You know those actors who show up in film after film, after film, after film yet they never became a household name? Bellybuzz plans to show some respect to these movie mainstays by showcasing their work. First up? The original wisecracking supporting actress....meet Mary Wickes.
You may know her as the singing nun in Sister Act, or the bus-driving, Converse-wearing nun in Where Angels Go Trouble Follows, or you may know her from about a thousand other roles spanning more than five decades. You probably don't even realize how often you've seen her because she was just always there - everywhere you watched - you couldn't have missed her if you tried.
Her career spanned both movies and television - where she was a regular on several series and a guest star on dozens of others. She popped up on everything from "Dennis the Menace" and "The Love Boat" to "Bonanza", "Columbo" and "Punky Brewster". Her friendship with Lucille Ball landed her on every incarnation of her shows including Ball's TV movie "Lucy calls the President". Wickes was a regular on the 70s campy after-school classic "Sigmund and the Seamonsters" as well as Disney's vehicle for Annette Funicello, the sitcom "Annette" in the 1960s. She may be best known on television as a regular on "The Father Dowling Mysteries" which was near the end of her long career.
One memorable guest starring appearance has Wickes playing an admirable foil to Redd Foxx's Fred Sanford on an episode of "Sanford and Son" as a lazy white maid - classic comedic combo right there, folks. You can watch the entire episode here.
In addition, Mary co-starred with everybody under the sun from Jimmy Cagney, Bette Davis (in 3 films: Now Voyager, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner & June Bride ), Frank Sinatra, Rosalind Russell, Jack Lemmon, Angie Dickinson, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Susan Sarandon, Jimmy Durante, Meryl Streep, Danny Thomas, Red Skelton, Doris Day, Bing Crosby, Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Kaye... I could go on... and on... and evidently, on.
Here's a little slideshow I've put together featuring a smattering of Mary's screen appearances, both big and small.
I told you she was everywhere! Considering she had such a prominent, yet relatively anonymous, existence onscreen, she kept a reasonably low personal profile. She never married but was known to be the longtime companion of playwright Abby Conrad. At the time of her death in 1995, Wickes left a large estate and made a $2 million bequest to the Isabella and Frank Wickenhauser Memorial Library Fund for Television, Film and Theater Arts in memory of her parents. Wickes was posthumously inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 2004.
I'd like to leave you with a quintessential example of Ms. Wickes' appeal in this clip is from Dennis the Menace where she portrays the crooning Miss Cathcart. She's just so adorably awkward and sassy, you have to love this woman as she steals the show. You know - I would have loved to see her play Olive Oyl. One can only hope that she's starring in the stage production of Popeye way up there in movie star heaven. I'd know I'd buy a ticket.... and it'd be nice to see her name ABOVE the title for once.