Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mary Carlisle-Matinee Sweetheart

Mary Carlisle graced more than sixty films from 1930 to 1943, from supporting parts in A-films to the female lead in classy B’s. She played the rich daughter who got in trouble, the college belle with an eye on the teacher, the spunky radio reporter on top of a breaking story and the wholesome girl next door who tangles with gangsters and murder. Whatever the role, Mary’s infectious smile, perky personality and comic flare made her every man’s Valentine.

Mary signed a contract with MGM while still in her teens. Her first walk-on was as Little Bo Peep in DeMille’s “Madame Satan” (1930). She cavorted as the very hot “Impy” in the color short, “The Devil’s Cabaret” (1930), and can be spotted in the finale of “Grand Hotel” (1932) as a cheerful honeymooner checking in. MGM never knew how to best utilize the vivacious starlet though they did cast her as Lionel Barrymore’s daughter in two films, and gave her the second female lead in “Kind Lady” (1935).

After her honor as one of 15 WAMPAS Baby Stars of 1932, every studio wanted her, and MGM graciously loaned her out. Mary’s career took off, starting with the Will Rogers Fox comedy, “Down to Earth” (1932).

Mary was the envy of every coed when she aggressively pursued and won music teacher Bing Crosby in “College Humor” (1933). Her unexpected kiss on the mouth after class disarms Bing, and his temperature rises later as he sings “Moonstruck” to her in his room. Mary takes off her shoes and cuddles close in a steamy promise of delights to come. Bing tries to say no. Their earthy chemistry would clash again in “Double or Nothing” (1937) and “Dr. Rhythm” (1938).

In dozens of endearing roles Mary played opposite Jack Benny, Wheeler and Woolsey, Lew Ayres, Buster Crabbe, Joe E. Brown, Lon Chaney Jr., the Dead End Kids and George Zucco. She even enjoyed a rematch with Will Rogers in “Handy Andy” (1934) where she was romanced by a young Robert Taylor. Mary makes a perfect couple with Bert Wheeler in “Kentucky Kernels” (1934). Spanky McFarland plays matchmaker as Bert sings “One Little Kiss.” With a sweet southern accent, Mary can best be described as irresistible. See for yourself in this brief clip...

A strong role came in “Rovin’ Tumbleweeds” (1939) with Gene Autry. Mary convinces a reluctant Gene to become a radio singer so he can help flood victims, and later talks him into running for Congress so he can pass a flood control bill. Guess who shows up as his secretary in Washington? As Smiley Burnette comments, “Boy, what a gal! You know, I’m gonna see if she’ll be Mrs. Frog someday.”

Mary started a new life in 1942 when she married actor James Blakeley, who had co-starred with Bing Crosby in “Two for Tonight” (1935) and in films like “The Shadow Strikes.” She retired from films after PRC’s “Dead Men Walk” (1943) with George Zucco. James went on to become an executive producer/editor at Fox, where he wore a 3-piece suit to work every day until his death in Jan., 2007. The perfect couple had one child and remained happily married for 65 years.

Mary Carlisle Blakeley, surrounded by wonderful friends and remembered by fans seeking autographs, is the absolute epitome of Hollywood glamour. Here's a big Bijou toast to you, Mary, and to your charming presence that enhanced many matinees past and yet to come. You will always be our Valentine!

Other of Mary's clips are NOW PLAYING in our Bijou Mini-Matinee theater. Read about them below, then click on the link under the marquee on the right to enjoy the show

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