Born Mary Tomlinson, this salty, raucous-voiced character actress joined a local stock company as a youth; later she worked in vaudeville and on the legitimate stage, and debuted on Broadway in 1916. She maintained a stage career throughout the silent era, then entered films in 1931. Her screen career didn't take off until after she portrayed gangster Humphrey Bogart's slum-dwelling mother in Dead End (1937), after which she was a very busy film actress. After being briefly typecast in the mold of her Dead End role, she found a niche in comedy during the '40s, frequently partnered with Wallace Beery. She scored a great success as rural lady Ma Kettle in The Egg and I (1947) opposite Percy Kilbride; the film led to nine more Ma and Pa Kettle films. In 1957 she retired from the screen.