood films, moving beyond bit parts after coming to attention, alongside the likes of Gloria Stuart and Ginger Rogers, as one of 15 girls selected by the Western Association of Motion pictures as their WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1932. Her first major role was in the 1933 film College Humor with Bing Crosby. The two performers worked together in two additional films, Double or Nothing (1937) and Doctor Rhythm (1938). After her marriage in 1942 and a starring role in Dead Men Walk (1943), she retired from acting.

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Early life

Carlisle was born Gwendolyn Witter in Boston, Massachusetts, to Arthur William and Leona Ella (Wotton) Witter.[1][2] Born into a religious family, she was educated in a convent in Back Bay, Boston,[3] after her family moved to that neighborhood when she was six months old.[4]

Some time after her father's death, when she was 4, Carlisle and her mother relocated to Los Angeles. Through her uncle Robert Carlisle, who was a film editor and producer, she learned of a casting call at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.[5]

Hollywood career

Carlisle's uncle, who lived in California, gave Carlisle the opportunity to appear in the Jackie Coogan silent movie Long Live the King in 1923, a performance for which she was uncredited.[2] 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 canteen.[6][1][7] She was praised for her angelic looks, and Laemmle offered her a screen test.[5][8] Though she passed the test and started doing extra work at Universal, she was stopped by a welfare officer who noticed that she was underage and had to finish school first.[5][1][7]

After completing her education two years later, she headed to MGM.[6] Carlisle, who had lied about her dancing ability, took a one-day basic tap-dancing lesson, won a part along with future star Ann Dvorak, and appeared briefly in one film.[4] Carlisle signed a one-year contract with MGM in 1930, and was used as a back-up dancer.[3][5] At the start of her movie career, Carlisle had small parts in movies such as Madam Satan and Passion Flower (both 1930).[1][9] She also had a role in Grand Hotel (1932), as a bride named Mrs. Hoffman.[3] She gained recognition when, in 1932, she was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars (young actresses believed to be on their way to stardom).[10]

Her major acting break came when Paramount Pictures "loaned" her out to star in the musical comedy College Humor (1933) alongside Bing Crosby.[5] (In the Hollywood "star system", stars could not work for companies other than the one to which they were contracted.) The performance was well regarded by critics, and catapulted Carlisle to leading-actress status.[11] She made two more movies with Crosby, Double or Nothing in 1937,[5] and Doctor Rhythm (1938).[2] She continued working for different studios, mainly in B-movies as a leading lady. One of Carlisle's few appearances in an A-movie was in Dance, Girl, Dance (1940), opposite Lucille Ball and Maureen O'Hara.[7] B

She acted in more than 60 movies in a career that spanned about a dozen years,[6] and retired after co-starring as the doctor's wife in Dead Men Walk (1943).[1][12]

Personal life

In 1942, Carlisle married British-born actor James Edward Blakeley, who later became an executive producer at 20th Century Fox.[13] She retired from films shortly after.[1] The couple had one son, James, and two grandchildren during their nearly 65-year marriage.[14][7] In later life, Carlisle was the manager of the Elizabeth Arden Salon in Beverly Hills, California.[15][7]

A Democrat, she supported Adlai Stevenson during the 1952 presidential election.[16]

After the death of Barbara Kent at age 103 in 2011, Carlisle became the last surviving WAMPAS Baby Star.[17] She died on August 1, 2018, at the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a retirement community for actors in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles;[6] no cause of death was reported.[14] She was believed to be 104, but never personally confirmed her age or birth date during her life.[14] Carlisle is buried in Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.[citation needed]

Her mother's twin sister, Leotta Whytock, was a film editor.[citation needed]


On February 8, 1960, Carlisle received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6679 Hollywood Boulevard.[18]


Mary Carlisle, motion silhouette
Carlisle in 1936 MGM publicity shot
Year Title Role Source
1923 Long Live the King Bit part (uncredited) [19]
1930 Children of Pleasure Secretary (uncredited) [20]
Madam Satan Little Bo Peep (uncredited) [1]
Passion Flower Blonde party guest (uncredited) [9]
1931 The Great Lover Blonde autograph-seeker (uncredited) [1]
1932 This Reckless Age Cassandra Phelps [21]
Hotel Continental Alicia [22]
Grand Hotel Mrs. Hoffman (uncredited) [19][23]
Night Court Elizabeth Osgood [24]
Down to Earth Jackie Harper [19]
Smilin' Through Young party guest (uncredited) [19]
Her Mad Night Constance 'Connie' Kennedy [19]
1933 Men Must Fight Evelyn
College Humor Barbara Shirrel [23]
East of Fifth Avenue Edna Howard
Ladies Must Love Sally Lou Cateret [23]
Saturday's Millions Thelma Springer [25]
The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi Vivian [19][23]
Should Ladies Behave Leone Merrick [26]
1934 Palooka Anne Howe [23]
This Side of Heaven Peggy Turner [23]
Once to Every Woman Doris Andros [27]
Murder in the Private Car Ruth [28]
Handy Andy Janice Yates [23]
Kentucky Kernels Gloria [23]
Girl o' My Dreams Gwen [29]
1935 Grand Old Girl Gerry Killaine
The Great Hotel Murder Olive Temple [30]
One Frightened Night Doris Waverly [23]
Champagne for Breakfast Edie Reach [31]
The Old Homestead Nancy Abbott [32]
It's in the Air Grace Gridley [23]
Kind Lady Phyllis [1]
1936 Love in Exile Emily Stewart [33]
Lady Be Careful Billie 'Stonewall' Jackson [34]
1937 Hotel Haywire Phyllis [35]
Double or Nothing Vicki Clark [23]
That Navy Spirit Judy Hollan [23]
1938 Tip-Off Girls Marjorie Rogers [1]
Doctor Rhythm Judy Marlowe [23]
Hunted Men Jane Harris [36]
Touchdown, Army Toni Denby [23]
Illegal Traffic Carol Butler [37]
Say It in French Phyllis Carrington [38]
1939 Fighting Thoroughbreds Marian [39]
Inside Information Crystal [39]
Call a Messenger Marge Hogan [39]
Beware Spooks! Betty Lou Winters [39]
Rovin' Tumbleweeds Mary Ford [39]
1940 Dance, Girl, Dance Sally [1]
1941 Rags to Riches Carol Patrick [39]
1942 Torpedo Boat Jane Townsend [39]
Baby Face Morgan Virginia Clark [39]
1943 Dead Men Walk Gayle Clayton [23]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Mary Carlisle Dead: Bing Crosby's Co-Star Delight in Musicals Was 104". The Hollywood Reporter. August 1, 2018. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Mary didn't need an agent". The Register-Guard, June 11, 1939. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c "Minute biographies: Mary Carlisle". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 20, 1933. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Soanes, Wood (February 18, 1937). "Sad-Eyed Comedienne". Oakland Tribune. California, Oakland. p. 75. Archived from the original on August 16, 2016. Retrieved June 28, 2016 – via open access
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Mary Carlisle sets record! Opposite Bing Crosby second time". Ottawa Citizen, May 29, 1937. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d "Mary Carlisle, a perpetual ingenue in dozens of 1930s films, dies at 104". Washington Post. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e Bergan, Ronald (August 7, 2018). "Mary Carlisle obituary". the Guardian. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  8. ^ "Mary Calisle at 101". Nitrate Diva. February 3, 2015. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  9. ^ a b "Passion Flower". Letter Boxd. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  10. ^ Wollstein, Hans J. (2000–2001). "The WAMPAS Baby Stars". Archived from the original on November 27, 2016. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  11. ^ "Eddie Cantor picks Mary Carlisle as lead". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 3, 1933. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
  12. ^ "Hollywood Star Walk: Mary Carlisle". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 10, 2016. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  13. ^ Benoit, Sharon (January 2007). "Passagess". Editors Guild Magazine. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved July 1, 2016.
  14. ^ a b c "Mary Carlisle, a perpetual ingenue in dozens of 1930s films, dies at 104". Los Angeles Times. August 1, 2018. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  15. ^ Biern, Shawn Patrick (2009). Orphans: A Hollywood Dream Come True. Dorrance Publishing Co. p. 79. ISBN 978-1434901422.
  16. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
  17. ^ "Mary Carlisle, last of the WAMPAS baby stars dies at 104". Archived from the original on August 3, 2018. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
  18. ^ "Mary Carlisle - Inducted to the Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960". Walk of Fame. Archived from the original on October 13, 2016. Retrieved June 16, 2013.
  19. ^ a b c d e f "A Look at the Very Few Remaining Silent Film Actors". Classic Film Haven. June 15, 2014. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  20. ^ "Children of Pleasure". Letter Boxd. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  21. ^ "This Reckless Age". TMC. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  22. ^ "Hotel Continental". TMC. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Mary Carlisle, a perpetual ingenue in dozens of 1930s films, dies at 104". SFGate. August 1, 2018. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  24. ^ "Night Court". TMC. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  25. ^ "Saturday's Millions". TMC. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  26. ^ "Should Ladies Behave". TMC. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  27. ^ "Once to Every Woman". TMC. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  28. ^ "Murder in the Private Car". TMC. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  29. ^ "Girl o' My Dreams". TMC. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  30. ^ "The Great Hotel Murder". TMC. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  31. ^ "Champagne for Breakfast". TMC. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  32. ^ "The Old Homestead". TMC. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  33. ^ "Love in Exile". TMC. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  34. ^ "Lady Be Careful". TMC. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  35. ^ "Hotel Haywire". TMC. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  36. ^ "Hunted Men". TMC. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  37. ^ "Illegal Traffic". TMC. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  38. ^ "Say It in French". TMC. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  39. ^ a b c d e f g h "Mary Carlisle: Overview". TMC. Retrieved August 1, 2018.

External links

This page was last edited on 26 July 2023, at 09:25
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