youtube videoMOVIE MANIA - Margaret (Wicked Witch of the West) Hamilton Episode (1981)
Wicked witch of the west actor -
When I recently showed by 4 year old The Wizard Of Oz (1939), I thought he would be afraid of the flying monkeys as I was growing up. It was not those monkeys that gave him nightmares, but it was the Wicked Witch. It is a testament to the actress that played the Witch, Margaret Hamilton that could still scare little children some 75 years after the movie came out.
A former schoolteacher, she worked as a character actress in films for seven years before she was offered the role that defined her public image. The Wicked Witch of the West was eventually ranked No. 4 in the American Film Institute's list of the 50 Best Movie Villains of All Time, making her the highest ranking female villain. In later years, Hamilton made frequent cameo appearances on television sitcoms and commercials. She also gained recognition for her work as an advocate of causes designed to benefit children and animals, and retained a lifelong commitment to public education.
Margaret Hamilton was born on December 9, 1902 to Walter J. Hamilton, and his wife, Jennie (née Adams), in Cleveland, Ohio, and was the youngest of four children. She later attended Hathaway Brown School, while the school was located at 1945 East 93rd Street in Cleveland. Drawn to the theater at an early age, Hamilton made her stage debut in 1923. Hamilton also practiced her craft doing children's theater while she was a Junior League of Cleveland member. She later moved to Painesville, Ohio. Before she turned to acting exclusively, her parents insisted that she attend Wheelock College in Boston, which she did, later becoming a kindergarten teacher.
Hamilton's career as a film actress was driven by the very qualities that placed her in stark contrast to the stereotypical Hollywood glamour girl. Her image was that of a New Englandspinster, extremely pragmatic and impatient with all manner of "tomfoolery". Hamilton's looks helped to bring steady work as a character actor. She made her screen debut in 1933 in Another Language. She went on to appear in These Three (1936), Saratoga, You Only Live Once, When's Your Birthday?, Nothing Sacred (all 1937), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), and My Little Chickadee (1940). She strove to work as much as possible to support herself and her son; she never put herself under contract to any one studio and priced her services at $1,000 a week.
In 1939, Hamilton played the role of the Wicked Witch of the West, opposite Judy Garland's Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, creating not only her most famous role, but one of the screen's most memorable villains. Hamilton was cast after Gale Sondergaard, who was first considered for the role, albeit as a more glamorous witch with a musical scene, declined the role when the decision was made that the witch should appear ugly.
She suffered a second-degree burn on her face and a third-degree burn on her hand during a second take of her fiery exit from Munchkinland, in which the trap door's drop was delayed to eliminate the brief glimpse of it seen in the final edit. Hamilton had to recuperate in a hospital and at home for six weeks after the accident before returning to the set to complete her work on the now-classic film, and refused to have anything further to do with fire for the rest of the filming. After she recuperated, she said, "I won't sue, because I know how this business works, and I would never work again. I will return to work on one condition — no more fireworks!" Garland visited Hamilton while the latter recuperated at home.
When asked about her experiences on the set of The Wizard of Oz, she said that her biggest fear was that her monstrous film role would give children the wrong idea of who she really was. In reality, Margaret Hamilton was very nice and had a great love for children, frequently giving to charitable organizations. She often remarked about children coming up to her and asking her why she had been so mean to poor Dorothy. She appeared on an episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in 1975, where she explained to children that she was only playing a role, and showed how putting on a costume "transformed" her into the witch. She also made personal appearances, and Hamilton described the children's usual reaction to her portrayal of the Witch.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Hamilton had a long-running role on the radio series Ethel and Albert (a.k.a. The Couple Next Door) in which she played the lovable, scattered Aunt Eva (name later changed to Aunt Effie). During the 1960s and 1970s, Hamilton appeared regularly on television. She did a stint as a What's My Line? Mystery Guest on the popular Sunday Night CBS-TV program. She played Morticia Addams' mother, Hester Frump, in three episodes of The Addams Family (1965–66; Hamilton had been offered the role of Grandmama but turned it down.)
