The Celebrity Correspondence of Mary Wickes

“Dear Mary Wickes: Thanks for your nice letter. I am glad we finally got around to meeting, and I’m delighted you’re in ‘White Christmas.’ With my best wishes, I am, Sincerely, Irving Berlin”

 

Letter, Irving Berlin to Mary Wickes, 3 September 1953. Mary Wickes Papers, series 7, box , folder 1.

Irving Berlin to Mary Wickes, 3 September 1953. Mary Wickes Papers, series 7, box , folder 1.

Mary Wickes, born Mary Wickenhauser, was a native St. Louisan who graduated from Washington University in 1930 with a double major in English and Political Science. She had a long and successful acting career in film and theatre, appearing in such films as Now, Voyager and White Christmas.

Wickes became close with many of her co-stars, and her collection of private correspondence, held by University Archives, contains letters from Bette Davis, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, and a variety of other Old Hollywood stars.

Carol Burnett penned Wickes a hand-written thank you in 1984: “Dear Mary,” she wrote, “Thanks so much for the good wishes. I’m following the doc’s orders, and I’m feeling much better. Love and XXX’s, Carol.”

Note, Carol Burnett to Mary Wickes, 17 September 1984. Mary Wickes Papers, series 7, box 1, folder 1.

Carol Burnett to Mary Wickes, 17 September 1984. Mary Wickes Papers, series 7, box 1, folder 1.

The letters featured here reveal a more intimate side of celebrity life: Day, Bing and others frequently wrote Wickes to thank her for letters she sent during their illnesses, or for her hand-made gifts.

 

 “Glad to hear that you’re getting a lot of action in the professional field. I saw you in something just the other night – very good job, too.”

-Bing Crosby to Mary Wickes, 1962.

Letter, Bing Crosby to Mary Wickes, January 26 1962. Mary Wickes Papers, series 7, box 1, folder 2.

Bing Crosby to Mary Wickes, January 26 1962. Mary Wickes Papers, series 7, box 1, folder 2.

Click here for  transcription of Crosby’s letter to Wickes.

Wickes was especially close to Lucille Balle, and Doris Day was also a life-long friend. “I’m fine and my mother is fine and my dogs are fine,” Day wrote Wickes in 1971, “My house is fine, too, even though you didn’t ask, but I’m remodeling my kitchen and it’s a bit hectic…My mother is cooking in the bathroom, which is different, you must admit.”

 

Letter, Doris Day to Mary Wickes, March 25 1971. Mary Wickes Papers, series 7, box 1, folder 2.

Doris Day to Mary Wickes, March 25 1971. Mary Wickes Papers, series 7, box 1, folder 2.

Click here for transcription of Day’s letter to Wickes.

More about Mary Wickes

Wickes died at the age of 85. She never married nor had children, and left a considerable portion of her fortune to Washington University in the form of a two million dollar gift establishing the Isabella and Frank Wickenhauser Memorial Library Fund for Television, Film, and Theater Arts at the university.


This post is part of an occasional series, “Special Delivery – Letters from the WUSTL Archives and Special Collections.”

For more information about the letters and documents displayed here, or in general about Special Collections please contact us.

 

About the author

Lisa Lillie is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at Washington University in St. Louis.