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Billie Burke in 1933
Mary William Ethelbert Appleton Burke
August 7, 1884
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Died||May 14, 1970 85) (aged|
|Resting place||Kensico Cemetery, New York, U.S.|
|Known for||Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz|
(m. 1914;died 1932)
|Children||Patricia Ziegfeld Stephenson|
Mary William Ethelbert Appleton Burke (August 7, 1884 – May 14, 1970) was an American actress who was famous on Broadway, on radio, early silent film, and subsequently in sound film. She is best known to modern audiences as Glinda the Good Witch of the North in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie musical The Wizard of Oz (1939).
Glinda, also known as the Good Witch of the South, is a fictional character created by L. Frank Baum in his Oz novels. She first appears in Baum's classic children's novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), and is the most powerful sorceress in the Land of Oz, ruler of the Quadling Country south of the Emerald City, and protector of Princess Ozma.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. is an American media company, involved primarily in the production and distribution of feature films and television programs. One of the world's oldest film studios, MGM's headquarters are located at 245 North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, California.
Musical film is a film genre in which songs sung by the characters are interwoven into the narrative, sometimes accompanied by dancing.
Burke was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1938 for her performance as Emily Kilbourne in Merrily We Live and is also remembered for her appearances in the Topper film series. Her high-pitched, wavering, aristocratic voice was her trademark, which made her a frequent choice to play dim-witted, spoiled society types.
The Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress is an award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). It is given in honor of an actress who has delivered an outstanding performance in a supporting role while working within the film industry. The award was traditionally presented by the previous year's Best Supporting Actor winner.
Merrily We Live is a 1938 comedy film directed by Norman Z. McLeod, starring Constance Bennett and Brian Aherne and featuring Ann Dvorak, Bonita Granville, Billie Burke, Tom Brown, Alan Mowbray, Clarence Kolb and Patsy Kelly. The film was produced by Hal Roach for Hal Roach Studios, and was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The screenplay is by Eddie Moran and Jack Jevne.
Topper is a 1937 American supernatural comedy film directed by Norman Z. McLeod, starring Constance Bennett and Cary Grant and featuring Roland Young. It tells the story of a stuffy, stuck-in-his-ways man, Cosmo Topper who is haunted by the ghosts of a fun-loving married couple.
Billie Burke was the wife of Broadway producer and impresario Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. founder of dance troupe and theatrical revue (and adapted to a radio program from 1932 and 1936), the Ziegfeld Follies which operated from 1914 until his death in 1932.
Florenz Edward Ziegfeld Jr., popularly known as Flo Ziegfeld, was an American Broadway impresario, notable for his series of theatrical revues, the Ziegfeld Follies (1907–1931), inspired by the Folies Bergère of Paris. He also produced the musical Show Boat. He was known as the "glorifier of the American girl". Ziegfeld is a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame.
The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air, was a program broadcast on CBS Radio during the 1930s, which attempted to bring the success of Florenz Ziegfeld's stage shows to the new medium of radio.
The Ziegfeld Follies was a series of elaborate theatrical revue productions on Broadway in New York City from 1907 to 1931, with renewals in 1934 and 1936. They became a radio program in 1932 and 1936 as The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air.
Billie Burke was born Mary Burke, the daughter of William "Billy" Burke and Blanche (née Beatty; 1844–1921), in Washington, D.C. She toured the United States and Europe with her father, who was a singer and clown and worked for the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Her family ultimately settled in London where she attended plays in the West End. In 1903, she began acting on stage, making her debut in London in The School Girl .Other London shows included The Duchess of Dantzic (1903) and The Blue Moon (1904). She eventually returned to America to star in Broadway musical comedies.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, also known as the Ringling Bros. Circus, Ringling Bros. or simply Ringling was an American traveling circus company billed as The Greatest Show on Earth. It and its predecessor shows ran from 1871 to 2017. Known as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows, the circus started in 1919 when the Barnum & Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth, a circus created by P. T. Barnum and James Anthony Bailey, was merged with the Ringling Bros. World's Greatest Shows. The Ringling brothers had purchased Barnum & Bailey Ltd. following Bailey's death in 1906, but ran the circuses separately until they were merged in 1919.