In the 1960s, Hamilton was a regular on the CBS soap opera, The Secret Storm, playing the role of Grace Tyrell's housekeeper, "Katie". In the early 1970s, she joined the cast of another CBS soap opera, As the World Turns, playing "Miss Peterson". She had a small role in the made-for-TV film, The Night Strangler (1973), and appeared as a befuddled neighbor on Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. In The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (1976), she portrayed Lynde's housekeeper, reprising the Wicked Witch role as well as introducing Lynde to the rock group KISS. She reprised her role as the Wicked Witch in an episode of Sesame Street, but after complaints from parents of terrified children, it has not been seen since 1976. She appeared as herself in an episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and continued acting regularly until 1982. Her last roles were two guest appearances as veteran journalist Thea Taft (in 1979 and 1982, respectively) on Lou Grant.
Hamilton married Paul Boynton Meserve on June 13, 1931, and made her debut on the New York stage the following year. While her acting career developed, her marriage began failing; the couple divorced in 1938. They had one son, Hamilton Wadsworth Meserve (born 1936), whom she raised on her own. She had three grandchildren, Christopher, Scott, and Margaret. Hamilton never remarried. She died in her sleep following a heart attack on May 16, 1985, in Salisbury, Connecticut. She was cremated at Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery. Her ashes were scattered in Amenia, New York. As a character actress, there was no one better than Margaret Hamilton. Even ask my son who currently is not allowed to watch The Wizard Of Oz because of her. Hamilton was so wicked in that role, she was good…
The Wicked Witch of the West
The Witch ruled Oz with an army of flying monkeys and other evil witches. When Dorothy Baum came to Oz, she joined the rebellion against the Witch who turned three freedom fighters into a lion, a scarecrow and a tin man as punishment. She kills Dorothy at one point, but she is resurrected and the Good Witch of the North, who protects her from the Wicked Witch's powers with a kiss. The Witch kills the Tin Man and eventually Dorothy returns to Earth.
In 1935, the Wicked Witch is captured by Dorothy, who cuts out her tongue. Dorothy attempts to kill the Wicked Witch by cutting off her head, burning her, and dousing her with holy water, to no avail. Out of options, Dorothy brings the Wicked Witch to the Men of Letters Bunker to find a way to kill her. Working with James Haggerty and Peter Jenkins, Dorothy tries to come up with a plan, but the Witch breaks free and possesses Jenkins, forcing Haggerty to kill him. Unable to defeat the Witch, Dorothy casts a spell that binds them. Haggerty works for the rest of his career on finding a way to defeat the Witch and comes up with the idea that poppy seed extract can stun the Witch from the Oz books. He makes a deal with a fairy in case the Witch ever breaks free.
In 2013, the Witch was accidentally freed by Dean and battled the Winchesters, Dorothy and Charlie Bradbury to get the Key and bring her army to Earth. She nearly succeeded but was finally killed by Charlie with the ruby slippers.
The Wicked Witch, having come from Oz was able to demonstrate various abilities that witches from this dimension appear to be incapable of.
Powers and abilities
- Incorporeal form – The Wicked Witch can take on a green smoke form, allowing easy fast escape out any situations.
- Invulnerability – The Wicked Witch was shown to be invulnerable to decapitation, fire and holy water. However, when he tongue was cut out by Dorothy it did not grow back.
- Possession – The Wicked Witch was shown to be able to take possession of people's minds with a single touch.
- Binding magic – The Wicked Witch can be bound with magic.
- Poppy seed extract – While it will not kill her, it is able to stun her.
- Ruby slippers – Being imbued with magic from Oz, the ruby slippers were capable of killing her.
- Warding – The Wicked Witch was shown unable to cross the warding / binding sigils that were keeping Crowley captive.
4.06 Yellow Fever
While watching The Wizard of Oz, Frank O'Brien claimed that the Wicked Witch ("green bitch") was out to get him before his death.
