Claire Carleton was born in New York City. She began acting on the stage, eventually making it to Broadway, where she made her debut as Lucy in the short-lived play, Blue Monday in June, 1932. Although she made her film debut in a small role in a 1933 film short, Seasoned Greetings, and continued to occasionally make shorts for the remainder of the decade, she concentrated on her stage career during the 1930s. Claire Carleton made her first appearance in a feature film in 1940’s Millionaire Playboy, starring Joe Penner, Linda Hayes, and Russ Brown. During her film career she was often cast as the “other woman”, or in a sexually promiscuous role. Her career ran the gamut of roles, from small, un-credited, unnamed roles, such as a nightclub patron in the 1949 musical, On the Town, to small supporting roles like Vicki Vale in 1948’s If You Knew Susie, to small featured roles like Miss Francis in the classic drama, Death of a Salesman (1951) and leading roles such as in Gildersleeve on Broadway (1943), where she played Francine Gray. She had featured supporting roles in numerous films, among the most notable being: the lead of Kay Stevens in the 1941 western mystery The Great Train Robbery; as Ruby LaRue in A Night of Adventure (1944), starring Tom Conway; as Belle Townley in the 1946 western, Gun Town, starring Kirby Grant; in one of The Shadow films, The Missing Lady (1946), in the role of Rose Dawson; and Grace in 1949’s It’s a Great Feeling, starring Doris Day, Jack Carson, and Dennis Morgan. During the mid-1940s she also starred in a series of two-reelers with Leon Errol, such as 1946’s Poppa Knows Worst. Other notable films in which she appeared include: Rookies in Burma (1943), starring the comedy duo of Wally Brown and Alan Carney, in which she had the featured role of Connie; the 1944 musical Show Business, starring Eddie Cantor and George Murphy; the 1947 comedy The Senator Was Indiscreet, starring William Powell; in George Cukor’s A Double Life (1947), starring Ronald Colman; the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musical, The Barkleys of Broadway (1949); in another Cukor film, Born Yesterday, starring Judy Holliday (in an Oscar-winning performance), William Holden, and Broderick Crawford; the 1954 suspense drama, Witness to Murder, starring Barbara Stanwyck, George Sanders, and Gary Merrill; and the biopic, The Buster Keaton Story (1957), starring Donald O’Connor, Ann Blyth, and Rhonda Fleming.
With the advent of television, Claire Carleton transitioned to the small screen in the 1950s, and by the 1960s she worked almost solely in that medium. Her final big screen appearance was in 1961’s The Devil’s Partner, in the featured role of Ida. Claire Carleton’s television debut was on the DuMont Television Network’s crime drama series Front Page Detective in 1951, in which she had a starring guest appearance in the episode titled, “Frame for Murder”. In 1954-5 she co-starred as Nell Mulligan, Mickey Rooney’s mother, on the The Mickey Rooney Show though she was only seven years older than Rooney. She had other recurring roles on television, including that of Alice Purdy on Cimarron City, which starred George Montgomery. She appeared as a guest on dozens of other television shows, including Hopalong Cassidy (1952), The Abbott and Costello Show (1953), Mr. & Mrs. North (1953), The Gene Autry Show (1954), Treasury Men in Action (1954-5), Studio 57, The Millionaire (1955-6), The Lone Ranger, several appearances on Schlitz Playhouse, Maverick (1958), Perry Mason (1959), several appearances on M Squad (1959), Leave It to Beaver (1959), Make Room for Daddy (later known as The Danny Thomas Show – 1958 & 1960), several appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents from 1956-61, 77 Sunset Strip (1962), Hazel (1962-3), several performances from 1960-5 on Wagon Train, and The Munsters (1964). Her final acting performance was in a small role as a store clerk during the eighth season of the television series The Virginian in 1969. Carleton married Fred E. Sherman, who she remained married to until his death in 1969. She died from cancer on December 11, 1979 in Northridge, California, and was interred next to her husband at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, California.
- September, 28, 1913
- New York, New York
- December, 11, 1979
- Northridge, California
Cause of Death
- Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
- Los Angeles, California