Today is the birthday of Margaret Hamilton (1902-1985).
I might not have otherwise written about her here but for the fact that I have now written about every principal cast member of The Wizard of Oz except Hamilton and Clara Blandick — including Singer’s Midgets — mostly because just about all of the others were in vaudeville. Completion mania being what it is, I may as well do Hamilton and Blandick! (Blandick will be in June)
Famous for being one of the great screen villains of all time, in real life Hamilton was noted for her sweetness. A schoolteacher by training, she broke into films in 1933, largely playing prim, schoolmarmish comic roles for the first leg of her career. After The Wizard of Oz began to enjoy unprecedented popularity on television in the 1950s, her later roles would often cleverly reference her strong association with the iconic Wicked Witch of the West.
Of her dozens and dozens of film and tv roles here are some interesting ones she appears in: My Little Chickadee with W.C. Fields and Mae West (1940), The Villain Still Pursued Her with Buster Keaton and Hugh Herbert (1940), George White’s Scandals (1945), The Sin of Harold Diddlebock with Harold Lloyd (1947), William Castle’s 13 Ghosts (1960) and Robert Altman’s Brewster McCloud (1971). Oh, yes and let’s not forget the legendary Paul Lynde Halloween Special (1976).
And here is another historic appearance of hers. In 1975 she went on Mister Rogers Neighborhood in a laudable effort to educate smaller children about the nature of make-believe, so they wouldn’t be inclined to freak out so much at her terrifying performance. The picture isn’t so good — so just listen!
To find out more about show biz past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
For more on comedy film history don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc