Adele Mara: Of “Wheels” and Westerns

I only just became aware of actress Adele Mara (Adelaida Delgado, 1923-2010) on account of her appearance in the Joe E. Brown comedy western Shut My Big Mouth (1942). She was a Columbia contract player and as such was cast in many of their comedies including Blondie Goes to College (1942) and shorts featuring the likes of The Three Stooges (Back to the Front and I Can Hardly Wait, both 1943), Andy Clyde (Farmer for a Day, 1943), El Brendel (A Rookie’s Cookie, 1943), and Johnny Downs (Kiss and Wake Up, 1942). For a time Columbia tried a comedy series with an earnest young man named William Henry, better known for appearing in a dozen John Ford pictures. Mara was in three comedies with Henry: The Great Glover (1942), Socks Appeal, and His Girl’s Worst Friend (both 1943).

Mara had started out dancing with Xavier Cugat’s band and was a popular pin-up model, hence she was frequently cast as eye candy and chorines. Some related pictures include the musical Reveille with Beverly (1943) with Ann Miller, the legendary vaudeville revival Atlantic City (1944), and Earl Carroll Vanities (1945). In You Were Never Lovelier she played Rita Hayworth’s sister, notable because they were both bleach blondes of Latin heritage.

But posterity might know her better for the B movies features she appeared (sometimes starring or co-starring), such as Alias Boston Blackie (1942) with Chester Morris, and lots and lots of westerns opposite guys like Tex Ritter, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers. These often typecast her as spicy Senoritas. With John Wayne she appeared in Flame of Barbary Coast (1945), Wake of the Red Witch (1948) and Sands of Iwo Jima (1949). She also did horror like The Vampire’s Ghost (1945) and Curse of the Faceless Man (1958). Her last theatrical film was The Big Circus (1959).

In 1952, Mara married screenwriter Roy Huggins, whom had also been on contract at Columbia and later went on to create the TV series Maverick, The Fugitive and (co-creator) The Rockford Files. Throughout the ’50s Mara worked increasingly in television, especially westerns, including 3 episodes of Maverick. She retired after 1962, although she returned to take two additional parts: on the show Cool Million (1972), and in the Arthur Hailey mini-series Wheels (1978), about the auto industry.

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