Billie Burke (1884-1970) was an American actress who was best known for her role as Glinda the Good Witch in the 1939 film classic The Wizard of Oz.
Burke was born Mary William Ethelbert Appleton Burke in Washington, D.C., on August 7, 1884. Her parents were William and Martha Burke. She had two sisters, Josephine and Marian. Burke was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Washington and the Academy of the Sacred Heart in New York City.
Burke’s acting career began on the stage. She made her Broadway debut in 1903 in The Wild Rose. She went on to appear in a number of successful Broadway productions, including The Girl with the Green Eyes (1905), The Wizard of Oz (1906), and The Honeymooners (1908).
In 1914, Burke made her film debut in The Perils of Pauline. She went on to appear in a number of silent films, including The Lost World (1925), The Unholy Three (1925), and The Great Gatsby (1926).
With the advent of sound films, Burke’s career took off. She appeared in a number of successful films, including Dinner at Eight (1933), Merrily We Live (1938), and The Wizard of Oz (1939). She also appeared in the popular television series Topper (1953-1955).
Burke was married three times. Her first husband was Frank Fay, an actor and comedian. They were married from 1914 to 1931 and had one child, a daughter named Barbara. Burke’s second husband was Gregory Ratoff, a Russian-born film director. They were married from 1932 to his death in 1960. Burke’s third husband was John Wodehouse, 3rd Earl of Kimberley, a British aristocrat. They were married from 1962 until his death in 1966.
Burke died of natural causes on May 14, 1970, at the age of 85.
May 14, 1970, Los Angeles, California, United States
Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.
Patricia Ziegfeld Stephenson
Blanche E. Burke, William Burke
Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
The Wizard of Oz, Topper, Dinner at Eight, Father of the Bride, Sergeant Rutledge, Merrily We Live, Father's Little Dividend, The Man Who Came to Dinner, A Bill of Divorcement, Topper Returns, Christopher Strong, The Barkleys of Broadway, Topper Takes a Trip, Becky Sharp, The Young in Heart, The You...
[on her husband, Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.] Ziegfeld has been portrayed as a man who pursued women. I have even come across a word which, in regard to him, is not only vulgar but incredibly inaccurate. The word is "Chaser." By all the pink-toed prophets, Flo Ziegfeld was never that! Flo never pursed any woman. He was cool and aloof and difficult. But there were times, more times than I prefer to recall, when he made a woman eager for his approval by a mere look, or a small expression, or by a slight grasp of her elbow, a low mumbling request to dance. That was all the effort he ever had to make. The story of one noted dancing girl about how Flo Ziegfeld used to batter down her door is a confection of sheer poppycock. I tell you: I know better.
By the time you get your name up in lights you have worked so hard and so long, and seen so many names go up and down, that all you can think of is: "How can I keep it here?"
[on Hollywood] To survive there, you need the ambition of a Latin-American revolutionary, the ego of a grand opera tenor and the physical stamina of a cow pony.
Age is something that doesn't matter, unless you are a cheese.
[on why she retired] Acting just wasn't any fun anymore.
She was played by Myrna Loy in "The Great Ziegfeld".
During her early years on the American stage, she mixed socially with Mark Twain, Booth Tarkington, Enrico Caruso, and Somerset Maugham.
She is the 21st great granddaughter of King Edward I.
Her father was the internationally known English clown Billy Burke, who came to the U.S. with P. T. Barnum's circus.
Began her show business career on stage in the British provinces.
Biography in "Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties" by Axel Nissen.
The $40,000 she was paid for eight weeks work for Peggy (1916) was the largest salary ever paid up to that point to an actor for a single film.
Britain's Most Dangerous Songs: Listen to the Banned
TV Movie documentary performer: "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead"
Hi Diddle Diddle
performer: "The Pilgrim's Chorus" - uncredited
The Wizard of Oz
performer: "Munchkinland Medley: 'Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are', 'The House Began To Pitch', 'As Mayor of the Munchkin City', 'As Coroner, I Must Aver', 'Ding Dong The Witch is Dead', 'Lullaby League', 'Lollipop Guild', and 'We Welcome You to Munchkinland'" 1939 - uncredited
performer: "Funiculi, Funicula" 1880 - uncredited
performer: "I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls" 1843 - uncredited
We're Rich Again
performer: "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain When She Comes"
TV Series documentary
The Ed Wynn Show
Texaco Star Theatre
Picture People No. 2: Hollywood Sports
Screen Snapshots Series 9, No. 20
Herself, Mrs. Florenz Ziegfeld
Our Mutual Girl, No. 4
Our Mutual Girl
Biograph Beauty Postcard
To Oz! The Making of a Classic
Video documentary short
Because of the Wonderful Things It Does: The Legacy of Oz