9.04 Slumber Party
While investigating an ancient computer in the Bunker, Dean accidentally knocks over the bottle containing the spell Dorothy used to bind herself and the Witch, releasing both. The Witch resumes her search for the key to Oz, attacking Sam and Dorothy before being driven off by a poppy seed extract bullet. She finds Dean and Charlie Bradbury and gets the key from them and kills Charlie who sacrifices herself for Dean who retaliates by shooting the Wicked Witch with a poppy bullet, forcing her to retreat to the vents to recover. Dean has Ezekiel resurrect Charlie and the Witch attacks him and Sam while they are hunting for her. She takes Sam hostage and unable to get a clean shot, Dean tackles her. The Witch is able to possess them however and sends them after Dorothy and Charlie, revealing her true plan to them through Sam and Dean. The Witch casts a spell to summon her army and opens the door, but Charlie stabs her in the back of the head with one of the ruby slippers and then in the face with the other when she turns around, killing her. Charlie manages to close the door in time and the Witch's plan is foiled. When she is killed, all that remains of her is her black cloak.
Cast and Crew for The Wizard of Oz (1939)
MGM; released 8/15/39
Richard Thorpe (original scenes)
King Vidor (Kansas scenes)
L. Frank Baum (novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz)
Edgar Allan Woolf
William H. Cannon
Jack Haley (additional dialogue)
Bert Lahr (additional dialogue)
John Lee Mahin
Herman J. Mankiewicz
Cast (in credits order)
Judy Garland ... Dorothy Gale
Frank Morgan.... Professor Marvel/ Doorman/ Cabbie/The Wizard of Oz
Ray Bolger ... Hunk/The Scarecrow
Jack Haley.... Hickory/The Tin Man
Bert Lahr.... Zeke/The Cowardly Lion
Billie Burke.... Glinda, the Good Witch of the North
Margaret Hamilton .... Miss Almira Gulch/ Wicked Witch of the West
Charley Grapewin.... Uncle Henry Gale
Clara Blandick.... Aunt Emily 'Auntie Em' Gale
Pat Walshe.... Nikko, the Wicked Witch's Head Winged Monkey
Charles Becker.... Mayor of Munchkin City
Mitchell Lewis.... Captain of the Winkie Guard
Arthur Freed.... associate producer
Margaret Hamilton (December 9, 1902 - May 16, 1985) was the actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West and Miss Gulch in MGM's 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and Aunt Em in Journey Back to Oz.
Hamilton's film career began in 1933, when she recreated her Broadway role in the movie version of Another Language. By the time she was cast as the Wicked Witch, she had already made 25 films. (Hamilton worked more than many actors in her day, because she freelanced instead of signing a studio contract, and cleverly kept her salary below $1000 per week.) She had previously played the Witch onstage, in two community theater productions.
On December 23, 1938, while filming the Wicked Witch's exit from Munchkinland in a blaze of fire, Hamilton suffered first-degree burns on the right side of her face and second-degree burns on her right hand; the flames rose too soon, before she had descended below the stage. Hamilton's green makeup was copper-based and potentially toxic, and had to be removed from her burned flesh with alcohol, an intensely painful process. She wasn't able to return to the movie until February 10. When she did return, she wore green gloves, since her hand was not yet fully healed.
Hamilton's infamous Witch's laugh blew out sound equipment circuits. For several weeks after she completed work on her role, Hamilton's complexion retained a green tinge from the Witch's makeup.
When the film was previewed for test audiences in June 1939, Hamilton's performance as the Witch was perceived as too frightening. In a letter dated 16 July, L. Frank Baum's granddaughter Florence wrote to Ruth Plumly Thompson about a preview three weeks earlier: "It was very good, although the Witch was so terrifying that some small children had to be taken out." The final edit of the film removed a least a dozen lines of the Witch's dialogue to tone down her effect.
Margaret Hamilton had previously played with Oz castmate Frank Morgan in By Your Leave and There's Always Tomorrow (both 1934) and Saratoga (1937). She would appear with Judy Garland again in Babes in Arms (1939), with Jack Haley in George White's Scandals (1945), and with Ray Bolger in The Daydreamer (1966). And she appeared with Clara Blandick in three films from 1934 to 1950.
In the finished film, Hamilton's Wicked Witch has twelve minutes of screen time. Hamilton worked on the production for four months, and earned precisely $18,541.68.
