Madge Blake started acting at 46

She was Aunt Harriet and Mrs. Mondello AND Flora MacMichael!

Maybe you recognize her as Margaret Mondello, Lumpy's doting mother on Leave It to Beaver. Or, perhaps to you, she's Aunt Harriet, Dick Grayson's devoted aunt who's none the wiser regarding his secret identity as Robin on Batman. The point is, either way, you recognize her. Madge Blake made a big splash in show business, and she did it all in a short amount of time. 

That is her real name by the way. Other actors would kill for a strong name like Madge Blake, but to her, it just came naturally. Luckily for fans of classic television, there was a lot that came naturally to Ms. Blake, including her skills as an actor.

However, it was a calling that she only approached late in life, but the cards were stacked against her dreams. Despite her desire for the dramatic arts, Madge's upbringing forbade it. Her father was a circuit-riding Methodist preacher who ran a super-strict household.

"My father was a true hell-bent-for-the-Lord type of a man who would tolerate no smoking, lipstick, late hours, or dramatics," she told McClatchy Newspaper Services in 1961.

Blake's life changed during World War II. Her sons were out of the house and overseas, and she suddenly had a ton of free time. She began working at Cal-Tech in the chemistry department. Despite her lack of education in chemistry, Blake was a huge benefit to the institution and was later formally recognized for her efforts during the war. 

Less recognized, though, were her burgeoning talents as an actress. Not even chemistry could fill her free time, so Blake began acting in local theatrical productions. She credits Katherine Hepburn as "aiding and abetting" her acting career. 

She didn't just find a hobby later in life; she found an incredibly successful new life as an actress. What was it like becoming a star after her first movie role at 46?

"I just love it," said Blake. "I am glad I had smaller roles and a chance to develop character parts. And, of course, the pride of my world is not the acting profession but my four delightful grandchildren in Southern California."

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19 Comments

seltaeb 3 months ago
She also played a character named Flora on The Real McCoys.
WGH 3 months ago
They make mistakes in these articles on purpose to get us to feel like we're smart. Obviously she played Larry Mandela's mother not Lumpy's. The average reader of these articles is smart enough to know that little gimmick. Stop it meTV!
MrsPhilHarris 4 months ago
Larry was probably my favourite character on LITB.
RobertK 4 months ago
She was a perfect fit for the type of roles she played. Such a familiar actor in so many shows.
LoveMETV22 4 months ago
Doting....Yes, Devoted....Yes as well. Although she was somewhat reserved in a few roles, there were moments where she let loose a little. :
LoveMETV22 4 months ago
Too bad Larry didn't get more airtime on the series, but he was an enjoyable character nonetheless. :


MeTV should do a Best Of Larry clip with some of the episodes he was featured in.
MrsPhilHarris LoveMETV22 4 months ago
Great clips!
ncadams27 4 months ago
The Mondello family could have been a spin-off of Leave it to Beaver. Would have loved to see an episode with Larry’s sister (who needs to find someone to marry), brother (who even has a baby), and his Dad (who’s always out of town).


LoveMETV22 ncadams27 4 months ago
Yes the unseen siblings ( the heard but never seen older sister, older married brother and the once mentioned (by Larry) younger brother in (Beaver and Henry) when they have a pet rabbit. The Dad is only briefly shown in " School Play" talking to Larry after the play:
LoveMETV22 ncadams27 4 months ago
Also there is no credit as to who portrayed Larry's Dad in the episode ( guess it's a mystery).
Lillyrose 4 months ago
Madge Blake was great as Mrs. Mondello in Leave it to Beaver, one of my favorite shows. She was the perfect mom for Larry. Madge Blake was also in one of my favorite I Love Lucy episodes, "Lucy and Superman."
IndianaRockz 4 months ago
Since she was born in 1899 she shoulda been Lumpy's grandma 😄😄😄
I also liked her on The Jack Benny Program as the obsessed Jack Benny Fan Club president & as the mom of Joey on The Joey Bishop Show. No matter what show she appeared on, she was in all essence the same character! 😄😄😄
KJExpress 4 months ago
"Lumpy's doting mother?" Oopsie!
Bapa1 4 months ago
She was also on The Joey Bishop show.
daDoctah Bapa1 4 months ago
First season only. Joey liked to tinker with the format of his show, switching characters and relationships in and out and at one point even changing the last name of his own character. The only person who seemed indelible was Joe Besser.
LoveMETV22 4 months ago

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Enjoyed watching Madge Blake as " Larry's doting mother on "Leave It to Beaver." She was great as
Aunt Harriet on Batman as well. There were other actors for w/e reason(s), made their entry into the entertainment industry, later on in years and made memorable roles on different series.
Snickers 4 months ago
Hard to understand how aunt Harriet never found out that Bruce and Dick were Batman and Robin.
daDoctah Snickers 4 months ago
Obviously those "natural-born detective" genes come from the other side of Bruce's family.
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