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Mary Wickes
Wickes in the trailer for Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows (1968)
Mary Isabella Wickenhauser

(1910-06-13)June 13, 1910
Died October 22, 1995(1995-10-22) (aged 85)
Resting place Shiloh Valley Cemetery in Shiloh, Illinois
Alma mater Washington University in St. Louis
Occupation Actress
Years active 1934–1995

Mary Wickes (born Mary Isabella Wickenhauser; June 13, 1910 – October 22, 1995) was an American actress. She often played supporting roles as prim, professional women, secretaries, nurses, nuns, therapists, teachers and housekeepers, who made sarcastic quips when the leading characters fell short of her high standards.

Early life

Wickes was born to Frank Wickenhauser and his wife Mary Isabella (née Shannon) in St. Louis, Missouri of German, Scottish, and Irish extraction, and raised Protestant. Her parents were theater buffs, and took her to plays from the time that she could stay awake through a matinee. An excellent student, she skipped two grades and graduated at 16 from Beaumont High School. She was accepted into Washington University in St. Louis, where she joined the debate team and the Phi Mu sorority, and was initiated into Mortar Board in 1929. She graduated in 1930 with a double major in English literature and political science. Although she had planned a career in law, a favorite professor encouraged her to try drama, and she shifted direction.


Lucy goes on strike Lucille Ball 1969
Mary Wickes (right) with Lucille Ball and Gale Gordon in episode "Lucy Goes on Strike" from Here's Lucy (1969)

Wickes's first Broadway appearance was in Marc Connelly's The Farmer Takes a Wife in 1934 with Henry Fonda. She began acting in films in the late 1930s and was a member of the Orson Welles troupe on his radio drama The Mercury Theatre on the Air; she also appeared in Welles's film Too Much Johnson (1938). One of her earlier significant film appearances was in The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942), reprising her stage role of Nurse Preen.

A tall (5 ft 10 in, 1.78 m) woman with a distinctive voice, Wickes would ultimately prove to be an adept comedienne. She attracted attention in Now, Voyager (1942) as the wisecracking nurse who helped Bette Davis's character during her mother's illness. She had already appeared earlier that year with Davis in The Man Who Came To Dinner, and joined her again six years later in June Bride. (Wickes and Davis also reteamed in 1965 when Wickes played a supporting role to Davis in a television pilot, The Decorator.)

In 1942, she also had a large part in the Abbott and Costello comedy Who Done It? She continued playing supporting roles in films during the next decade, usually playing wisecracking characters. A prime example was her deadpan characterization of the harassed housekeeper in the Doris Day vehicles On Moonlight Bay and By the Light of the Silvery Moon, a character type she would repeat in the holiday classic White Christmas (1954), starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. She played similar roles in two later movies with Rosalind Russell in the 1960s: The Trouble with Angels and Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows.

Wickes moved to the new medium of television in 1949, starring in the title role of a Westinghouse Studio One version of Mary Poppins. In the 1950s, Wickes played the warm yet jocular maid Katie in the Mickey Mouse Club serial Annette and regular roles in the sitcoms Make Room for Daddy and Dennis the Menace. She also played the part of a ballet teacher, Madame Lamond, in the I Love Lucy episode "The Ballet" (1952). Wickes also served as the live-action reference model for Cruella De Vil in Walt Disney's One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), and played Mrs. Squires in the film adaptation of Meredith Willson's The Music Man (1962). In 1953, Wickes played Martha the housekeeper to Ezio Pinza's character in the short-lived Bonino. In 1954–55, she played Alice on The Halls of Ivy, starring Ronald Colman.

In 1956, Wickes appeared with Thelma Ritter in "The Babysitter" episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Wickes also appeared in two episodes of Zorro. In the 1961–62 season, she appeared as Maxfield opposite Gertrude Berg and Cedric Hardwicke in Mrs. G. Goes to College. For her work in the sitcom, Wickes was nominated for an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by an Actress". In 1964, she appeared on The Donna Reed Show in the episode "First Addition".

In 1964, she appeared as Ida Goff in five episodes of the series Temple Houston, with Jeffrey Hunter as a historical figure, the frontier lawyer Temple Lea Houston, youngest son of Sam Houston. She played Adeline Ashley in a 1967 episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, "The Social Climbers".