Prior to her acting career, Hamilton had worked as a kindergarden teacher. She made efforts to stay true to her roots by promoting elementary education throughout her life. In 1948 she was elected to a school board in Beverly Hills, California. In the 1970's she donated considerable amounts of money to Public Broadcasting Service, in particular the Children's Television Workshop, in an effort to promote early learning.
Hamilton provided the voice for Aunt Em in the 1974 animated film Journey Back to Oz.
in 1975 Hamilton appeared on the PBS series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.
Hamilton appeared in an episode of Sesame Street which aired February 10, 1976, reprising her role as the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz (1939). Reportedly, her performance scared so many children that their parents wrote in to CTW, saying their kids were too scared to watch the show anymore. As a result of the overwhelming reaction, this episode never re-aired. Sesame Workshop (successor to CTW) still has the episode in it's archives and seven minutes of the episode was shown in 2019.
Hamilton appeared in the Paul Lynde Halloween Special which aired October 29, 1976. She appeared as both herself and the Wicked Witch of the West. Also present was Billie Hayes as her "sister" Witchiepoo, from the series H.R. Pufnstuf.
In the 1970's she appeared in several PSA commercial and provided the role of Cora the store clerk that only sells Maxwell House Coffee.
Hamilton died in her sleep on May 16, 1985 from a heart attack in a nursing home in Salsbury, Connecticut at the age of 82.
- ↑Aljean Harmetz, The Making of the Wizard of Oz, New York, Delta edition, 1989; p. 123.
- ↑Kenneth Von Gunden, Flights of Fancy: The Great Fantasy Films, Jefferson, NC, McFarland, 1989; p. 222.
- ↑John Fricke, Jay Scarfone, and William Stillman, The Wizard of Oz: The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History, Warner Books, 1989; p. 122.
- ↑Harmetz, pp. 127, 179.
Margaret Hamilton, ‘Wicked Witch of the West,’ Dead At 82
SALISBURY, Conn. (AP) _ Margaret Hamilton, the veteran character actress who died of an apparent heart attack, once said she passed up many requests to recreate her green- skinned witch from ″The Wizard of Oz.″
″I suppose I’ve turned down a fortune too, but I just don’t want to spoil the magic. Little children’s minds can’t cope with seeing a mean witch alive again,″ Miss Hamilton said in a 1973 interview.
A veteran of more than 75 films and scores of plays, Miss Hamilton died Thursday at the Noble Horizons nursing home in Salisbury, where she had been in declining health for the past year, said director of nursing Joann Lunning. She was 82.
Although she appeared in films with W.C. Fields and Mae West, Miss Hamilton remained best-known as the cackling Wicked Witch of the West who melted at the feet of Dorothy in the 1939 film classic.
″I hope that when I die, someone has the presence of mind to say, ’Ding, dong, the witch is really dead,‴ her agent, Michael Thomas, quoted her as telling him.
All of the actors who played major roles in ″The Wizard of Oz″ - except Ray Bolger, the Scarecrow - are dead.
Miss Hamilton appeared in ″My Little Chickadee″ with Fields and Miss West, ″State of the Union,″ ″A Slight Case of Murder,″ ″Nothing Sacred″ and many others.
As recently as 1971, she appeared in ″Brewster McCloud″ and ″The Anderson Tapes,″ and capped her career with a five-year run as Cora, the kindly old storekeeper in the Maxwell House coffee commercials.
She worked as a character actress for more than 50 years, but she was best known for ″Oz.″ Each rerun of the film on television brought her hundreds of letters from young fans.
The celebrity was ironic, for two reasons. She was a former kindergarten teacher and loved children, and never thought the witch was her best work.
A native of Cleveland, Miss Hamilton first got a taste of the theater in a class production in high school. But she was trained to teach kindergarten, and went on to operate private schools in Cleveland and Rye, N.Y.
But in 1927, she became a member of the Cleveland Play House, which now sponsors a scholarship fund in her name. Her first role was in a play entitled ″The Man Who Ate the Popomack″; in three years, she performed 25 roles.
From there, she won a part in ″Another Language,″ which played for a year on Broadway. She was hired to reprise her role in the film version in 1932, and that was the start of her Hollywood career.
