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Clara Blandick
Clara Blandick.jpg
Blandick, c. 1903
Clara Blanchard Dickey

(1876-06-04)June 4, 1876
Died April 15, 1962(1962-04-15) (aged 85)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Occupation Actress
Years active 1901–1950
Harry Stanton Elliott
(m. 1905; div. 1912)

Clara Blandick (born Clara Blanchard Dickey; June 4, 1876 – April 15, 1962) was an American character, film, stage and theater actress. She played Aunt Em in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's The Wizard of Oz (1939). As a character actress, she often played eccentric elderly matriarchs.

Early life

She was born Clara Blanchard Dickey, 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, British Hong Kong. She was delivered by Captain William H. Blanchard, whose ship, Wealthy Pendleton, was anchored nearby. His wife, Clara Pendleton Blanchard, was also present. 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, Massachusetts.

Her parents had settled in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 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.


In 1897, Blandick was an understudy with The Walking Delegate company in Boston and her stage debut came in that production at the Tremont Theatre. In 1901, she portrayed Jehanneton in the play If I Were King, which ran for 56 performances at Garden Theatre (an early component of Madison Square Garden). She achieved acclaim for her role in The Christian.

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 such as 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.

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).

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 – Aunt 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. (Aunt 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 May Robson, Janet Beecher, and Sarah Padden for the role, and earned $750 per week. Some believed Aunt 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. 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 Mrs. Morton Pringle in 1940's 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 74 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. Prior to his mining career, he had been an actor, and they had starred together in The Christian. They separated by 1910, and are believed 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 lay down on a couch, covered herself with a gold blanket over her shoulders, and tied a plastic bag over her head. She 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.”

Blandick's landlady, Helen Mason, discovered her body later that day. Her ashes were interred at the Great Mausoleum, Columbarium of Security at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale along with those of her sister, Marcia D. Young, and Marcia's husband, George A. Young. Blandick's ashes lie just yards from those of Charley Grapewin, her on-screen husband in The Wizard of Oz.

Stage credits

Note: The list below is limited to New York/Broadway theatrical productions.

Broadway credits of Clara Blandick
Date Title Role Ref(s)
Oct 14, 1901 - Dec 1901 If I Were King Jehanneton
Oct 27, 1903 - Mar 1904 Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman Gwendolyn Conron
Dec 21, 1903 - Jan 1904 The Sacrament of Judas Jeffick Gillou
Mar 28, 1904 - May 1904 The Two Orphans Marianne
Apr 06, 1908 - May 1908 The Royal Mounted Rosa Larabee
Feb 24, 1913 - May 1913 Widow by Proxy Dolores Pennington
Apr 21, 1913 - May 1913 Mrs. Peckham's Carouse
Aug 23, 1915 - Oct 1915 No. 13 Washington Square
Feb 01, 1917 - May 1917 The Wanderer
Mar 31, 1923 - May 1923 The Enchanted Cottage Mrs. Minnett, First Witch
Jan 04, 1924 - Apr 1924 Hell-Bent Fer Heaven Meg Hunt
Sep 28, 1925 - Dec 12, 1925 Applesauce Mrs. Jennie Baldwin
Oct 05, 1926 - Oct 1926 The Good Fellow Mrs. Kent
Apr 01, 1927 - Apr 1927 Fog-Bound Mrs. Penny
May 11, 1927 - Jun 1927 Kempy "Ma" Bence
Nov 01, 1927 - Nov 1927 Ink Hester Trevelyan
Feb 01, 1928 - Feb 1928 La Gringa Sarah Bowditch
Mar 14, 1928 - Mar 1928 The Buzzard Mrs. Burns
May 21, 1928 - Jul 1929 Skidding Mrs. Hardy
Jan 11, 1929 - Jan 1929 Skyrocket Mrs. Ewing


