Clara Blandick

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Clara Blandick
Clara Blandick.jpg
Blandick c. 1895
Born
Clara Blanchard Dickey

(1876-06-04)June 4, 1876
DiedApril 15, 1962(1962-04-15) (aged 85)
Cause of death Suicide by overdose
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery
OccupationActress
Years active1900–1951
Spouse(s)Harry Stanton Elliott
(m.1905–div.1912)

Clara Blandick (born Clara Blanchard Dickey; June 4, 1876 April 15, 1962) 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.

Aunt Em is a fictional character from the Oz books. She is the aunt of Dorothy Gale and wife of Uncle Henry, and lives together with them on a farm in Kansas. In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, she is described as having been a "young, pretty wife" when she arrived at Uncle Henry's farm, but having been "grayed" by her life there, implying that she appears older than her years. Baum tells us that when Dorothy first came to live with her, Em would "scream and press her hand upon her heart" when startled by Dorothy's laughter, and she appears emotionally distant to her at the beginning of the story. However, after Dorothy is restored to her at the end of the book, we see her true nature: she cries out, "My darling child!" and covers her with kisses.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer American media company

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.

<i>The Wizard of Oz</i> (1939 film) 1939 movie based on the book by L. Frank Baum

The Wizard of Oz is a 1939 American musical fantasy film produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, currently distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Widely considered to be one of the greatest films in cinema history, it is the best-known and most commercially successful adaptation of L. Frank Baum's 1900 children's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Directed primarily by Victor Fleming, the film stars Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale alongside Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Frank Morgan, Billie Burke and Margaret Hamilton with Charley Grapewin, Pat Walshe, Clara Blandick, Terry and Singer's Midgets as the Munchkins.

Contents

Early life

She was born Clara Blanchard Dickey, [1] the daughter of Isaac B. and Hattie (née Mudgett) Dickey, aboard the Willard Mudgett – an American ship captained by her father (named after one of her maternal relatives), and docked in Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong. [2] She was delivered by Captain William H. Blanchard, whose ship, "Wealthy Pendleton," was anchored nearby. His wife, Clara Pendleton Blanchard, was present, as well. To thank the Blanchards, Captain and Mrs. Dickey named their daughter Clara Blanchard Dickey. When she became successful as an actress, she took the first syllable of "Blanchard" and the first syllable of "Dickey" to create her stage name, "Clara Blandick". While she often used 1880 as her year of birth for professional purposes, she was actually born in 1876. According to the newspaper Daily Alta California, both the Willard Mudgett and the Wealthy Pendleton were in Hong Kong Harbor in June 1876. By 1880, Captain Dickey was in command of a different ship (the William Hales), and the rest of the family was in Quincy.

Victoria Harbour harbour between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island in Hong Kong

Victoria Harbour is a natural landform harbour separating Hong Kong Island in the south from the Kowloon Peninsula to the north. The harbour's deep, sheltered waters and strategic location on the South China Sea were instrumental in Hong Kong's establishment as a British colony and its subsequent development as a trading centre.

Hong Kong East Asian city

Hong Kong, officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China and commonly abbreviated as HK, is a special administrative region on the eastern side of the Pearl River estuary in southern China. With over 7.4 million people of various nationalities in a 1,104-square-kilometre (426 sq mi) territory, Hong Kong is the world's fourth most densely populated region.

Blandick with J. C Nugent in A Star Is Born, 1937 Clara Blandick-J. C. Nugent in A Star Is Born (1937).jpg
Blandick with J. C Nugent in A Star Is Born, 1937

Acting

Her parents settled in Quincy, Massachusetts, by 1879 or 1880. Sources vary on when the Dickeys settled there, and Clara may have been two or three years old when they made the move. In nearby Boston she met the Shakespearean actor E. H. Sothern, with whom she appeared in a production of Richard Lovelace . She moved from Boston to New York City by 1900, and began pursuing acting as a career. [1]

Quincy, Massachusetts City in Massachusetts, United States

Quincy is the largest city in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States. It is part of Metropolitan Boston and one of Boston's immediate southern suburbs. Its population in 2014 was 93,397, making it the eighth-largest city in the state. Known as the "City of Presidents," Quincy is the birthplace of two U.S. presidents—John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams—as well as John Hancock, a President of the Continental Congress and the first signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Boston Capital city of Massachusetts, United States

Boston is the capital and most populous city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States. The city proper covers 48 square miles (124 km2) with an estimated population of 685,094 in 2017, making it also the most populous city in New England. Boston is the seat of Suffolk County as well, although the county government was disbanded on July 1, 1999. The city is the economic and cultural anchor of a substantially larger metropolitan area known as Greater Boston, a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) home to a census-estimated 4.8 million people in 2016 and ranking as the tenth-largest such area in the country. As a combined statistical area (CSA), this wider commuting region is home to some 8.2 million people, making it the sixth-largest in the United States.

