Clara Blandick


Actor

About

Birth Place
Hong Kong
Born
June 04, 1881
Died
April 15, 1962
Cause of Death
Suicide

Biography

Back in the days of the studio system, character players with interesting faces were kept under contract to add spice to scenes. One such actress was Clara Blandick, a name some may not recall, but they would remember her face. Thanks to perennial TV airings and the advent of home video, generations of children have been exposed to her in what is undoubtedly her best-known part: Dorothy'...

Notes

Blandick's sucide note read:"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." Reprinted in Classic Images, February 2000.

Biography

Back in the days of the studio system, character players with interesting faces were kept under contract to add spice to scenes. One such actress was Clara Blandick, a name some may not recall, but they would remember her face. Thanks to perennial TV airings and the advent of home video, generations of children have been exposed to her in what is undoubtedly her best-known part: Dorothy's stern but caring Auntie Em in "The Wizard of Oz" (1939).

Born on an American ship docked in Hong Kong harbor, Blandick was raised in Boston and made her stage debut there as part of E.H. Sothern's stock company. At age 23, the petite and delicately pretty actress headed to Manhattan where she debuted on Broadway in "The Christian" and went on to score hits in "Brown of Harvard" and "Raffles." She moved to the silver screen in 1911 in "The Maid's Double" went on to featured parts in "Black Is Black" (1914) and "The Stolen Triumph" (1916), but she resumed working in her first love, the theater.

For much of the 1920s, Blandick acted on stage, winning favorable reviews for "Hell-Bent for Heaven" in 1924. As the decade wound down and the Depression hit, she had resumed appearing in features, and with "Wise Girls" (1930), Blandick earned a reputation as a fine and reliable supporting player. Over the next decade, she was hardly out of work, peppering up scenes in many films and occasionally landing substantial roles that provided a showcase for her talent. Blandick was a fine Aunt Polly in "Tom Sawyer" (1930) and as Janet Gaynor's disapproving Aunt Mattie in "A Star Is Born" (1937).

Although almost no one can imagine another actress as Auntie Em, the truth was Blandick was far from the first choice for the part. May Robson had been offered the role but turned it down feeling it wasn't meaty enough. MGM considered others before testing Blandick who provided the right mixture of no-nonsense and tenderness. While "The Wizard of Oz" is now considered a classic, upon its initial release it was a modest success. Although the younger cast members were able to use it as a stepping stone, the sixtyish actress soon found her career on the decline.

