Mary Carlisle, Movie Star Of The 1930s Is 104 Years Young
(Update August 2, 2018 – Sadly, Mary Carlisle died on August 1, 2018, three weeks after this story was written.)
While she is not a household name, Mary Carlisle appeared in many films in the 1930s, including co-starring with Bing Crosby in three of his films.
With 65 films to her credit from 1923 -1943, Mary Carlisle is among the last survivors of Hollywood’s golden age of film.
Born in Boston on February 3, 1914, Carlisle started appearing regularly in movies at age 16 in 1930, mostly as an uncredited extra. Of the thousands of actresses vying for stardom in the 1930s, Carlisle’s talent and looks helped her rise in the ranks quickly.
Between 1922 -1934 the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers (WAMPAS) had a publicity campaign, where they annually named the young movie actresses they believed were on the cusp of motion picture stardom. Carlisle received a big boost in her career by being chosen a WAMPAS baby star for 1932. Among the 14 other actresses chosen that year by WAMPAS were Ginger Rogers, Gloria Stuart and Eleanor Holm.
Carlisle got a big build up from MGM and made dozens of films throughout the 1930s, not surprisingly cast as a stereotypical “nice girl” pretty blond. Though she was a good actress and appeared in well received films such as Kind Lady (1935) Carlisle never received a real breakout role. Carlisle ended her movie career soon after her 1942 marriage to James Blakeley, an actor who later became an editor and production manager. They had one son and remained married 65 years until Blakeley’s death in 2007.
Currently residing at the Motion Picture & Television Country House in Woodland Hills, CA, Mary Carlisle, remains a remarkably spry and sharp centenarian whose main medical issue seems to be glaucoma,
Below is brief video of Mary taken after her 100th birthday. As she is seated, watch at the end of the video when she does do a dancers leg kick that would put most 40-year-olds to shame.
I recently watched Dead Men Walk (1943), which was Carlisle’s last film. She is the only redeeming feature in this bizarre low budget “dead rise again” movie. Given these sort of roles it is no wonder she did not regret retiring from films.
People say this all the time to anyone who has lived through momentous times and met legendary people “you should write a book.” Someone should do a biography on Mary. She was friends with, knew and acted with Hollywood’s biggest stars.
In one recent video posted on Youtube, Mary tells of how she frequently attended many parties at William Randolph Hearst’s “ranch” in San Simeon when Hearst Castle was in its heyday.
This photograph from 2014 shows Carlisle revisiting Hearst Castle by special invite. As someone who had experienced Hearst’s hospitality first-hand, Mary was treated like royalty by the Castle’s administrators and staff upon her return.
Mary Carlisle is a living treasure. Here’s hoping her remaining years are filled with vitality and good health.