William Shakespeare English playwright and poet

William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His extant works, including collaborations, consist of approximately 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Her first professional appearance came in 1901, when she was cast as Jehanneton in the play If I Were King, [3] which ran for 56 performances at Garden Theatre (an early component of Madison Square Garden). She achieved acclaim for her role in The Christian and was described by newspaper critics as a "dainty, petite, and graceful" heroine.[ citation needed ]

Madison Square Garden Multi-purpose indoor arena in New York City

Madison Square Garden, colloquially known as The Garden or in initials as MSG, is a multi-purpose indoor arena in New York City. Located in Midtown Manhattan between 7th and 8th Avenues from 31st to 33rd Streets, it is situated atop Pennsylvania Station. It is the fourth venue to bear the name "Madison Square Garden"; the first two were located on Madison Square, on East 26th Street and Madison Avenue, with the third Madison Square Garden (1925) further uptown at Eighth Avenue and 50th Street.

In 1903 she played Gwendolyn in the Broadway premiere of E. W. Hornung's Raffles The Amateur Cracksman opposite Kyrle Bellew. She started in pictures with the 'Kalem company in 1908 and made a number of appearances like in The Maid's Double in 1911. Blandick finally broke onto Broadway in 1912, when she was cast as Dolores Pennington in Widow By Proxy which ran for 88 performances through early 1913 at George M. Cohan's Theatre on Broadway. During this same period she appeared on stages throughout the Northeastern United States as a member of Sylvester Poli's stock theater company, The Poli Players. She continued to achieve acclaim for her stage work, playing a number of starring roles, including the lead in Madame Butterfly . By 1914, she was back on the silver screen, as Emily Mason in the film Mrs. Black is Back. [ citation needed ]

E. W. Hornung British writer

Ernest William Hornung was an English author and poet known for writing the A. J. Raffles series of stories about a gentleman thief in late 19th-century London. Hornung was educated at Uppingham School; as a result of poor health he left the school in December 1883 to travel to Sydney, where he stayed for two years. He drew on his Australian experiences as a background when he began writing, initially short stories and later novels.

Broadway (Manhattan) street in Manhattan

Broadway is a road in the U.S. state of New York. Broadway runs from State Street at Bowling Green for 13 mi (21 km) through the borough of Manhattan and 2 mi (3.2 km) through the Bronx, exiting north from the city to run an additional 18 mi (29 km) through the municipalities of Yonkers, Hastings-On-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, and Tarrytown, and terminating north of Sleepy Hollow in Westchester County.

George M. Cohan American composer and playwright

George Michael Cohan, known professionally as George M. Cohan, was an American entertainer, playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer and theatrical producer.

During World War I, Blandick performed some overseas volunteer work for the American Expeditionary Force in France. She also continued to act on stage and occasionally in silent pictures. In 1924, she earned rave reviews for her supporting role in the Pulitzer Prize winning play Hell-Bent Fer Heaven , which ran for 122 performances at the Klaw Theatre in New York (later renamed CBS Radio Playhouse No. 2).

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Pulitzer Prize U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature, and musical composition

The Pulitzer Prize is an award for achievements in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, literature, and musical composition in the United States. It was established in 1917 by provisions in the will of American (Hungarian-born) Joseph Pulitzer who had made his fortune as a newspaper publisher, and is administered by Columbia University in New York City. Prizes are awarded yearly in twenty-one categories. In twenty of the categories, each winner receives a certificate and a US$15,000 cash reward. The winner in the public service category of the journalism competition is awarded a gold medal.