The West End of London refers to a distinct region of Central London, west of the City of London and north of the River Thames, in which many of the city's major tourist attractions, shops, businesses, government buildings and entertainment venues, including West End theatres, are concentrated.
The School Girl is an Edwardian musical comedy, in two acts, composed by Leslie Stuart with a book by Henry Hamilton and Paul M. Potter, and lyrics by Charles H. Taylor and others. It concerns a French school girl from a convent, who goes to Paris to help her lovesick friend. Through mistaken identity, she learns secrets that help her at the Paris stock exchange and ends up at a students' ball in the Latin Quarter. All ends happily.
Burke went on to play leads on Broadway in Mrs. Dot,Suzanne, The Runaway, The "Mind-the-Paint" Girl, and The Land of Promise from 1910 to 1913, along with a supporting role in the revival of Sir Arthur Wing Pinero's The Amazons. There she caught the eye of producer Florenz Ziegfeld, marrying him in 1914. Two years later they had a daughter, author Patricia Ziegfeld Stephenson (1916–2008).
Broadway theatre, also known simply as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.
The Land of Promise is a 1917 American silent comedy drama film produced by Famous Players-Lasky and distributed by Paramount Pictures. It was directed by Joseph Kaufman and starred Billie Burke and Thomas Meighan. The film is based on the 1913 play The Land of Promise by W. Somerset Maugham, in which Burke starred.
Sir Arthur Wing Pinero was an English playwright and, early in his career, actor.
Burke was signed for the movies and made her cinematic debut in the title role of Peggy (1915). Her success was phenomenal, and she was soon earning what was reputedly the highest salary ever granted to a motion picture actress up to that time.She followed her first feature with the 15-part serial Gloria's Romance (1916), another popular and critically acclaimed vehicle. By 1917 Billie Burke was a favorite with silent movie fans, rivaling Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Clara Kimball Young and Irene Castle. Billie Burke starred primarily in provocative society dramas and comedies, similar in theme to The "Mind-the-Paint" Girl, her most successful American play. The star's girlish charm rivaled her acting ability, and as she dressed to the hilt in fashionable gowns, furs and jewelry, her clothes sense also won the devotion of female audiences. Among the films in which she appeared during this period were Arms and the Girl (1917), The Mysterious Miss Terry , Let's Get a Divorce (1918), Good Gracious, Annabelle (1919), Away Goes Prudence (1920) and The Frisky Mrs. Johnson (1920).
Peggy is a 1916 American silent comedy film produced and directed by Thomas Ince and stars Billie Burke in her motion picture debut.
Gloria's Romance was a 1916 silent film serial starring Billie Burke. Serial films, also called chapter plays, were shorter films that were typically run before the main feature film, each of which was part of a longer story, and ended in a cliffhanger, thus encouraging the audience to return every week.
Gladys Louise Smith, known professionally as Mary Pickford, was a Canadian-born American film actress and producer. With a career spanning 50 years, she was a co-founder of both the Pickford–Fairbanks Studio and, later, the United Artists film studio, and one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who present the yearly "Oscar" award ceremony.
The actress's beauty and taste made her a major trendsetter throughout the 1910s and 20s. As early as 1909, following her Broadway performance in My Wife (1909), department stores began carrying the "Billie Burke Dress," with a signature flat collar and lace trim."During this time, much of her wardrobe (on screen and off) was provided by the leading European couturier Lucile (in private life Lady Duff Gordon), whose New York branch was then the fashion mecca for socialites and entertainment celebrities. Burke reflected on her reputation as "a new kind of actress, carefree, and red-headed, and I had beautiful clothes.”
Despite her success in film, Burke eventually returned to the stage, appearing in Caesar's Wife (1919), The Intimate Strangers (1921), The Marquise (1927) and The Happy Husband (1928). When the family's investments were wiped out in the Wall Street Crash the following year, she resumed screen acting to aid her husband.
Burke made her Hollywood comeback in 1932, when she starred as Margaret Fairfield in A Bill of Divorcement , which was directed by George Cukor. She played Katharine Hepburn's mother in the film, which was Hepburn's debut. Despite the death of her husband Florenz Ziegfeld during the film's production, she resumed acting shortly after his funeral.