Film credits of Clara Blandick
Year Title Role Studio/Distributor Ref(s)
1911 The Maid's Double Short
1914 Mrs. Black Is Back Emily Mason Famous Players Film Company
1916 The Stolen Triumph Mrs. Rowley Rolfe Photoplays
1917 Peggy, the Will O' the Wisp Mrs. Donnelly Rolfe Photoplays
1929 Wise Girls Ma MGM
1929 One Hysterical Night Masquerade Guest - Little Bo Peep (uncredited) Universal
1930 Romance Abigail Armstrong MGM
1930 The Girl Said No Mrs. Ward MGM
1930 Tom Sawyer Aunt Polly Paramount
1930 The Sins of the Children Martha Wagenkampf MGM
1930 Men Are Like That Ma Fisher Paramount Famous Players Film Company
1930 Burning Up Mrs. Minnie Winkle (uncredited) Paramount
1931 Daybreak Frau Hoffman MGM
1931 New Adventures of Get Rich Quick Wallingford Mrs. Layton MGM
1931 Once a Sinner Mrs. Mason Fox Film Corporation
1931 Possessed Marian's Mother MGM
1931 Bought! Mrs. Sprigg Warner Bros.
1931 It's a Wise Child Mrs. Stanton MGM
1931 The Easiest Way Agnes MGM
1931 Huckleberry Finn Aunt Polly Paramount
1931 I Take This Woman Sue Barnes Paramount Publix Corp.
1931 Murder at Midnight Aunt Julia Gray Kennedy Tiffany Pictures
1931 The Drums of Jeopardy Abbie Krantz Tiffany
1931 Inspiration Madeleine's Mother (uncredited) MGM
1931 Laughing Sinners Salvation Army Woman (uncredited) MGM
1932 Two Against the World Aunt Agatha Warner Bros.
1932 The Strange Case of Clara Deane Mrs. Lyons Paramount
1932 Rockabye Brida RKO Pictures
1932 Shopworn Mrs. Livingston Columbia Pictures
1932 Life Begins Mrs. West Warner Bros.
1932 The Wet Parade Mrs. Tarleton MGM
1932 Three on a Match Mrs. Keaton Warner Bros.
1933 Three Cornered Moon Landlady (uncredited) Paramount
1933 Charlie Chan's Greatest Case Minerva Winterslip Fox
1933 The Bitter Tea of General Yen Mrs. Jackson Columbia
1933 The Mind Reader Auntie First National Pictures
1933 Ever in My Heart Anna Warner Bros.
1933 Turn Back the Clock Joe's Mother MGM
1933 One Sunday Afternoon Mrs. Bush Paramount
1933 Child of Manhattan Aunt Sophie Columbia
1933 Going Hollywood Miss Perkins MGM
1934 Beloved Miss Murfee Universal
1934 Harold Teen Ma Lovewell Warner Bros.
1934 Jealousy Mrs. Douglas Columbia
1934 As the Earth Turns Cora Warner Bros.
1934 The Girl from Missouri Miss Newberry MGM
1934 The Show-Off Ma Fisher MGM
1934 Sisters Under the Skin Miss Gower Columbia
1934 Fugitive Lady Aunt Margaret Columbia
1934 Broadway Bill Mrs. Peterson Columbia
1935 The President Vanishes Walter Wanger Productions
1935 Transient Lady Eva Branham Universal
1935 Princess O'Hara Miss Van Cortland Universal
1935 Straight from the Heart Mrs. Anderson Universal
1935 Party Wire Mathilda Sherman Columbia
1935 The Winning Ticket Aunt Maggie MGM
1936 Fury Judge's wife MGM
1936 The Case of the Velvet Claws Judge Mary F. O'Daugherty First National
1936 Hearts Divided Aunt Ellen First National
1936 Make Way for a Lady Mrs. Dell RKO
1936 In His Steps Martha Adams B. F. Zeidman Productions, Inc.
1936 The Gorgeous ... Louisa Abbott MGM
1936 The Trail of the Lonesome Pine Landlady Walter Wanger
1936 Anthony Adverse Mrs. Jorham Warner Bros.
1937 You Can't Have Everything Townswoman 20th Century Fox
1937 Wings Over Honolulu Evie Curtis Universal
1937 Her Husband's Secretary Agatha Kingdon Warner Bros.
1937 Small Town Boy Mrs. Armstrong Grand National Films Inc.
1937 A Star is Born Aunt Mattie Selznick International Pictures
1937 The Road Back Willy's Mother Universal
1938 Swing, Sister, Swing Ma Sisler Universal
1938 Crime Ring Phoebe Sawyer RKO
1938 My Old Kentucky Home Julia "Granny" Blair Crescent Pictures Corp
1938 Tom Sawyer, Detective Aunt Polly Paramount
1938 Professor Beware Mrs. Green - Landlady Harold Lloyd Corp
1939 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Miss Watson MGM
1939 I Was a Convict (1939) Aunt Sarah Scarlett Republic Pictures
1939 Swanee River Mrs. Griffin 20th Century
1939 Drums Along the Mohawk Mrs. Borst 20th Century
1939 The Wizard of Oz Aunt Em MGM
1939 The Star Maker Miss Esther Jones John Duke Paramount
1939 Main Street Lawyer Uncredited Republic
1940 North West Mounted Police Mrs. Burns Cecil B. DeMille
1940 Youth Will Be Served Miss Bradshaw 20th Century
1940 Dreaming Out Loud Jessica Spence Voco Productions
1940 Tomboy Aunt Martha Monogram Pictures
1940 Anne of Windy Poplars Mrs. Morton Pringle RKO
1940 Alice in Movieland Warner Bros.
1941 The Big Store Customer MGM
1941 Private Nurse Miss Phillips 20th Century
1941 The Wagons Roll at Night Mrs. Williams Warner Bros.
1941 The Nurse's Secret Miss Juliet Mitchell Warner Bros.
1941 It Started with Eve Nurse Universal
1941 One Foot in Heaven Sister Watkins Warner Bros.
1941 The Get-Away Mrs. Higgins MGM
1942 Rings on Her Fingers Mrs. Beasley 20th Century
1942 Lady in a Jam Tourist Universal
1942 Road to Morocco Aunt Lucy in Photo (uncredited) Paramount
1942 Gentleman Jim Woman on train (uncredited) Warner Bros.
1943 Dixie Mrs. Mason Paramount
1943 Heaven Can Wait Grandmother Van Cleve 20th Century
1943 Du Barry Was a Lady Old lady on subway MGM
1944 Can't Help Singing Aunt Cissy Universal
1944 Shadow of Suspicion Mother Randall Monogram
1945 Frontier Gal Abigail Universal
1945 Pillow of Death Belle Kincaid Universal
1946 She-Wolf of London Mrs. McBroom Universal
1946 So Goes My Love Mrs. Meade Skirball-Manning Productions, Inc.
1946 A Stolen Life Martha Warner Bros.
1946 People Are Funny Grandma Wilson Pine-Thomas Productions
1946 Claudia and David Mrs. Barry 20th Century
1947 Philo Vance Returns Stella Blendon Producers Releasing Corporation
1947 Life with Father Miss Wiggins Warner Bros.
1948 The Bride Goes Wild as Aunt Pewtie MGM
1949 Mr. Soft Touch Susan Balmuss Columbia
1949 Roots in the Soil Wilding Picture Productions
1950 Key to the City Liza MGM
1950 Love That Brute Landlady 20th Century

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Clara Blandick para niños

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