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RIP, Mary Carlisle



Not many people remain who knew Carole Lombard. This morning, we lost one of the few who did. Mary Carlisle, an actress at Paramount during the 1930s and a friend of Carole's and other 1930s legends, passed away at 2:20 (Pacific) at age 104.



Carlisle indeed was a "favorite of the fans," as reflected by that Clarence Sinclair Bull portrait from the November 1934 Picture Play. She had a fine career in her own right, appearing as the leading lady to Bing Crosby in three of his '30s vehicles -- "College Humor" (1933), "Double Or Nothing" (above, 1937) and "Doctor Rhythm" (1938).

"College Humor" was indicative of a frequent type the 5-foot-1 blonde played -- a likable campus co-ed in titles such as "The Sweetheart Of Sigma Chi," "Hold 'Em Navy" and "Touchdown, Army." But she also had small roles in the likes of "Madame Satan" (1930) and 1932 best picture winner "Grand Hotel."

Carlisle, the last surviving WAMPAS Baby Star (1932), was born Gwendolyn Witter in Boston on Feb. 3, 1914. She accompanied her widowed mother to Los Angeles in the 1920s, and began appearing in films after attending high school.

While Carlisle never worked with Lombard, she knew her quite well at Paramount and in later years always spoke well of her, according to Facebook friend Darrell Rooney, who regularly visited her at the Motion Picture Television Fund retirement home. Here are Darrell, Mary and mutual friend Bronwen Barry:



And here's Mary, in between Glenda Farrell and Jean Harlow, all in flower-print dresses:



Mary also was a George Hurrell portrait subject:



She made her last film in 1943, soon after marrying James Blakeley at 20th Century-Fox, then retired to manage an Elizabeth Arden salon in Beverly Hills. Their marriage lasted until his passing at age 96 in 2007. Surviving is a son, James Blakeley III, and two grandchildren.

Were I to have a lifespan as long as Mary's -- highly unlikely, given actuarial tables -- I'd check out of this mortal coil in mid-February 2060. From what Darrell has said, she was in good shape right until the end, and while I never met her, from his vivid notes about her, I feel as if I have.

From fans of classic Hollywood, Godspeed, Mary.

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