Mary Carr: The Mother of the Movies

Today we shed light on stage and screen actress Mary Carr (Mary Kennevan, 1874-1973).

Carr was a native of Germantown, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Philadelphia). She began her working life as a schoolteacher, then married actor William Carr (1866–1937), with whom she acted in stock companies for about two decades. In 1912 her husband broke into films. Mr. Carr acted in 15 movies over the next decade, the best remembered of which is his last Get Rich Quick Wallingford (1921), written by George M. Cohan, starring Sam Hardy. Through her husband, Mary too broke into films. Her career was much more extensive than William’s. She appeared in over 150 movies between 1914 and 1957, often in maternal or grandmotherly roles, earning her the nickname, THe Mother of the Movies”, though there were certainly many other actresses known for playing such roles. Films she appeared in that may be of interest to our readers include the original screen version of Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (1919); A Self Made Failure (1924) with Lloyd Hamilton; The Wizard of Oz (1925), and Stop Look and Listen (1926), both with Larry Semon; Special Delivery (1927) with Eddie Cantor; the first all-talking picture Lights of New York (1928); One Good Turn (1931) and Pack Up Your Troubles (1932), both with Laurel and Hardy; The Power and the Glory (1933); I Don’t Remember (1935) with Harry Langdon; and The Shop Around the Corner (1940), Her last film was Dino (1957) with Sal Mineo and Brian Keith.

Carr was nearly 100 years old when she passed away at the Motion Picture Country Home  in 1973.

The six Carr children also went into films. The most successful of them was Thomas Carr (1907-1997), who acted in 40 films from 1912 through 1954, and directed 90 movies and tv shows from 1945 through 1968. In his film days he was mostly associated with B pictures, and his specialty was westerns.

To learn more about theatre history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy film, please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.