In comedic roles spanning six decades and ranging from The Man Who Came to Dinner in 1942 to Sister Act in 1992, accomplished character actress Mary Wickes (1910-1995) became a familiar face on stage, in film, and on television during the course of her long career. She was a St. Louis native as well as a student at and generous donor to Washington University, and the University Archives unit of WU Libraries is exploring Wickes's legacy through an exhibition and accompanying public events this fall.
Drawing on the extensive Mary Wickes Papers collection donated to the university in 1997, University Archives staff members are mounting an exhibition in Olin Library this week titled In Character: The Life and Legacy of Mary Wickes. On display are selected materials from the actress's childhood, her time as a Washington University undergraduate, her career, and her many contributions to the university over the years. The exhibition, on Level 1 in Olin's Ginkgo Reading Room and Grand Staircase Lobby, will remain on view through the end of the Fall 2013 semester.
The formal opening of the exhibition will be at 6 p.m. Friday, October 25, with a reception in the Ginkgo Reading Room (Olin Library, Level 1). On the same day, the Libraries are partnering with Film & Media Studies and other programs across campus to host a lecture and then a film screening and discussion of Sister Act, one of Wickes's most successful movies, where she starred alongside Whoopi Goldberg.
The first of those accompanying events will be at 4 p.m. Friday, October 25, with Arizona State University professor Bambi Haggins giving a talk titled "Deconstructing Whoopi: Race, Gender and Persona Politics" in Hurst Lounge (Duncker Hall). Later that evening, following the Wickes exhibition opening in Olin Library, the festivities will conclude with a screening of Sister Act at 7:30 p.m. in Brown Hall 100. Haggins will join the audience and WU Film & Media Studies faculty Todd Decker and Gaylyn Studlar for a panel discussion following the screening.
Several weeks after the above happenings on October 25, the Libraries welcome author Steve Taravella to campus to give a talk on his new biography Mary Wickes: I Know I've Seen That Face Before. The presentation, titled "Mary Wickes: How Washington University Launched an Actress of Character," will be given at 4 p.m. Monday, November 18, in the Ginkgo Reading Room where the Wickes exhibition will also be on display. A longtime journalist and award-winning writer based in Maryland, Taravella made extensive use of the Mary Wickes Papers in University Archives during his research for the book. A reception and book sale will follow Taravella's talk.
Born Mary Isabella Wickenhauser in St. Louis on June 13, 1910, Wickes received her bachelor of arts degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 1930. She received the distinguished alumni citation from in 1955 and was later awarded an honorary doctorate from Washington University in 1969.