Margaret Hamilton


Actor
Margaret Hamilton

About

Birth Place
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Born
December 09, 1902
Died
May 16, 1985
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

Biography

In a career that spanned five decades and more than 70 features, Hamilton is best remembered as the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 MGM classic "The Wizard of Oz." This character actress was in private life a gentle, animated woman who taught kindergarten before getting her first break in the 1932 Broadway production "Another Language." The play's success provided her ticket to Holl...

Family & Companions

Paul Boynton Meserve
Husband
Married on June 13, 1931; divorced in 1938.

Biography

In a career that spanned five decades and more than 70 features, Hamilton is best remembered as the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 MGM classic "The Wizard of Oz." This character actress was in private life a gentle, animated woman who taught kindergarten before getting her first break in the 1932 Broadway production "Another Language." The play's success provided her ticket to Hollywood where, after recreating her role in the film version, Hamilton went on to supporting roles as what she termed "women with a heart of gold and a corset of steel" under such directors as Frank Capra, Fritz Lang, Michael Curtiz, Busby Berkeley, and William A. Wellman. Hamilton never signed a studio contract by design, partly to avoid typecasting. Additionally, she only asked for a salary of $1,000 per week so as not to price herself out of the market.

Ironically, Hamilton almost didn't get cast in her best-known role, despite having played the Wicked Witch in a Cleveland stage version of "The Wizard of Oz." Producer Mervyn LeRoy had originally wanted Gale Sondergaard for the part but her makeup and costume tests made her look too glamorous. Relenting, LeRoy offered the role to Hamilton, who in turn demanded a guarantee of six weeks work. After being cast, the actress was nearly burned in an onset accident when the Witch was supposed to disappear in a flash fire and the stage trap door did not open quickly enough, causing her costume to catch fire. Also, Hamilton disdained the dual role because she had a total of just over ten minutes of screen time. The initial reviews seemed to justify her feelings; she was barely mentioned and the film proved to be somewhat of a box office disappointment in its initial release. It took the annual TV airings begun in the 1950s for her to be fully appreciated. Scores of children were terrified by the Witch and Hamilton was assured of a place in the hearts and nightmares of many.

Hamilton also kept her stage career active, taking parts in repertory and regional theaters, appearing in Lincoln Center productions of "Oklahoma!" and "Show Boat" and in the mid-1970s toured as Madame Armfeldt in "A Little Night Music," delivering a standout interpretation of her one major musical moment, the lovely waltz "Liaisons." She also frequently performed a one-woman show entitled "Aprons I Have Worn" in which she offered key lines from her screen roles.

A pioneer of early television, she made her small screen debut on the anthology series "Silver Theater" in the late 1940s and went on to a regular stint on NBC's "The Paul Winchell-Jerry Mahoney Show" during the 1953-54 season. In the 1960s and '70s, Hamilton had recurring parts on ABC sitcoms like "The Patty Duke Show" and "The Addams Family" and the NBC children's program "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters." One of her best late-in-life roles was the college professor with a knowledge of the occult in the TV movie "The Night Strangler" (ABC, 1973). Around the same time, she embodied the helpful, sweet New England storekeeper Cora in a long-running series of commercials for Maxwell House Coffee. Hamilton continued to act until about two years before her 1985 death from a heart attack.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Letters From Frank (1979)
Grandma Miller
Journey Back to Oz (1974)
Voice
The Night Strangler (1973)
The Anderson Tapes (1971)
Miss Kaler
Brewster McCloud (1970)
Daphne Heap
Angel in My Pocket (1969)
Rhoda
Rosie (1967)
Mae
The Daydreamer (1966)
Mrs. Klopplebobbler
Paradise Alley (1962)
13 Ghosts (1960)
Elaine Zacharides
Comin' Round the Mountain (1951)
Aunt Huddy
People Will Talk (1951)
Sarah Pickett
Riding High (1950)
Edna
Wabash Avenue (1950)
Tillie Hutch
The Great Plane Robbery (1950)
Mrs. Judd
The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend (1949)
Mrs. Elvira O'Toole
The Sun Comes Up (1949)
Mrs. Golightly
The Red Pony (1949)
Teacher
State of the Union (1948)
Norah
Texas, Brooklyn & Heaven (1948)
Ruby Cheever
Reaching from Heaven (1948)
Sophia [Manley]
Bungalow 13 (1948)
Mrs. Theresa Appleby
Dishonored Lady (1947)
Mrs. Geiger, landlady
The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947)
Flora
Driftwood (1947)
Essie Keenan
Janie Gets Married (1946)
Mrs. Angles
Faithful in My Fashion (1946)
Miss Applegate
George White's Scandals (1945)
Clarabelle Evans
Guest in the House (1944)
Hilda
Johnny Come Lately (1943)
Myrtle Ferguson
City Without Men (1943)
Dorah
The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)
Mrs. Larch
The Affairs of Martha (1942)
Guinevere
Meet the Stewarts (1942)
Willametta
Twin Beds (1942)
Norah
The Gay Vagabond (1941)
Agatha Badger
Play Girl (1941)
Josie
I'm Nobody's Sweetheart Now (1940)
Mrs. Thriffle
The Villain Still Pursued Her (1940)
Mrs. Wilson
The Invisible Woman (1940)
Mrs. Jackson
My Little Chickadee (1940)
Mrs. Gideon
Main Street Lawyer (1939)
Lucy
The Angels Wash Their Faces (1939)
Miss Hannaberry
Babes in Arms (1939)
Martha Steele
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Miss [Almira] Gulch [/The Wicked Witch of the West]
Four's a Crowd (1938)
Amy
Mother Carey's Chickens (1938)
Mrs. [Pauline] Fuller
Breaking the Ice (1938)
Mrs. Small
Stablemates (1938)
Beulah Flanders
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938)
Mrs. Harper
A Slight Case of Murder (1938)
Mrs. Cagle
The Good Old Soak (1937)
Minnie
Nothing Sacred (1937)
Drugstore lady
You Only Live Once (1937)
Hester
When's Your Birthday? (1937)
Mossy
Mountain Justice (1937)
Phoebe Lamb
I'll Take Romance (1937)
Margot
Saratoga (1937)
Maizie
The Moon's Our Home (1936)
Mitty Simpson
These Three (1936)
Agatha
The Witness Chair (1936)
Grace Franklin
Laughing at Trouble (1936)
Lizzie Beadle
Chatterbox (1936)
Emily "Tippy" Tipton
The Farmer Takes a Wife (1935)
Lucy Gurget
Way Down East (1935)
Martha Perkins
There's Always Tomorrow (1934)
Ella
Broadway Bill (1934)
Edna
Hat, Coat, and Glove (1934)
Madame Du Barry [also known as Mrs. Pansy Jones]
By Your Leave (1934)
Whiffen
Another Language (1933)
Helen [Hallam]