Doc cast 1975
With cast of Doc. Standing, L-R: Irwin Corey and Mary Wickes. Seated: Elizabeth Wilson and Barnard Hughes (1975)

A longtime friend of Lucille Ball, Wickes played frequent guest roles on I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show, and Here's Lucy. In 1970–71, she guest starred on The Doris Day Show. (Day was another of her friends.) She was also a regular on the Sid and Marty Krofft children's television show Sigmund and the Sea Monsters and the sitcom Doc. She made numerous appearances as a celebrity panelist on the game show Match Game. By the 1980s, her appearances in television series such as Our Man Higgins, M*A*S*H, Columbo, The Love Boat, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and Murder, She Wrote had made her a widely recognizable character actress. She also appeared in a variety of Broadway shows, including a 1979 revival of Oklahoma! as Aunt Eller, for which she received rave reviews.

Wickes' career had a resurgence in the late 1980s and 1990s. She was cast as the mother of Shirley MacLaine's character in the film Postcards from the Edge (1990) and portrayed Marie Murkin in the television movie and series adaptations of The Father Dowling Mysteries (1989–1991). She played one of her most notable roles in these years when she was cast as Sister Mary Lazarus in Sister Act (1992) and in the sequel Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993). She appeared in the 1994 film version of Little Women before she became ill.

Death and legacy

Wickes suffered from numerous ailments in the last years of her life that cumulatively resulted in her hospitalization, where she fell and broke her hip, prompting surgery. She died of complications following the surgery on October 22, 1995, at the age of 85 at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Her final film role, voicing Laverne in Disney's animated feature The Hunchback of Notre Dame, was released posthumously in 1996. Wickes reportedly had only one voice recording session left for the film when she died. Jane Withers came in to finish the character's remaining six lines of dialogue.

She was interred beside her parents at the Shiloh Valley Cemetery in Shiloh, Illinois. Wickes was inducted posthumously into the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 2004.

Personal life

Wickes left a large estate and made a $2 million bequest in memory of her parents, establishing the Isabella and Frank Wickenhauser Memorial Library Fund for Television, Film and Theater Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. Wickes was a lifelong Republican.



Year Title Role Notes
1942 The Man Who Came to Dinner Nurse Preen
  • Both Monty Woolley and Wickes reprised their roles from the original Broadway production;
  • Screen debut
Blondie's Blessed Event Sarah Miller
Private Buckaroo Bonnie-Belle Schlopkiss
The Mayor of 44th Street Mamie
Now, Voyager Nurse Dora Pickford
  • Based on the 1941 novel by Olive Higgins Prouty;
  • Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant"
Who Done It? Juliet Collins
1943 How's About It 'Mike' Tracy
Rhythm of the Islands Susie Dugan
My Kingdom for a Cook Agnes Willoughby Uncredited
Happy Land Emmy
Higher and Higher Sandy
1948 June Bride Rosemary McNally
The Decision of Christopher Blake Clara
1949 Anna Lucasta Stella
1950 The Petty Girl Professor Whitman
1951 On Moonlight Bay Stella Based loosely on the Penrod stories by Booth Tarkington
I'll See You in My Dreams Anna
1952 Young Man with Ideas Mrs. Jarvis Gilpin
The Story of Will Rogers Mrs. Foster Biography of humorist and movie star Will Rogers
Bloodhounds of Broadway Lady at Laundry Uncredited
1953 By the Light of the Silvery Moon Stella Sequel to On Moonlight Bay
Half a Hero Mrs. Watts
The Actress Emma Glavey
1954 Ma and Pa Kettle at Home Ms. Wetter
White Christmas Emma Allen
  • Loosely based on the 1942 film Holiday Inn;
  • First to be released in VistaVision
Destry Bessie Mae Curtis
1955 Good Morning Miss Dove Miss Ellwood
1956 Dance with Me Henry Miss Mayberry Final Abbott and Costello film
1957 Don't Go Near the Water Janie
1958 The Proud Rebel Mrs. Ainsley Uncredited role
1959 It Happened to Jane Matilda Runyon Re-released in 1961 as Twinkle and Shine
1960 Cimarron Mrs. Neal Hefner
1961 One Hundred and One Dalmatians Cruella De Vil Animation model
The Sins of Rachel Cade Marie Grieux
1962 The Music Man Mrs. Squires (Pick-a-little Ladies) In 2005, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant"
1964 Fate Is the Hunter Mrs. Llewlyn
  • Features an early film score by prolific composer Jerry Goldsmith;
  • Nominated for a 1964 Academy Award in Best Cinematography (Black-and-White)
Dear Heart Miss Fox
1965 How to Murder Your Wife Harold's secretary
1966 The Trouble with Angels Sister Clarissa
1967 The Spirit Is Willing Gloria Tritt
1968 Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows Sister Clarissa Sequel to The Trouble with Angels
1972 Napoleon and Samantha Clara
Snowball Express Miss Wigginton
1980 Touched by Love Margaret Also called To Elvis, with Love
1985 The Canterville Ghost Mrs. Umney
1986 The Christmas Gift Henrietta Sawyer
1990 Postcards from the Edge Grandma Screenplay by Carrie Fisher is based on her 1987 semi-autobiographical novel
1992 Sister Act Sister Mary Lazarus
1993 Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit
1994 Little Women Aunt March
1996 The Hunchback of Notre Dame Laverne Voice, posthumous release