Blandick enlivened "Anne of Windy Poplars" (1940) and was serenaded by Alan Jones in the Marx Brothers vehicle "The Big Store" (1941) but her screen presence gradually declined as the decade wore on. With the exception of a fine part as Deanna Durbin's socialite aunt in "Can't Help Singin'" (1944) and her turn as the family maid in "Life With Father" (1947), few of her roles proved memorable. In 1950, Blandick made her last appearances in "Love That Brute" and "Key to the City." She retired in ill health and spent a dozen unhappy years coping with pain and failing eyesight. Leaving behind a somewhat melodramatic suicide note, she suffocated herself on April 15, 1962. But as long as children of all ages gather to watch "The Wizard of Oz," she won't be forgotten.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Key to the City (1950)
Liza
Love That Brute (1950)
Landlady
Mr. Soft Touch (1949)
Susan Balmuss
The Bride Goes Wild (1948)
Aunt Pewtie
Philo Vance Returns (1947)
Stella Blendon
Life with Father (1947)
Miss Wiggins
A Stolen Life (1946)
Martha
People Are Funny (1946)
Grandma
She-Wolf of London (1946)
Mrs. McBroom
So Goes My Love (1946)
Mrs. Meade
Claudia and David (1946)
Mrs. Harry
Frontier Gal (1945)
Abigail
Pillow of Death (1945)
Belle Kincaid
Can't Help Singing (1944)
Aunt Cissy
Shadow of Suspicion (1944)
"Mother"
Dixie (1943)
Mrs. Mason
Heaven Can Wait (1943)
Grandmother
Du Barry Was a Lady (1943)
Old lady on subway
Lady in a Jam (1942)
Tourist
Rings on Her Fingers (1942)
Mrs. Beasley
The Big Store (1941)
Elderly woman
The Wagons Roll at Night (1941)
Mrs. Williams
Private Nurse (1941)
Miss Phillips
The Nurse's Secret (1941)
Miss Juliet Mitchell
It Started with Eve (1941)
Nurse
One Foot in Heaven (1941)
Mrs. Watkins
The Get-Away (1941)
Mrs. Huggins
Youth Will Be Served (1940)
Miss Bradshaw
Dreaming Out Loud (1940)
Jessica Spence
Tomboy (1940)
Martha
Anne of Windy Poplars (1940)
Mrs. Morton Pringle
Swanee River (1940)
Mrs. Griffin
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939)
Miss Watson
I Was a Convict (1939)
Aunt Sarah Scarlett
Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)
Mrs. Borst
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Auntie Em
Swing Sister Swing (1938)
"Ma" Sisler
Crime Ring (1938)
Phoebe Sawyer
My Old Kentucky Home (1938)
Julia "Granny" Blair
Tom Sawyer, Detective (1938)
Aunt Polly
Professor Beware (1938)
Landlady
You Can't Have Everything (1937)
Townswoman
Wings over Honolulu (1937)
Evie Curtis
Her Husband's Secretary (1937)
Agatha Kingdon
Small Town Boy (1937)
Mrs. Armstrong
A Star Is Born (1937)
Aunt Mattie
The Road Back (1937)
Willy's mother
Fury (1936)
Judge's wife
The Case of the Velvet Claws (1936)
Judge Mary F. O'Daugherty
Hearts Divided (1936)
Aunt Ellen
Make Way for a Lady (1936)
Mrs. Dell
In His Steps (1936)
Martha Adams
The Gorgeous Hussy (1936)
Louisa Abbot
The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936)
Landlady
Anthony Adverse (1936)
Mrs. Jorham
The President Vanishes (1935)
Princess O'Hara (1935)
Miss Van Courtland
Transient Lady (1935)
Eva Branham
Straight from the Heart (1935)
Mrs. Anderson
Party Wire (1935)
Mathilda Sherman
The Winning Ticket (1935)
Aunt Maggie
Beloved (1934)
Miss Murfee
Harold Teen (1934)
Ma Lovewell
As the Earth Turns (1934)
Cora [Shaw]
Jealousy (1934)
Mrs. Douglas
The Girl from Missouri (1934)
Miss Newberry
The Show-Off (1934)
Ma Fisher
Sisters Under the Skin (1934)
Miss Gower
Fugitive Lady (1934)
Aunt Margaret
Broadway Bill (1934)
Mrs. Peterson, secretary
Charlie Chan's Greatest Case (1933)
Minerva Winterslip
Three Cornered Moon (1933)
Landlady
The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)
Mrs. Jackson
The Mind Reader (1933)
Auntie
Ever in My Heart (1933)
Anna
Turn Back the Clock (1933)
Joe's mother
One Sunday Afternoon (1933)
Mrs. Brush
Child of Manhattan (1933)
Aunt Sophie [Jones]
Going Hollywood (1933)
Miss Perkins
The Strange Case of Clara Deane (1932)
Mrs. Lyons
Two Against the World (1932)
Aunt Agatha
Life Begins (1932)
Mrs. West
Rockabye (1932)
Brida
Shopworn (1932)
Mrs. [Helen] Livingston
Three on a Match (1932)
Mrs. Keaton
The Wet Parade (1932)
Mrs. Tarleton
Daybreak (1931)
Frau Hoffman
Possessed (1931)
Mother
New Adventures of Get Rich Quick Wallingford (1931)
Mrs. Layton
Once a Sinner (1931)
Mrs. Mason
Huckleberry Finn (1931)
Aunt Polly
Bought (1931)
Mrs. Sprig
It's a Wise Child (1931)
Mrs. Stanton
The Easiest Way (1931)
Agnes Murdock
I Take This Woman (1931)
Sue Barnes
Murder at Midnight (1931)
Aunt Julia
Drums of Jeopardy (1931)
Aunt Abbie
Tom Sawyer (1930)
Aunt Polly
Romance (1930)
Miss Armstrong
The Girl Said No (1930)
Mrs. Wardrobe
Sins of the Children (1930)
Martha Wagenkampf
Men Are Like That (1930)
Ma Fisher
Wise Girls (1929)
Ma
Peggy, the Will O' the Wisp (1917)
Mrs. Donnelly
The Stolen Triumph (1916)
Mrs. Rowley
Mrs. Black Is Back (1914)
Emily Mason