In 1933, Burke was cast as Millicent Jordan, a scatterbrained high-society woman hosting a dinner party in the comedy Dinner at Eight , directed by George Cukor, co-starring with Lionel Barrymore, Marie Dressler, John Barrymore, Jean Harlow and Wallace Beery. The movie was a great success and revitalized her career and she subsequently starred in many comedies and musicals, typecast as a ditzy, fluffy and feather-brained upper-class matron with her high-pitched voice.
In 1936, MGM filmed a sanitized biopic of Florenz Ziegfeld ( The Great Ziegfeld ), a film that won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Actress (Luise Rainer as Ziegfeld's common-law wife, Anna Held). William Powell played Flo Ziegfeld and Myrna Loy played Burke, which infuriated Burke because she was under contract to the studio and could have played herself, but MGM considered her too old to cast in the part of her younger self, despite her obviously having the look and mannerisms down perfectly otherwise.
In 1937, Burke appeared in the first of the Topper films, about a man haunted by two socialite ghosts (played by Cary Grant and Constance Bennett), in which she played the twittering and daffy Clara Topper. Her performance as Emily Kilbourne in Merrily We Live (1938) resulted in her only Oscar nomination. In 1938 she was chosen to play Glinda the Good Witch of the North, in the musical The Wizard of Oz (1939), directed by Victor Fleming, which starred Judy Garland. She had previously worked with Garland in the film, Everybody Sing , in which she played Judy's histrionically hysterical actress-mother. Director George Cukor offered her the role of Aunt Pittypat in Gone With the Wind (1939), but she declined and it was played by Laura Hope Crews, a character that Cukor wanted to be played in a "Billie Burke-ish manner" with "the same zany feeling".Another successful film series followed with Father of the Bride (1950) and Father's Little Dividend (1951), both directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Spencer Tracy, Joan Bennett, and Elizabeth Taylor. Burke also portrayed Mrs. Ernest (Daisy) Stanley in the 1942 film, "The Man Who Came to Dinner."
Burke wrote two autobiographies, both with Cameron Van Shippe, With a Feather on My Nose (Appleton 1949) and With Powder on My Nose (Coward McCann, 1959).
On CBS Radio, The Billie Burke Show was heard on Saturday mornings from April 3, 1943, until September 21, 1946. Sponsored by Listerine, this situation comedy was initially titled Fashions in Rations during its first year. Portraying herself as a featherbrained Good Samaritan who lived "in the little white house on Sunnyview Lane," she always offered a helping hand to those in her neighborhood. She worked often in early television, appearing in the short-lived sitcom Doc Corkle (1952). She was a guest star on several TV and radio series, including Duffy's Tavern .
On television, Burke starred in her own talk show, At Home With Billie Burke , which ran on the DuMont Television Network from June 1951 through the spring of 1952. She was one of the first female talk show hosts, after the hostesses of the earlier DuMont series And Everything Nice (1949–50) and Fashions on Parade (1948–49) which both included some talk show segments.
Burke tried to make a comeback on the New York stage. She starred in two short-lived productions: This Rock and Mrs. January and Mr. X. Although she got good reviews, the plays did not. She appeared in several plays in California as well, although her mind became clouded, and she had trouble remembering lines. In the late 1950s, her failing memory led to her retirement from show business, although her explanation for that was, "Acting just wasn't any fun anymore."
Burke made her final screen appearance in Sergeant Rutledge (1960), a Western directed by John Ford.
Burke was married to producer Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. Burke resided in Beverly Hills, California.She died in Los Angeles of natural causes on May 14, 1970, at the age of 85 and was interred at Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, Westchester County, New York.
For many years, Burke's framed photo was displayed above the exit staircase at New York's Ziegfeld Theatre, but it vanished after renovations. However, an opening night program that bore a picture of her from her 1912 triumph The Mind The Paint Girl (Sir Arthur Wing Pinero) is still displayed in the lobby of the Lyceum Theatre in Manhattan.
For her contributions to the film industry, Burke was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 with a motion pictures star located at 6617 Hollywood Boulevard.
On November 4, 2015, a crater near the north pole of the planet Mercury was named after her.
