A New Sybil's "WHO'Z DAT?"... EDNA MAY OLIVER (November 9, 1883 – November 9, 1942)

Collage Edna May Oliver.jpg

Darlings! Mummy has made a decision! After reading dozens of posts and having hundreds of conversations with well-meaning folks who just don't know about the great CHARACTER actors who gave films the depth and genius that surrounded and supported the so-called "stars", I am going to post a regular, special entry called SYBIL'S "WHO'Z DAT?"....there'll be photos and a mini-bio, and the next time you see one of those familiar, fabulous faces that you just "can't quite place".......well, maybe these posts will help. Some of these actors worked more, had longer and broader careers, and ended up happier, more loved, and even wealthier than the "stars" that the public "worships". (I think there may be a metaphor in that! What do you think???).

Will our next guest enter and sign in please….EDNA MAY OLIVER! (November 9, 1883 – November 9, 1942) With a face that no one could forget, she appeared on stage and film as one of America’s best-known character actresses, often playing tart-tongued spinsters. Born Edna May Nutter in Malden, Massachusetts, the daughter of Ida May and Charles Edward Nutter, Edna was a descendant of the sixth American president, John Quincy Adams. She quit school at age fourteen in order to pursue a career on stage and achieved her first success in 1917 on Broadway in Jerome Kern's musical comedy OH, BOY!, playing the hero's comically dour Quaker Aunt Penelope. Oliver started out in silent films in 1923 but continued her stage work making her most notable stage appearance as Parthy, wife of Cap'n Andy Hawks, in the original 1927 stage production of the musical SHOW BOAT. She repeated the role in the 1932 Broadway revival, but turned down the chance to play Parthy in the 1936 film version of the show so that she could play the Nurse in that year's film version of ROMEO AND JULIET, her only role in a Shakespeare film or play.

While most often playing featured parts in over forty films, she starred in three popular mystery-comedies as spinster sleuth Hildegarde Withers. Oliver received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 1939 for her appearance in DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK. Since Oliver was cast in several film versions of classic British literature, including ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1933), A TALE OF TWO CITIES (1935), DAVID COPPERFIELD (1935), the 1936 film version of ROMEO AND JULIET, and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1940), using a quite realistic upper-class English accent, many film-goers have incorrectly assumed that she was British.

When asked why she played predominantly comedic roles, she replied, "With a horse's face, what more can I play?" Oliver died on her 59th birthday in 1942 following a short intestinal ailment that proved terminal, and was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. For people who love films from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Edna May Oliver remains yet another one of the Platinum performers that, once seen, can never be forgotten! She is truly a perfect example of enduring power and talent in one who was never just "another pretty face". 

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