The roles were not wide ranging; her face, with the distinctive bump on her nose, led to parts as smarmy gossips, spinsters and maids.
″I’ve done some hard-bitten parts, but most of the time I’ve been the cantankerous cook or the acidulous aunt with a corset of steel and a heart of gold,″ she once said.
She continued a stage career, appearing in summer stock and local productions. In 1978-79, she returned to the Cleveland Play House to play a hypochondriac in Emlyn Williams’ ″Night Must Fall.″
She also was a familiar voice on radio, and appeared in numerous productions in the early days of live television. In addition to her roles in commercials, she did turns in soap operas and guest spots on such situation comedies as ″The Addams Family″ and ″The Patty Duke Show.″
Miss Hamilton worked as a volunteer for various causes - disabled veterans, a theater school in New York, the Friends for Animals.
Thomas said she was survived by a son, Hamilton Meserve, of Millbrook, N.Y. She had divorced her husband, landscape architect Paul Meserve, in 1938.
Thomas said funeral services would be private, and a memorial would be held at a later date.
Margaret Hamilton (actress)
American film actress
Hamilton, c. 1958
Margaret Brainard Hamilton
(1902-12-09)December 9, 1902
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||May 16, 1985(1985-05-16) (aged 82)|
Salisbury, Connecticut, U.S.
|Resting place||Ashes scattered in Amenia, New York|
|Alma mater||Wheelock College|
|Miss Gulch and The Wicked Witch of the West in MGM's The Wizard of Oz (1939)|
(m. 1931; div. 1938)
|Relatives||Neil Hamilton (distant cousin)|
Dorothy Hamilton Brush (sister)
Margaret Brainard Hamilton (December 9, 1902 – May 16, 1985) was an American actress. She was best known for her portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West, and her Kansas counterpart Almira Gulch, in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's film The Wizard of Oz (1939).
A former schoolteacher, she worked as a character actress in films for seven years before she was offered the role that defined her public image. In later years, Hamilton made frequent cameo appearances on television sitcoms and commercials. She also gained recognition for her work as an advocate of causes designed to benefit children and animals and retained a lifelong commitment to public education.
Hamilton was born in Cleveland, the youngest of four children of Walter J. Hamilton and his wife, Mary Jane (née Adams; known by her nickname, Jennie). She attended Hathaway Brown School while the school was at 1945 East 93rd Street in Cleveland. Drawn to the theater at an early age, Hamilton made her amateur stage debut in 1923. Hamilton also practiced her craft doing children's theater while she was a Junior League of Cleveland member. Hamilton made her debut as a "professional entertainer" on December 9, 1929, in a "program of 'heart rending songs'" in the Charles S. Brooks Theater at the Cleveland Play House. She later moved to Painesville, Ohio. Before she turned to acting exclusively, her parents insisted she attend Wheelock College in Boston, which she did, later becoming a kindergarten teacher.
Hamilton made her screen debut in 1933 in Another Language. She went on to appear in These Three (1936), Saratoga, You Only Live Once, When's Your Birthday?, Nothing Sacred (all 1937), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), My Little Chickadee (with W. C. Fields, 1940), and The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (with Harold Lloyd, 1947). She strove to work as much as possible to support herself and her son; she never put herself under contract to any one studio and priced her services at $1,000 ($18,000 with inflation) a week.
Hamilton costarred opposite Buster Keaton and Richard Cromwell in a 1940s spoof of the long-running local melodramaThe Drunkard, titled The Villain Still Pursued Her. Later in the decade, she was in a little-known film noir, titled Bungalow 13 (1948), in which she again costarred opposite Cromwell. Her crisp voice with rapid but clear enunciation was another trademark. She appeared regularly in supporting roles in films until the early 1950s and sporadically thereafter. Opposite Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, she played a heavily made-up witch in Comin' Round the Mountain, where her character and Costello go toe-to-toe with voodoo dolls made of each other. She appeared, uncredited, in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's People Will Talk (1951) as Sarah Pickett. In 1960, producer/director William Castle cast Hamilton as a housekeeper in his 13 Ghosts horror film, in which 12-year-old lead Charles Herbert's character taunts her about being a witch, including the final scene, in which she is holding a broom in her hand.