Costume-Wardrobe (Feature Film)

My Cousin Rachel (1953)
Wardrobe

Cast (Special)

The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (1976)
Is There a Doctor in the House? (1971)
Who's Afraid of Mother Goose? (1967)
Mother Hubbard
Fun Fair (1960)
Guest
The Bat (1960)
Lizzie Arlen
Once Upon a Christmas Time (1959)
On Borrowed Time (1957)
Aunt Demetria
The Man Who Came to Dinner (1954)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

The Devil's Disciple (1955)
Mrs Dudgeon

Life Events

1923

Made stage acting debut in "The Man Who Ate the Popomack"

1932

Helping a friend audition, she won a part for herself in the Broadway play, "Another Language"

1933

Reprised stage role in film version of "Another Language"

1935

Reprised Broadway role in "The Farmer Takes a Wife", directed by Victor Fleming

1936

Played the dual roles of Elvira Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West in "The Wizard of Oz"; reprised role in numerous stage versions

1939

Played the Wicked Witch of the West in "The Wizard of Oz"

1940

Appeared in support of W C Fields and Mae West in "My Little Chickadee"

1947

Co-starred with Harold Lloyd in Preston Sturges' "The Sin of Harold Diddlebock/Mad Wednesday"

1948

Acted in "State of the Union"

1950

TV debut as guest on anthology series, "Silver Theater" in episode titled "Papa Romani"

1951

Last film for nearly a decade "People Will Talk"

1955

TV-movie debut, "The Devil's Disciple"

1958

Played Dolly Tate in a tour of Irving Berlin's stage musical "Annie Get Your Gun"

1960

Returned to featured in "13 Ghosts"

1962

Voiced character of Auntie Em in the animated "Journey Back to Oz", with Liza Minnelli voicing Dorothy; film released on video in 1974

1963

Had recurring role in the ABC sitcom, "The Patty Duke Show"

1969

Portrayed Aunt Eller in the revival of "Oklahoma!" staged at the New York State Theater in NYC

1971

Had last acting role in feature film, "The Anderson Tapes"

1973

Played an occult specialist in the ABC TV-movie "The Night Strangler"

1974

Played Madame Armfeldt in the national tour of "A Little Night Music"

1978

Appeared on stage in "The Devil's Disciple" in NYC

1979

Last TV-movie "Letters from Frank" (CBS)

Videos

Movie Clip

State Of The Union (1948) - Twelve Commandments Continuing their first scene together, maid Norah (Margaret Hamilton) in the middle as estranged wife Mary (Katharine Hepburn) discovers how close her potential-candidate husband Grant (Spencer Tracy) has become with his powerful mistress, in State Of The Union, 1948.
Slight Case Of Murder, A (1938) - Douglas Fairbanks Rosenbloom Ex-bootlegger turned legit-but-broke brewer Marko (Edward G. Robinson) visiting his "alma-mater" orphanage, Margaret Hamilton in charge, collecting his annual summer adopt-ee, (Bobby Jordan), in A Slight Case Of Murder, 1938, from the Damon Runyon and Howard Lindsay play.
Brewster McCloud (1970) - Isolate The Dream Rene Auberjonois is "The Lecturer," an ornithologist, providing a sort of continuity, in the opening of Robert Altman's Brewster McCloud, 1970, featuring Margaret Hamilton as stadium vocalist "Daphne Heap."
Farmer Takes A Wife, The (1935) - Who Is That Lady? Notable as Henry Fonda’s first scene in his first movie, a new arrival in 1853 Rome, NY, after we meet Janet Gaynor as Molly, Charles Bickford as canal-boat captain Jotham, with Jane Withers, Margaret Hamilton, John Qualen, Andy Devine, Slim Summerville among the locals, in The Farmer Takes A Wife, 1935.
Wizard Of Oz, The (1939) - I'd Turn Back If I Were You! As chilling as any sequence, Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Lion (Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr), sent to the retrieve the Wicked Witch’s broomstick, run into trouble as she (Margaret Hamilton) looses the flying monkeys, in MGM’s The Wizard Of Oz, 1939.
Wizard of Oz, The (1939) - We're Not In Kansas Anymore Dorothy (Judy Garland) and Toto arrive at the farmhouse just as the cyclone is approaching, Victor Fleming directing and A. Arnold Gillespie's special effects transporting them, in The Wizard Of Oz, 1939.
My Little Chickadee (1940) - Will You Take Me? Cuthbert J. Twillie (W.C. Fields) has a proposal for Flower Belle (Mae West) on the train approaching Greasewood City in My Little Chickadee, 1940.
My Little Chickadee (1940) - Opening, Flower Belle Opening credit sequence followed by Flower Belle (Mae West) getting snatched by "The Masked Bandit" (Joseph Calleia) in the W.C. Fields/Mae West comedy My Little Chickadee, 1940.
My Little Chickadee (1940) - Indians! Twillie (W.C. Fields) is introducing himself to Flower Belle (Mae West) when Indians attack the train in My Little Chickadee, 1940.
George White's Scandals (1945) - Utter Monstrosity Jack (Haley) visits Joan (Davis) backstage as they try to deal with Clarabelle (Margaret Hamilton) who objects to their romance, and Hilda (Rose Murphy) offers consolation in George White's Scandals, 1945.
George White's Scandals (1945) - Mrs. Jack Evans Jack (Haley) and snarky sister Clarabelle (Margaret Hamilton) visit Joan (Davis) and the girls at their anniversary party, and a lobster gets a lengthy gag in George White's Scandals, 1945.
13 Ghosts - How Did He Die? There's something witchy about the housekeeper (Margaret Hamilton) who shows Mr. Zorba (Donald Woods) where his uncle and her former boss died in William Castle's 13 Ghosts, 1960.

Trailer

Brewster McCloud - (Original Trailer) A mysterious boy living in the Houston Astrodome dreams of building himself a pair of wings in Brewster McCloud (1970), directed by Robert Altman.
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.
George White's Scandals (1945) - (Original Trailer) The Wizard of Oz stars Jack Haley and Margaret Hamilton play brother and sister in the 1945 edition of George White's Scandals.
Another Language - (Original Trailer) When Helen Hayes marries Robert Montgomery, she inherits a monster mother-in-law in Another Language (1933).
Angels Wash Their Faces, The -- (Original Trailer) Crusading district attorney Ronald Reagan helps the Dead End Kids when one of them is accused of arson.
Anderson Tapes, The - (Original Trailer) A thief (Sean Connery) plans a heist in a building full of surveillance cameras in Sidney Lumet's The Anderson Tapes (1971).
Affairs of Martha, The - (Original Trailer) A servant's employers land in hot water when they're the subject of a tell-all book in The Affairs Of Martha (1942).
13 Ghosts - (Original Trailer) A family inherits a house haunted by 13 ghosts and a living killer in William Castle's 13 Ghosts (1960).
Nothing Sacred - (Original Trailer) When a small-town girl is diagnosed with a rare, deadly disease, an ambitious newspaper man turns her into a national heroine in Nothing Sacred (1937).
Red Pony, The - (Original Trailer) A rancher's son learns a valuable lesson when he's given a pony in Lewis Milestone's film version of John Steinbeck's novel, The Red Pony (1949).
Slight Case Of Murder, A - (Original Trailer) Edward G. Robinson is a gangster who stumbles on a killing in the comedy A Slight Case Of Murder, 1938, based on the play by Damon Runyon and Howard Lindsay.
Babes in Arms - (Original Trailer) A group of second-generation entertainers put on a show to launch their careers in Babes in Arms (1939) with Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney.

Family

Walter J Hamilton
Father
Lawyer.
Jennie Hamilton
Mother
Sylvia Dick
Niece
Dancer.
Hamilton Meserve
Son
Newspaper publisher. Oversees chain of newspapers in Dutchess County, New York.

Companions

Paul Boynton Meserve
Husband
Married on June 13, 1931; divorced in 1938.

Bibliography