The Great Ziegfeld is a 1936 American musical and drama film directed by Robert Z. Leonard and produced by Hunt Stromberg. It stars William Powell as the theatrical impresario Florenz "Flo" Ziegfeld Jr., Luise Rainer as Anna Held, and Myrna Loy as Billie Burke.
Fania Borach, known professionally as Fanny Brice or Fannie Brice, was an American illustrated song model, comedienne, singer, theater, and film actress who made many stage, radio, and film appearances and is known as the creator and star of the top-rated radio comedy series The Baby Snooks Show. Thirteen years after her death, Brice was portrayed on the Broadway stage by Barbra Streisand in the 1964 musical Funny Girl; Streisand also starred in its 1968 film adaptation, for which she won an Oscar.
Helene Anna Held, known professionally as Anna Held, was a Broadway stage performer and singer born in Warsaw, Poland. She started her career with stints in theatres in Paris and London, and is most often associated with theatre producer and impresario Florenz Ziegfeld, her common-law husband.
The Will Rogers Follies is a musical with a book by Peter Stone, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and music by Cy Coleman.
Sally is a musical comedy with music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Clifford Grey and book by Guy Bolton, with additional lyrics by Buddy De Sylva, Anne Caldwell and P. G. Wodehouse. The plot hinges on a mistaken-identity: Sally, a waif, is a dishwasher at the Alley Inn. She poses as a famous foreign ballerina and rises to fame through joining the Ziegfeld Follies. There is a rags to riches story, a ballet as a centrepiece, and a wedding as a finale. "Look for the Silver Lining" continues to be one of Kern's most familiar songs. The song is lampooned by another song, "Look for a Sky of Blue," in Rick Besoyan's satirical 1959 musical Little Mary Sunshine.
Roland Young was an English actor.
Clara Blandick was an American stage and screen actress best known for her role as Aunty Em in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's The Wizard of Oz (1939). As a character actress, she often played eccentric elderly matriarchs.
Lillian Bohny, professionally known as Billie Dove, was an American actress.
Marilyn Miller was one of the most popular Broadway musical stars of the 1920s and early 1930s. She was an accomplished tap dancer, singer and actress, and it was the combination of these talents that endeared her to audiences. On stage, she usually played rags-to-riches Cinderella characters who lived happily ever after. Her enormous popularity and famed image were in distinct contrast to her personal life, which was marred by disappointment, tragedy, frequent illness, and ultimately her sudden death due to complications of nasal surgery at age 37.
Mildred Helen Shay was an American film actress of the 1930s who was better known for her affairs, marriages and glamorous social life. The petite Shay, at five-feet tall, was dubbed the "Pocket Venus" by Hollywood gossip columnists.
Ziegfeld Girls were the chorus girls and show girls from Florenz Ziegfeld's theatrical Broadway revue spectaculars known as the Ziegfeld Follies (1907–1931), in New York City, which were based on the Folies Bergère of Paris. The term is often used too broadly. For example, Marion Davies was not a Ziegfeld Girl; she was a featured player in the 1916 edition of the Follies and not a chorus girl or show girl.
Charles Bancroft Dillingham was a Broadway producer.
Doris Eaton Travis was an American dancer, stage and film actress, dance instructor, writer, and rancher, who was the last of the acclaimed Ziegfeld girls.
Laura Hope Crews was a leading actress of the American stage in the first decades of the 20th century who is best remembered today for her later work as a character actress in motion pictures of the 1930s. Her best-known film role was Aunt Pittypat in Gone with the Wind.
Patricia Ziegfeld Stephenson was an American author.
Kay Laurell was an American stage and silent film actress and model.
Elaine Elizabeth Shepard was a Broadway and film actress in the 1930s and 1940s. She was also the author of The Doom Pussy, a semi-fictional account of aviation in the Vietnam War.
Noel Francis was an American actress of the stage and screen during the 1920s and 1930s. Born in Texas, she began her acting career on the Broadway stage in the mid-1920s, before moving to Hollywood at the beginning of the sound film era. Originally cast in films for her song and dance abilities, when musicals began to fall out of favor, she became better known for her tough girl characters. However, by the mid-1930s, she was being typecast into smaller roles, and made an attempt at a comeback on Broadway. When that failed, she returned briefly to Hollywood to make several B films, before retiring in 1937.
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