Clara Blandick commits suicide in Hollywood, 1962. She started in films in 1911 playing maids, wives, aunts, mothers, and mothers-in-law—great steady work for a character actress of a certain age. By the time she retired from movies in 1950 with Love That Brute and Key to the City, she had more than 100 films to her credit. But it was The Wizard of Oz (1939) that made her immortal, playing the stern yet caring Auntie Em to Judy Garland’s Dorothy. (When she tells Almira Gulch (Margaret Hamilton) that “for twenty-three years, I've been dying to tell you what I thought of you! And now... well, being a Christian woman, I can't say it!,” one practically drools at the idea of what a non-Christian Auntie Em would say.) In later years, she was plagued by severe arthritis and increasing blindness and so, on Palm Sunday in 1962, Blandick composed a 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." She fixed her hair, put on her best dress, took an overdose of sleeping pills, placed a plastic bag over her head and—at the age of 81—ended her life.
Entries in the wizard of oz (6)
Judy Garland is born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, 1922. The actress made her first movie in 1936 at the age of 13—a short film with Deanna Durbin called Every Sunday. Later that year she appeared in her first full-length feature, Pigskin Parade. It would be the first of a series of teenage roles for a star who longed to play an adult but stayed a teen well into her early twenties. She played young so often, of course, precisely because she was young. Prior to her star-making role in The Wizard of Oz (1939) when she was just 17, she was a kid in Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937), Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (1937), Everybody Sing (1938), Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) and Listen, Darling (1938). Audiences loved her pubescent innocence, and MGM delayed her onscreen maturity so should could keep being a kid in such hits as Babes in Arms (1939), Andy Hardy Meets Debutante (1940), Strike Up the Band (1940) and Babes on Broadway (1941).
In 1942 she had a rare turn as an adult in the World War I-era musical For Me and My Gal and actually played her own age in Presenting Lily Mars (1943). MGM subtracted years from her age again in Girl Crazy (1943). In her last hurrah as a cinematic teen, she reluctantly made what became one of her best movies, Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), playing the second-to-oldest Smith daughter hoping to spend her high school senior year in Missouri instead of New York. Vincente Minnelli, her Meet Me in St. Louis director and future husband, would direct Garland in her next picture, The Clock (1945), in which she played a New York woman who falls in love with and marries a soldier (Robert Walker) during the course of his two-day leave. At last and from then on, she was an adult.
“Gibbons was responsible for the physical look of most of the 20th century through his designs for MGM, which were wildly influential both at the time and now, when we look back at his era.”
— Historian Steven Bingen, author of MGM: Hollywood’s Greatest Backlot, in an interview with Stuart Galbraith IV
Cedric Gibbons, a graduate of New York’s Art Student League, began his long association with the movies at Edison Studios in 1915. In 1918, he served as art director at Goldwyn Studios. When Goldwyn became incorporated with Metro Pictures and Louis B. Mayer Pictures in 1924, forming MGM, the young designer signed on as the new studio’s art director, a position he would hold for the next 32 years. More than 1,500 films bear his name as art director while a number of designers on his staff went uncredited. Nevertheless, the look of MGM films—and much of the studio proper—are reflections of Gibbons’s taste, creativity and discipline.
Here’s a brief look at his legacy.
“Work to me is something you don't want to do, but you have to do it to live,” famed caricaturist Al Hirschfeld once remarked when discussing his remarkable, eight-decade-long career. “But what I do, I would do whether anybody wanted it or didn't want it.” To many performers in show business, being drawn by Hirschfeld ranks—along with loyal fans, critical raves and industry awards—as one of the true measures of celebrity. Though known primarily for his work in the world of the Broadway stage, the artist crafted a number of movie posters, mainly in the thirties and forties. Here are a handful of our favorites.
After its world premier in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, and subsequent premiers in Hollywood and New York, The Wizard of Oz is released in the United States in 1939. Playing the role of Toto—at a salary of $125 a week—was a Cairn Terrier named Terry, who was born in 1933 and owned and trained by Carl Spitz. To bond with his costar, Terry spent a couple of weeks at Judy Garland's home prior to filming. During filming, one of the witch's guards stepped on the critter, requiring a double to take over the role for a couple of weeks. Terry recovered and was able to attend the premier at Grauman's Chinese Theater on August 15, 1939. A veteran of more than a dozen films, the canine star died in 1945 and was buried on Spitz's Studio City ranch, which was razed to make room for L.A.'s Ventura Freeway.