Matinee Monday: Mary Wickes

This is another of the many “Oh, yeah. Her!” character actors and actresses that are part of our collective memory, but we never think about until we happen to be watching an old movie or TV show and their faces flash on the screen. Mary Wickes began her acting career in the 30’s, on Broadway, and spent some time with Orson Welles’ Mercury Players, in radio. Tall, gangly and awkward, with a distinctive voice, once she hit the silver screen, Wickes never stopped working.

Always a supporting character, usually one who cracked wise, Wickes’ career spanned all forms of entertainment. Broadway, radio, movies, television, commercials and, finally, animation. Wickes last role was as the voice of Laverve, one of the three gargoyles in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. But prior to that, Wickes worked with just about everybody in Hollywood. Two of her roles are iconic, and make calling her to mind easy.

Working with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, Wickes was the busybody housekeeper/operator in the holiday classic, White Christmas. Late in her career, Wickes re-familiarized herself with moviegoers when she played Sister Mary Lazarus, in Sister Act 1 & 2. Around those films, she squeezed in a career in which she worked with Hollywood greatness: Bette Davis, Abbott and Costello, Orson Welles, Doris Day, Robert Preston, Jack Lemmon, Rosalind Russell and Lucille Ball. A close friend of Lucille Ball, Wickes made several guest appearances on all three of Ball’s TV shows.

So, here’s to one of those often recognized but not remembered actors that make up our collective memory, Mary Wickes.



Filed under Culture

5 responses to “Matinee Monday: Mary Wickes

  1. lynn

    An actor I know worked with her twice on the ‘Trapper John MD’ series in the 70s-80s. He said that he’d be talking to her, the director would call ‘action’ and she would go into her character and lines so smoothly, he couldn’t believe it.

    I’m a little late on this, but you posted about romance and ‘soul mates’. Have you seen ‘Crossing Delancy’ (1988)?


  2. lynn

    And don’t forget, Mary Wickes was the original Miss Preen in Kaufman and Hart’s ‘Man Who Came to Dinner’ – on stage and in the movie.


    • There is so much that could be written about Mary Wickes. When you look her up on IMDB, you find 139 acting credits listed for her. Yes, she was opposite Monty Woolley, in Man Who Came to Dinner. She also was the live-action model from which Cruella de Vil was drawn, for Disney’s 101 Dalmatians. A real surprise is that she originated the role of Mary Poppins in a CBS TV program, in 1949, 15 years before Julie Andrews.

      She is one of my all-time favorite “Oh, yeah, HER!” actors. 🙂

      As to Crossing Delancey: when I first read your comment, I thought I remembered it being about finding romance across class boundaries, and after looking it up on Wikipedia, I find out that I remembered it correctly. I seem to recall that I enjoyed the film, as I enjoyed many others, but I’m not sure how it supports the Soulmate theory.🙂


  3. lynn

    I think it supports your theory. Isabella is looking for her soulmate. She therefore nearly misses a really good man. I love what Isabella’s bubbie says to Sam, the pickle man, about her husband, with whom, she admits, she was not initially impressed: “He sat down at the table and refused to leave until I said yes. I knew that if he was willing to make a fool of himself for me, he would always be good to me.”


  4. Who could forget that face?!


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