Mary Treen. You know her. She was that actress who was in that TV show. You know the one.
In 1930, 23-year old Mary made her motion picture debut in a Vitaphone comedy short called Surprise. She went on to land bit parts in numerous movies, often playing a nurse or a maid or a secretary or the goofy friend of the star — often uncredited and often for comic relief. Mary can be spotted, mugging for the camera, alongside Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Phil Silvers and The Bowery Boys. She famously supported Ginger Rogers in her Oscar-winning performance in 1940’s Kitty Foyle. She also costarred with James Stewart as “Tilly,” the secretary, in the holiday classic It’s A Wonderful Life.
Starting in the late 1950s, Mary took the leap to television and her career blossomed. She took guest roles in a number of television series, capitalizing on her “nurse/maid/secretary” character. Mary joined the ranks of fellow character actresses like Mary Wickes, Elvia Allman, Maudie Prickett and Irene Tedrow (all contemporaries with whom Mary is often confused). Mary appeared in the premiere episode of The Andy Griffith Show as the Taylor’s departing housekeeper (soon to be replaced by Frances Bavier as “Aunt Bee”) only to show up nine episodes later as a different character. She had a 67-episode run as the wisecracking “Hilda,” maid to star Joey Bishop on The Joey Bishop Show. Later, she would pop up on Hazel, Here’s Lucy, Bonanza, Gomer Pyle USMC, Green Acres and many others. She is remembered for playing Alice’s stone-faced replacement on a fourth season episode of The Brady Bunch. Her career took her into the 80s, with guest roles in The Dukes of Hazzard and The Fall Guy.
Mary retired from show business in 1983 and passed away at the age of 82 six years later.