Clara Blandick

Active - 1914 - 1950  |   Born - Jun 4, 1880   |   Died - Apr 15, 1962   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Comedy, Crime, Musical

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Diminutive actress Clara Blandick was technically a U.S. citizen, since she was born aboard an American ship docked in the harbor of Hong Kong. She remained in Hong Kong with her family, making her stage debut in Richard Lovelace with visiting actor E. H. Sothern. Blandick made her first film in 1910, but she preferred the theatre, where she could count on being cast in leading roles. Nearly fifty when talkies came in, Blandick slipped easily into such character roles as Aunt Polly in Tom Sawyer (1930) and Huckleberry Finn (1931). By the mid 1930s she was a day player, appearing in unbilled bits and supporting parts in a number of top productions including A Star is Born (1937). In 1939, she was cast in her most memorable role, as Auntie Em in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Ironically, many Wizard of Oz fans of the 1950s and 1960s didn't know the real name of the actress portraying Auntie Em; Ms. Blandick's name does not appear in the opening credits, while the film's closing cast list (in which she is billed last, below Pat Walshe as the head flying monkey) was never telecast during the ten years that CBS owned the TV rights to Wizard. After her week's work as Auntie Em, Blandick went back to playing tiny uncredited roles in "A" pictures like One Foot in Heaven (1941) and The Big Store (1941), as well as good supporting parts in such "B" efforts as Pillow of Death (1945) and Philo Vance Returns (1947) -- playing a cold-blooded killer in the latter film. Clara Blandick retired in 1950; 12 years later, suffering from arthritis and encroaching blindness, she committed suicide in her modest Hollywood apartment.

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