Short films

Year Title Role Notes
1935 Watch the Birdie Uncredited role
1938 Too Much Johnson Mrs. Battison
  • Believed to be lost, but in 2008 a print was discovered in a warehouse in Pordenone, Italy;
  • Film premiered Wednesday, October 9, 2013, at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival;
  • In 2014 the film was made available online by the National Film Preservation Foundation
1939 Seeing Red Mrs. Smith Uncredited role
1942 Keeping Fit Ann Andy's wife
1972 Open Window Mrs. Sappleton


Year Title Role Notes
1948 Actors Studio Guest star Episodes:
  • "The Catbird Seat" (S 1:Ep 5)
  • "Good Bye, Miss Lizzie Borden" (S 1:Ep 9)
1949 Ford Theatre Daisy Stanley Episode: "The Man Who Came to Dinner" (S 1:Ep 4)
The Philco Television Playhouse Amelia Coop Episode: "Dark Hammock" (S 1:Ep 18)
Studio One in Hollywood Mary Poppins Episode: "Mary Poppins" (S 2:Ep 15)
1950 The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre Guest star Episode: "Highly Recommended" (S 2:Ep 36)
1951 Four Star Revue Guest host Episode: "December 22, 1951" (S 2:Ep 17)
1952 I Love Lucy Madame Lamond Episode: "The Ballet" (S 1:Ep 19)
Studio One in Hollywood Guest star Episode: "Miss Hargreaves" (S 4:Ep 28)
1953–1964 The Danny Thomas Show Liz O'Neal
  • Main cast
  • Also known as Make Room for Daddy from 1953 to 1956
1954 Studio One in Hollywood Guest star Episode: "The Runaway" (S 6:Ep 16)
1954–1955 The Halls of Ivy Alice Many episodes are missing so that some credits and episode titles are unknown
1955 The Alcoa Hour Sally Brass Episode: "The Small Servant" (S 1:Ep 2)
1956 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Mrs. Armstedder Episode: "The Baby Sitter" (S 1:Ep 32)
Mrs. Foster Episode: "Toby" (S 2:Ep 6)
1957 Playhouse 90 Grace Episode: "Circle of the Day" (S 1:Ep 35)
1958 Annette Katy Television serial that ran on The Mickey Mouse Club during the show's third season (1957-1958)
Zorro Dolores Bastinado Episodes:
  • "The Cross of the Ande" (S 1:Ep 32)
  • "The Deadly Bolas" (S 1:Ep 33)
  • "The Well of Death (S 1:Ep 34)
1959–1962 Dennis the Menace Esther Cathcart Recurring role
1959 Ford Startime Widow Parke Episode: "Cindy's Fella" (S 1:Ep 11)
1960 Shirley Temple Theatre Hannah Episode: "Little Men" (S 1:Ep 6)
1961–1962 Mrs. G. Goes to College Maxfield Mid-season changed to The Gertrude Berg Show
1961 The Dinah Shore Chevy Show Edith Gunther Episode: "Autumn Crocus" (S 5:Ep 20)
Shirley Temple Theatre Lootie Episode: "The Princess and the Goblins" (S 1:Ep 24)
1963–1964 Temple Houston Ida Goff Main cast
1963 Bonanza Martha Episode: "The Colonel" (S 4:Ep 15)
Our Man Higgins Mme. Amethyst Episode: "Love is Dandy" (S 1:Ep 33)
The Lucy Show Frances Episodes:
  • "Lucy Plays Cleopatra (S 2:Ep 1)
  • "Lucy and Viv Play Softball" (S 2:Ep 3)
  • "Lucy Puts Out a Fire at the Bank" (S 2:Ep 9)
Kraft Suspense Theatre Mrs. Mike Episode: "The Machine That Played God" (S 1:Ep 7)
Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Nurse Episode: "It's Mental Work" (S 1:Ep 9)
1968–1971 Julia Melba Chegley Multiple
1969 Here's Lucy Isabel Episodes:
  • "Lucy Goes on Strike" (S 1:Ep 16)
  • "Lucy Gets Her Man" (S 1:Ep 21)
Nurse Episode: "Lucy and Harry's Tonsils" (S 2:Ep 5)
