- Martha Sleeper
Martha Sleeper Born Martha Sleeper
June 24, 1910
Lake Bluff, Illinois, U.S.
Died March 25, 1983(aged 72)
Beaufort, South Carolina, U.S.
Occupation Actress Years active 1923–1945 Spouse Hardie Albright (1934-1940)
Martha Sleeper (June 24, 1910 – March 25, 1983) was a silent film comedienne of the 1920s and Broadway actress of the 1940s.
Martha Sleeper reputedly spent her first years on a sheep ranch in Wyoming. Her father, William B. Sleeper, was an official of the Keith-Albee-Orpheum vaudeville circuit in New York City. He retired to Los Angeles, California in 1923 because of ill health. She was under contract to Hal Roach studios beginning in 1924, when she was 14 years old. Her father was found dead of heart disease on September 1, 1925, in bed at his home on 1756 North Tamarind Street. Martha, then 15 years old, with her mother and sister, had taken a short trip to New York City. Martha Sleeper is a direct descendant of Edward Akass who emigrated to the USA from England around 1858.
Dancer who studied ballet
She studied dancing for five years with the Russian ballet master, Louis H. Chalif, in his New York dancing studio. Her first public exhibitions were at Carnegie Hall at his class exhibitions. One of her dancing photos was sent to an uncle in Los Angeles, California. He framed and displayed it on a wall of his home. The home was sold to Emory Johnson and his mother, Emily Johnson. Emily wrote The Mail Man and recommended Martha Sleeper for a part in films after noticing the teenager's photo.
In 1926, aged 16, the young actress wrote and published a book entitled Hollywood Be Thy Name. She wrote the story while doing screen work and performing four hours of school work daily. The volume was a romance of work, adventure, and success in Hollywood.
Martha Sleeper's film career began in 1923 and continued until 1945. Her early comedy efforts with Hal Roach include The Mailman (1923), The Racing Kid (1924), Trailing Trouble (1924), Please, Teacher! (1924), A Ten Minute Egg (1924), Sweet Daddy (1924), and Outdoor Pajamas (1924). She also appeared in a handful of silent Our Gang shorts including: Better Movies (1925), Baby Clothes (1926) and Thundering Fleas (1926),and also had a small role in a Laurel and Hardy short The Chimp (1932). Martha's final movies were mainly in the late 1930s, concluding with a small role in The Bells of St. Mary's (1945).
After achieving prominence on the New York stage, Sleeper left abruptly in 1949. She sailed from New York on a 40-foot schooner. Her destination was the Virgin Islands and a vacation with her husband. However, when she reached Puerto Rico she fell in love with the island and opened a hand-made clothing shop there in 1950. Sleeper sewed native dresses in San Juan and resolved never to return to the US mainland.
Before World War II, Sleeper designed jewelry. Using her hands productively was not a new thing for her. She was proficient in selling many of her Martha Sleeper Creations to stores in neighboring islands and on the United States mainland.
Martha Sleeper died in Beaufort, South Carolina on March 25, 1983, aged 72.
Year of birth
Many sources cite 1907 as the actress's year of birth, which is incorrect. Martha Sleeper was born just after the 1910 census which is why she does not appear in it; she is 9 years old in the 1920 census and 19 years old in the 1930 census.
At her death in 1983 the New York Times obit for her read "Dead at 72". In the Social Security Death Index, the date of birth of Martha Stelling (her third husband's surname) who died in March 1983 in Beaufort County, South Carolina is given as June 24, 1910.
Year Film Role Notes 1923 The Mailman Betty 1924 The Racing Kid Trailing Trouble Please, Teacher! A Ten-Minute Egg Mrs. Dugan Seeing Nellie Home Sweet Daddy Outdoor Pajamas Low Bridge Should Landlords Live? Too Many Mammas The Apache Dancer Every Man for Himself Lady with rings around her eyes All Wet (uncredited) The Royal Razz 1925 The Rat's Knuckles Flirty McFickle Plain and Fancy Girls Bad Boy Jimmie's Girl Friend Are Husbands Necessary? Big Red Riding Hood The Maid, Book Store Clerk Wild Papa (uncredited) Sure-Mike! Vermuda Sherlock Sleuth Hotel Operator Innocent Husbands Girl at Party (uncredited) Tame Men and Wild Women There Goes the Bride Better Movies Teenaged 'Vamp' Should Sailors Marry? Smyrna Laughing Ladies Hold Everything 1926 A Punch in the Nose What's the World Coming To? Butler Your Husband's Past Madame Mystery Dizzy Daddies Ukulele Sheiks Baby Clothes Leggy Lady Mum's the World The Nervous Little Girl Say It with Babies Hector's Wife Don Key (Son of Burro) Maid Long Fliv the King Princess Helga of Thermosa Never Too Old Thundering Fleas Bride Along Came Auntie Marie, the Maid The Merry Widower (unconfirmed) Crazy Like a Fox The Bride Should Husbands Pay? His Wife Bromo and Juliet Bit Role (uncredited) Wise Guys Prefer Brunettes 1927 The Honorable Mr. Buggs The Fiancée Jewish Prudence Rachel Gimplewart Fluttering Hearts Daughter The Way of All Pants (uncredited)
Love 'Em and Feed 'Em Martha, a stenographer Fighting Fathers Flaming Fathers Daughter 1928 Pass the Gravy Daughter Should Tall Men Marry? Martha Skittle Skinner's Big Idea Dorothy The Little Yellow House Emmy Milburn Danger Street Kitty Taxi 13 Flora Mactavish 1929 The Air Legion Sally The Voice of the Storm Ruth 1930 Our Blushing Brides Evelyn Woodforth Madam Satan Fish Girl War Nurse Helen 1931 Girls Demand Excitement Harriet Mundy Ten Cents a Dance Nancy Clark A Tailor Made Man Corrine Confessions of a Co-Ed Lucille 1932 Huddle Barbara Winston The Chimp Landlord's wife Ethel (uncredited) Rasputin and the Empress (uncredited) 1933 The Secret of Madame Blanche Chorus Girl Who Hears 'My Country Tis of Thee' (uncredited) Midnight Mary Barbara Loring Mannering Penthouse Sue Leonard Bombshell Lola's Hair Stylist (uncredited) Broken Dreams Martha Morley 1934 Spitfire Eleanor Stafford Hollywood Party Show Girl (uncredited) West of the Pecos Ril Lambeth 1935 Tomorrow's Youth Mrs. Hall Great God Gold Marcia Harper The Scoundrel Julia Vivian Two Sinners Elsie Summerstone 1936 Rhythm on the Range Constance Four Days' Wonder Nancy Fairbrother 1945 The Bells of St. Mary's Mary Gallagher, Patsy's mother
- Hayward Daily Review, Silent Film Dream Gal Found in Puerto Rico, May 27, 1955, Page 24.
- Los Angeles Times, Her Youth No Bar To Mature Roles, May 10, 1925, Page 18.
- Los Angeles Times, Keith-Orpheum Former Official Succumbs Here, September 2, 1925, Page A3.
- Los Angeles Times, Here and There, October 29, 1926, Page A8.
- Oakland Tribune, Comedienne Writes, Sunday, October 31, 1926, Page W3.
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