Thursday, March 10, 2011

Marie Blake

Marie Blake (1895 - 1978) was a Bit Actress later known as Blossom Rock.  I didn't know her real name was Marie Blake until a short time ago.  And Blossom Rock is best known as Grandmama on "The Addams Family."

She was born Edith Marie Blossom MacDonald, right here in Philadelphia.  Her younger sister, Jeanette MacDonald (1903 - 1965) became a bit more famous, making eight films with Nelson Eddy (1901 - 1967).  Jeanette only made 29 films, but Blossom made 101 appearances in film and on TV.

She worked in vaudeville with her sister, and then married Clarence Rock in 1926.  They moved to New York and worked on Broadway until MGM spotted Marie, er, Blossom and signed her to a contract.  At MGM they changed her name to Marie Blake.

Her first feature film was Thoroughbreds Don't Cry (1937) which was also the first pairing of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.  She would make another film with Garland and Rooney together, and two more with Rooney.  Her next film, released the same year, was Mannequin starring Joan Crawford and Spencer Tracy.  Not a bad start.

In 1938 she starts work as a switchboard operator with Drs. Kildare and Gillespie.  She stays until the end of that popular series in 1947, making 12 films with either Lew Ayres or Lionel Barrymore (another Philadelphian), or both.  During this period she even finds herself working in a few of the later MGM Our Gang comedies.

In 1940 she has a small part as a waitress in They Drive by Night with Humphrey Bogart and George Raft.  That same year she plays Miss Lulubell in Li'l Abner, a movie that I happen to have on DVD.  I'm not sure why.

She takes uncredited roles well into her movie career, and we can find her in Christmas in Connecticut, a 1945 Barbara Stanwyck film that is well worth owning.  Next time I watch it, I will look for Mrs. Wright, played by Blossom or Edith or Marie...but she isn't credited anyway.

Blossom started working in television in "The Life of Riley" in 1949, with Jackie Gleason in the title role.  William Bendix took over that role in 1953.  My guess is that Blossom was only in a very few episodes, but back then not everyone who acted was recorded by episode.  Did they think that television was a throw away commodity?

Television must have paid the bills because we see her name attached to quite a list of shows.  But nothing regular came along until "The Addams Family" in 1964.  It was a shame that she never appeared in a Jeanette MacDonald film, even though they both worked at MGM.  Now that I think back to Grandmama's speaking voice, she might not have fit in with Jeanette and Nelson!

Her final work is her most famous, at least with today's audiences.  "The Addams Family" has always been one of my favorite shows.  It is right up there with "The Dick Van Dyke Show" for humour mixed with touching and sensible family values.  I can forgive her for making films like Snow White and the Three Stooges (1961), and will remember her for her antics with Morticia, Gomez and Fester.


  1. It is as "Sally" in the Kildare/Gillespie series that Marie Blake is indelibly etched in my mind. Movies seen in the wee hours with the sound low so as not to disturb the sleeping family really leave an impression.

  2. This was an interesting post on Marie! I loved her in The Adams Family and have seen her in a couple of older films.

    Unlike the Gish sisters, the Bennett's, the Talmadge's, then Joan and Olivia, Marie and Jeannette could not be any more polar opposites!

  3. Thanks for the comments. I haven't seen much recently of the Kildare/Gillespie series, so that will be something for me to look for. Blossom made an entire career out of Bit Acting. She and her sister may have been opposites, but they both inherited a lot of talent.


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