Thursday, June 14, 2012

Clara Blandick

Everyone knows Clara Blandick (1880 - 1962). Maybe not by her screen name, but I know that if you are reading this blog, you have seen her.

Clara has over 120 film roles over a span of 50 years. She started on the stage, and appeared to prefer that. She had a few small parts in silent films from 1911 to 1917, then left the screen until 1929. In 1930, after making half a dozen movies, she was in Romance, starring Greta Garbo, and in those early years she worked with Franklin Pangborn, Myrna Loy and others with less familiar names. Also in 1930, Jackie Coogan made Tom Sawyer, and Clara became Aunt Polly.

1931 was Clara's busiest year. She repeated her Aunt Polly role in Huckleberry Finn (1931), again with Coogan. She also worked with Garbo again in Inspiration that year. In the horror film The Drums of Jeopardy, Clara played opposite Warner Oland, who played a character named Dr. Boris Karlov! She was also in Laughing Sinners, starring Joan Crawford and Clark Gable, with the great Bit Actor, Neil Hamilton. She worked with Gable and Crawford again that year in Possessed. Also in 1931, she teamed up with Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard in I Take This Woman. In The New Adventures of Get Rick Quick Wallingford, she worked with Jimmy Durante (1893 - 1908). It was Durante's second film. Clara made 13 movies in 1931 alone. No wonder this was called the Golden Age.

Continuing on, look for her in Three on a Match (1932), with Joan Blondell, Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart. She also had a small role in the Janet Gaynor 1937 version of A Star is Born.

1939 was the banner year for Clara. She starts out in the Mickey Rooney version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Then, the role that would engrave her name in Hollywood history, as Auntie Em in The Wizard of Oz. (See? Everyone here has seen Clara Blandick.) Her next film that year was The Star Maker starring Bing Crosby, and then Drums Along the Mohawk with Claudette Colbert and Henry Fonda.

While she never worked with Judy Garland again, she did make other films with Oz alumni. She worked four times with Charley Grapewin (Uncle Henry), three with Frank Morgan (The Wizard) and Maggie Hamilton (WWW), and twice with Jack Haley (The Tin Man).

Other good post-Oz films featuring Clara Blandick include Northwest Mounted Police (1940), The Wagons Roll at Night (1941), The Big Store (1941), Du Barry was a Lady (1943), Heaven Can Wait (1943), and Life with Father (1947). Her final film was Love that Brute (1950) starring Paul Douglas, with Cesar Romero and Keenan Wynn.

Sadly, Clara decided to end her own life in 1962 at age 81. She was in constant pain from arthritis and also facing blindness. But there will only be one Auntie Em.