Cast (Short)

Alice in Movieland (1940)
Poor Aubrey (1930)

Life Events

1903

Appeared on Broadway in "The Christian"

1911

Film debut in "The Maid's Double"

1916

Acted in the silent film, "The Stolen Triumph"

1924

Garnered attention for stage performance in "Hell-Bent for Heaven"

1929

Resumed film career in "Men Are Like That" and "Poor Aubrey"

1929

Became an established character player after turn in "Wise Girls"

1930

Cast as Aunt Polly in "Tom Sawyer"

1937

Portrayed Janet Gaynor's stern aunt in "A Star Is Born"

1939

Had best-known and most memorable role as Auntie Em in "The Wizard of Oz"

1940

Offered a scene-stealing turn in "Anne of Windy Poplars"

1941

Was featured in the Marx Brothers' vehicle "The Big Store"

1943

Appeared in "Heaven Can Wait"

1944

Portrayed Deanna Durbin's socialite aunt in "Can't Help Singing"

1947

Cast as the family maid in "Life With Father"

1950

Final film role, "Key to the City"

Photo Collections

Shopworn - Publicity Stills
Here are a few publicity stills from Columbia Pictures' Shopworn (1932), starring Barbara Stanwyck.

Videos

Movie Clip

Wet Parade, The (1932) - Four Years More! Election day 1916, Southern author Roger (Neil Hamilton) arrives in New York, greeted by Democrats "Pow" Tarleton (Walter Huston), his son Kip (Robert Young) and newsman friend Jerry (Wallace Ford), when surprising news arrives from California, in The Wet Parade, 1932.
Drums Along The Mohawk (1939) - At The Borst Home The first scene in director John Ford’s first color (Technicolor) film, Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert as colonials Gil and Lana are married in Albany, New York, 1776, cinematography credit shared by Bert Glennon and Ray Rennahan, Edwin Maxwell the celebrant, Robert Grieg and Clara Blandick her parents, opening Drums Along The Mohawk, 1939.
Bitter Tea Of General Yen (1933) - Ready For The Slaughter Second scene for Barbara Stanwyck as Megan, arrived in strife-torn China to marry her missionary fiancè (Gavin Gordon, who appears shortly), with Clara Blandick her (probably racist) host, wondering aloud about an encounter with the title character, whose name she didn’t get, Frank Capra directing, in Columbia’s The Bitter Tea Of General Yen, 1933.
Bitter Tea Of General Yen (1933) - I Learned A Terrible Lesson Framing and scale from Columbia and director Frank Capra, opening the first feature shown (to surprisingly weak box office) at Radio City Music Hall, Clara Blandick greeting fellow missionaries in China, Emmett Corrigan the sanguine bishop, in The Bitter Tea Of General Yen, 1933, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Nils Asther.
Romance (1930) - Perhaps The Boat Will Sink New Yorker Miss Armstrong (Clara Blandick) with Van Tuyl (Lewis Stone), prepared to be offended by opera singer Rita Cavallini (Greta Garbo), and both aiming to discourage her friendship with her pastor brother Tom (Gavin Gordon), in MGM's Romance, 1930.
Star Is Born, A (1937) - Stop Mooning About Hollywood Producer David Selznick is credited with the framing device, introducing Esther (Janet Gaynor) and brother (A.W. Sweatt) telling father, aunt and granny (J.C. Nugent, Clara Blandick, May Robson) about a movie with Norman Maine (Fredric March, who will figure later), in A Star Is Born, 1937.
