Goodbye to Another Glorious Gal: Mary Carlisle

There are precious few stars of the 1930s who are still with us today, and it is with sadness that we share the news that Mary Carlisle, born Gwendolyn Witter in Boston, Massachusetts, has passed at the age of 104.

The last of the WAMPAS Baby Stars, an annual promotional campaign sponsored from 1922-1934 by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers that honored 13 young actresses (the number was 15 in 1932, the year Carlisle was honored) whose careers showed great promise, Carlisle was discovered in 1928 by studio executive Carl Laemmle, Jr. while dining at the Universal Studios commissary. She was just 14.

Mary Carlisle

In 1930, Carlisle signed a one-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, appearing mostly as a dancer in musical shorts, but it was with Paramount Pictures that she would achieve her greatest success. She appeared opposite Bing Crosby in three films—College Humor (1933), Double or Nothing (1937) and Doctor Rhythm (1938)—and would go on to appear in more than sixty pictures in the course of her 14-year career, most of them “B” pictures with titles reminiscent of the early scene in Preston SturgesSullivan’s Travels, in which successful but artistically frustrated director John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) is reminded of some of his greatest successes: Ants in Your Plants of 1939, Hey Hey in the Hayloft, and So Long, Sarong.

Some of Carlisle’s pictures could’ve been plugged right into John L. Sullivan’s filmography, titles like Hotel Haywire (1937), Ship A Hooey! (1932), and Handy Andy (1934), and we’d pay good money and line up early to see that triple feature tonight, if only some bijou were screening it.

Carlisle was wed to actor James Edward Blakeley (he would go on to become an executive producer at 20th Century-Fox) in 1942 and retired from motion pictures soon thereafter. But more than five dozen pictures is nothing to sneeze at, nor is living (and staying vital) to 104 years of age. What a rich, full life Ms. Carlisle enjoyed.

Rest in peace, Ms. Carlisle, and thank you.

This story originally appeared in a slightly different form on February 3, 2016.

Goodbye to Another Glorious Gal: Dorothy Malone

We were sorry to learn that Dorothy Malone had died, just days short of her 93rd birthday. She enjoyed a long career in motion pictures and television, mostly playing bad girls, but to us, she’ll always be the most memorable bookstore employee in the history of the movies, and if you doubt us on this, just watch this scene with Humphrey Bogart from The Big Sleep (1946).

Goodbye to Another Glorious Gal: Peggy Cummins

We were sorry to learn Welsh-born stage and film actress Peggy Cummins died at age 92 on Friday, December 29, 2017, in London. She began as a child star and worked in the United States for only a few years, but if she’d played no other role than the sharp-shooting, bank-robbing femme fatale Annie Laurie Starr in Joseph H. Lewis’ Gun Crazy (1950), she’d have made an indelible mark.

As noir expert Eddie Muller said of Cummins in introducing the film on Turner Classic Movies in July 2017, “Peggy’s performance, her Hollywood swan song, would galvanize the Gun Crazy production and earn her lasting fame as the tiniest, but most ferocious, femme fatale in the history of film noir.”

Peggy Cummins

Goodbye to Another Glorious Gal: Bea Wain

Regular listeners to Cladrite Radio surely recognize the voice—and perhaps the name—of Bea Wain, one of the most popular songbirds of the Cladrite Era.

What you might not have known, however, is that Ms. Wain was still with us. Until very recently, that is. It saddens us to share the news that Ms. Wain passed away on Saturday, August 19, at age 100.

Wain got her start in nightclubs and on the radio before joining Larry Clinton and his orchestra in 1937. Wain and Clinton were a good team, enjoying great success, but her pay was low (shame on you, Mr. Clinton) so she stepped out from the Clinton outfit to forge a solo career, playing colleges and theatres and appearing frequently on the popular radio program Your Hit Parade.

A lovely voice has been silenced, but we still have her music. We’ll be adding more of Ms. Wain’s records to our playlist over the next couple of days as a tribute to a wonderful singer and a great gal.

Big band songbird Bea Wain

Gloria DeHaven: Goodbye to Another Glorious Gal

Here’s a fond farewell to actress Gloria DeHaven, who passed away this weekend just a few days after her 91st birthday. There aren’t many stars still with us who debuted in pictures as far back as 1936, as she did. Here are 10 GDH Did-You-Knows:

  • DeHaven’s first film appearance was at age 11 in Charlie Chaplin‘s Modern Times.
  • During her film career, she dabbled in a number of genres, from romantic comedy to film noir, but she was best known for her work in musicals.
  • In the film Three Little Words (1950), DeHaven played the role of her own mother, actress Flora Parker DeHaven.
  • She was the recipient of Frank Sinatra‘s first screen kiss, in Step Lively (1944).
  • In addition to her film career, DeHaven worked in nightclubs and the theater, and she would go on to enjoy a long and successful career on television.
  • Early in her career, she was a girl singer with the orchestras of Jan Savitt and Bob Crosby.
  • She was a regular on two popular soap operas—Ryan’s Hope and As the World Turns—and one takeoff on soaps, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.
  • In 1975, DeHaven appeared as a panelist on five episodes of The Match Game.
  • Her Broadway debut came in the 1955 musical adaptation of Seventh Heaven.
  • DeHaven was married four times to three different men, and had two children each with two of them.

Godspeed and rest in peace, Gloria DeHaven…

Gloria DeHaven