In 1929, Blandick moved to Hollywood. By the 1930s, she was well known in theatrical and film circles as an established supporting actress. Though she landed roles like Aunt Polly in the 1930 film Tom Sawyer (a role she reprised in the 1931 film Huckleberry Finn ), she spent much of the decade as a character actor, often going uncredited. In Pre-Code films she often played mothers, including those of characters played by Joan Crawford ( Possessed ) and Joan Blondell ( Three on a Match ). At a time when many actors were permanently attached to a single studio, she played a wide number of bit parts for almost every major Hollywood studio (though she would later be under contract with 20th Century Fox). In 1930, she acted in nine films. In 1931 she was in thirteen films. As is the case with some other busy character actors, it is difficult to make an exact tally of the films in which Blandick appeared but a reasonable estimate would fall between 150 and 200.

The Wizard of Oz and later years

In 1939, Blandick landed her most memorable minor role yet – Auntie Em in MGM's classic The Wizard of Oz . Though it was a small part (Blandick filmed all her scenes in a single week), the character was an important symbol of protagonist Dorothy's quest to return home to her beloved aunt and uncle – a snipe at people who revere glitz and tinsel over a happy homelife. (Auntie Em and Uncle Henry are the only characters from the beginning of the movie, in black-and-white Kansas, not to have alter ego characters in the Land Of Oz.) Blandick beat out May Robson, Janet Beecher, and Sarah Padden for the role, and earned $750 per week. Some believed Auntie Em's alter ego was to be Glinda, the Good Witch of the North but the studio opted to use different actresses for each role rather than have a dual role for this. The reason was they wanted someone younger looking to contrast the good witch from the bad witches, although Billie Burke, who played Glinda, was only eight years younger. Blandick is only credited in the movie's closing credits.

After The Wizard of Oz, Blandick returned to her staple of character acting in supporting and bit roles. She would continue to act in a wide variety of roles in dozens of films. She played the spiteful Mrs. Pringle in 1940s Anne of Windy Poplars , a department store customer in the 1941 Marx Brothers film The Big Store , a fashionable socialite in the 1944 musical Can't Help Singing, and a cold-blooded murderer in the 1947 mystery Philo Vance Returns . Her final two roles both came in 1950 – playing a housekeeper and a landlady in Key to the City and Love That Brute, respectively. She retired from acting at the age of 69 and went into seclusion at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

Personal life and death

Blandick was married on December 7, 1905, in Manhattan, to mining engineer Harry Stanton Elliott. [4] Prior to his mining career, Elliott had been an actor, and the two had starred together in "The Christian". They separated by 1910, and are said to have divorced in 1912. They had no children.

Throughout the 1950s, Blandick's health steadily began to deteriorate. Her eyesight began to fail and she was suffering from severe, painful arthritis. On April 15, 1962, she returned home from Palm Sunday services at her church. She began rearranging her room, placing her favorite photos and memorabilia in prominent places. She laid out her resume and a collection of press clippings from her lengthy career. She dressed immaculately in an elegant royal blue dressing gown, and with her hair properly styled, she took an overdose of sleeping pills. She lay down on a couch, covered herself with a gold blanket over her shoulders, and tied a plastic bag over her head. Blandick left the following note: “I am now about to make the great adventure. I cannot endure this agonizing pain any longer. It is all over my body. Neither can I face the impending blindness. I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.”

Her landlady, Helen Mason, found her body Sunday morning. In preparing to die, Blandick had disposed of all her medicines the previous week. Blandick was survived by a niece, Catherine Hopkins, of Camarillo, California. Blandick's ashes were interred at the Great Mausoleum, Columbarium of Security at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale along with the ashes of her sister, Marcia D. Young, and Marcia's husband, George A. Young.

Blandick's cremated remains lie just yards from those of her on-screen husband in The Wizard of Oz, actor Charley Grapewin.

Partial filmography

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References

Footnotes

  1. 1 2 Fisher, James; Londré, Felicia Hardison (2017). Historical Dictionary of American Theater: Modernism. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 89. ISBN   9781538107867 . Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  2. 1880 United States Census Household Record: Isaac B. Dickey family at familysearch.org
  3. Nissen, Axel (2012). Mothers, Mammies and Old Maids: Twenty-Five Character Actresses of Golden Age Hollywood. McFarland. pp. 5–11. ISBN   9780786490455 . Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  4. Manhattan marriage certificate #26838