Shopworn (1932) - I'm Not Cheap, I'm Not Common! Society doyenne Mrs. Livingston (Clara Blandick) and friend Judge Forbes (Oscar Apfel) drop in on working-class Kitty (Barbara Stanwyck) where her college-man son David Livingston (Regis Toomey) delivers shocking news, in Shopworn, 1932.
Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, The (1939) - Your Right Stocking Huck (Mickey Rooney) scrambles in from just having learned he won't be promoted at school, help from Jim (Rex Ingram), then covering up with the widow Douglas (Elizabeth Risdon) and her crankier sister Miss Watson (Clara Blandick), early in MGM's The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, 1939.
Easiest Way, The (1931) - Money's All That Counts The whole gang at the tenement, Laura Murdock (Constance Bennett) with Dad, Mom and sister (J. Farrell MacDonald, Clara Blandick, Anita Page), whose handsome boyfriend laundry-man Nick (Clark Gable) drops in, early in The Easiest Way, 1931, directed by Jack Conway.
Possessed (1931) - You Turnip! Factory girl Marian (Joan Crawford), fresh from an unlikely meeting at the train depot, comes home to mother (Clara Blandick) and oppressive boyfriend Al (Wallace Ford), early in MGM's Possessed, 1931.

Trailer

Wizard of Oz, The (1939) -- (1949 Re-issue Trailer) A Kansas farm girl dreams herself into a magical land where she must fight a wicked witch to escape in The Wizard of Oz (1939), starring Judy Garland.
Mind Reader, The - (Original Trailer) Warren William has one of his greatest roles as a phony mentalist who tries to go straight in The Mind Reader (1933).
Three on a Match - (Original Trailer) A woman's childhood friends try to rescue her from gangsters in Three on a Match (1932) starring Bette Davis and Joan Blondell.
Ever In My Heart - (Original Trailer) During World War I, a woman (Barbara Stanwyck) suspects her husband of being a German spy in Ever In My Heart (1933).
Case of the Velvet Claws, The - (Original Trailer) Perry Mason's honeymoon with Della Street is interrupted by the murder of a scandal-sheet publisher. Starring Warren William.
Bride Goes Wild, The -- (Re-issue Trailer) A womanizing author of children's books (Van Johnson) borrows a son to woo his illustrator in The Bride Goes Wild (1948).
As The Earth Turns - (Original Trailer) A bitter feud between two hardscrabble farming families yields a crop of forbidden romance in As The Earth Turns (1934).
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The (1939) - (Original Trailer) Mickey Rooney is Mark Twain's classic troublemaker who helps a runaway slave (Rex Ingram) escape to the North.
Star is Born, A (1937) - (Original Trailer) A fading matinee idol marries the young beginner he's shepherded to stardom in A Star is Born (1937) starring Janet Gaynor & Fredric March.
Wagons Roll at Night, The - (Original Trailer) Humphrey Bogart runs off with the circus, but keeps his hard-boiled edge in The Wagons Roll At Night (1941).
Stolen Life, A - (Original Trailer) Bette Davis plays a nice sister and the evil twin who takes her place and her man in director Curtis Bernhardt's A Stolen Life (1948).
Nurse's Secret, The - (Original Trailer) When her patient is murdered, a private-duty nurse investigates the crime in The Nurse's Secret (1941).

Bibliography

Notes

Blandick's sucide note read:"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." Reprinted in Classic Images, February 2000.