The Doris Day Show Emma Flood Episode: "The Buddy" (S 1:Ep 17)
The Queen & I Hazel Becker Episode: "Requiem for Becker" (S 1:Ep 4)
1970 The Debbie Reynolds Show Aunt Harriet Episode: "Advice and Dissent" (S 1:Ep 18)
Here's Lucy Mrs. Whitmark's Maid Episode: "Lucy, the Diamond Cutter" (S 3:Ep 10)
1971 Here's Lucy Sister Paula Carter Episode: "Lucy and Her All-Nun Band" (S 4:Ep 8)
Columbo Landlady Episode: "Suitable for Framing" (S 1:Ep 6)
The Man and the City Cora Episode: "Running Scared" (S 1:Ep 8)
1972 Here's Lucy Nurse Sylvia Ogilvy Episodes:
  • "Lucy's Big Break" (S 5:Ep 1)
  • "Lucy and Eva Gabor Are Hospital Roomies" (S 5:Ep 2)
Hallmark Hall of Fame Nurse Preen
  • Episode: "The Man Who Came to Dinner" (S 22:Ep 2)
  • Production adapted by Sam Denoff and Bill Persky, directed by Buzz Kulik;
  • The New York Times criticized Denoff's updating of the original play, listing the production in its 1972 Worst of Television;
  • Welles's Whiteside was a television personality competing with Johnny Carson
Sanford and Son Mary Episode: "The Light Housekeeper" (S 2:Ep 14)
1973 Here's Lucy Violet Barker Episode: "Lucy Plays Cops and Robbers" (S 6:Ep 14)
1973–1975 Sigmund and the Sea Monsters Zelda Marshall Main cast
1974 Here's Lucy Clara Simpson Episode: "Lucy, the Sheriff" (S 6:Ep 18)
Kolchak: The Night Stalker Dr. Bess Winestock Episode: "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be..." (S 1:Ep 3)
1975–1976 Doc Nurse Beatrice Tully Main cast
1975 M*A*S*H Colonel Rachel Reese Episode: "House Arrest" (S 3:Ep 18)
1976–1978 Match Game Herself 25 daytime episodes, 4 in syndication.
1977 Lucy Calls the President Aunt Millie A Lucille Ball Special
1977–1978 Tabitha Cassandra Episodes:
  • "Halloween Show" (S 1:Ep 3)
  • "Tabitha's Party" (S 1:Ep 12)
1981 The Waltons Octavia Episode: "The Hostage" (S 9:Ep 21)
Trapper John, M.D. Miranda Episode: "Hate Is Enough" (S 3:Ep 4)
1982 Trapper John, M.D. Hazel Episode: "The Good Life" (S 4:Ep 9)
1984 Matt Houston Nellie Cochran Episode: "Wanted Man" (S 3:Ep 1)
Punky Brewster Sister Bernadette Episode: "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" (S 1:Ep 6)
Trapper John, M.D. Rocy Flanagan Episode: "Of Cats, Crashes, and Creeps" (S 6:Ep 6)
1985 ABC Afterschool Special Ms. Crandall Episode: "First the Egg" (S 13:Ep 6)
Murder, She Wrote Mrs. Alva Carne Episode: "Widow, Weep for Me" (S 2:Ep 1)
1987 Almost Partners Aggie Greyson Television film
1987–1991 Father Dowling Mysteries Marie Murkin Main cast
1987 Punky Brewster Mrs. Dempsey Episode: "So Long, Studio" (S 3:Ep 19)
1988 Highway to Heaven Minnie Episode: "Country Doctor" (S 4:Ep 14)
1995 Life With Louie Grandma Voice, Main cast

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Work Result Ref
1962 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by an Actress Mrs. G. Goes to College Nominated
1993 American Comedy Awards Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Sister Act Nominated

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Mary Wickes para niños

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Famous African-American Activists:
William L. Dawson
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W. E. B. Du Bois
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