The Wizard of Oz
In 1939, Hamilton played the role of the Wicked Witch of the West, opposite Judy Garland's Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, creating, not only her most famous role, but also one of the screen's most memorable villains. Hamilton was cast after Gale Sondergaard, who was first considered for the role, albeit as a more glamorous witch with a musical scene, declined the role when the decision was made that the witch should appear ugly.
On December 23, 1938, she suffered a second-degree burn on her face and a third-degree burn on her hand during a second take of her fiery exit from Munchkinland in which the trap door's drop was delayed to eliminate the brief glimpse of it seen in the final edit. Hamilton had to recuperate in a hospital and at home for six weeks after the accident before returning to the set to complete her work on the film and refused to have anything further to do with fire for the rest of the filming. After she recuperated, she said, "I won't sue, because I know how this business works, and I would never work again. I will return to work on one condition – no more fireworks!" Garland visited Hamilton while the latter recuperated at home looking after her son. Studio executives cut some of Hamilton's more frightening scenes, worrying they would frighten children too much. Later in life, she would comment on the role of the witch in a light-hearted fashion. During one interview, she joked:
I was in need of money at the time, I had done about six pictures for MGM at the time, and my agent called. I said, 'Yes?' and he said 'Maggie, they want you to play a part on the Wizard.' I said to myself, 'Oh, boy, The Wizard of Oz! That has been my favorite book since I was four.' And I asked him what part, and he said, 'The Witch,' and I said, 'The Witch?!' and he said, 'What else?'
Hamilton's stand-in and stunt double for the Witch, Betty Danko, also suffered an on-set accident on February 11, 1939. Danko made the fiery entrance to Munchkinland, not Hamilton. She was severely burned during the "Surrender Dorothy!" skywriting sequence at the Emerald City. Danko sat on a smoking pipe configured to look like the Witch's broomstick. The pipe exploded on the third take of the scene. She spent 11 days in the hospital and her legs were permanently scarred. The studio hired a new stunt double, Aline Goodwin, to finish the broomstick-riding scene for Danko.
When asked about her experiences on the set of The Wizard of Oz, Hamilton said her biggest fear was that her monstrous film role would give children the wrong idea of who she really was. In reality, she cared deeply about children, frequently giving to charitable organizations. She often remarked about children coming up to her and asking her why she had been so mean to Dorothy. She appeared on an episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in 1975 where she explained to children she was only playing a role and showed how putting on a costume "transformed" her into the witch. She also made personal appearances, and Hamilton described the children's usual reaction to her portrayal of the Witch:
Almost always they want me to laugh like the Witch. And sometimes when I go to schools, if we're in an auditorium, I'll do it. And there's always a funny reaction, like 'Ye gods, they wish they hadn't asked.' They're scared. They're really scared for a second. Even adolescents. I guess for a minute they get the feeling they got when they watched the picture. They like to hear it but they 'don't' like to hear it. And then they go, 'Ohhhhhhhhhh ... !' The picture made a terrible impression of some kind on them, sometimes a ghastly impression, but most of them got over it, I guess ... because when I talk like the Witch, and when I laugh, there is a hesitation and then they clap. They're clapping at hearing the sound again.
Hamilton played two credited roles in the famous film: Almira Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West. Hamilton also appears as an unidentified flying witch during the tornado scene, which may have been the Wicked Witch of the West or her sister, the Wicked Witch of the East. If the latter case, this would be Hamilton's third but uncredited role. Only co-star Frank Morgan played more roles (five) in the film. Hamilton and Morgan never share any scenes in Oz. However, in By Your Leave (1934), she plays his housekeeper, and in Saratoga (1937), she has a colloquy with Morgan regarding a cosmetic product he invented (with side glances and eye rolls by Morgan as to its effect on her "beauty"). Hamilton's line from The Wizard of Oz – "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!" – was ranked 99th in the 2005 American Film Institute survey of the most memorable movie quotes. Her son, interviewed for the 2005 DVD edition of the film, commented that Hamilton enjoyed the line so much, she sometimes used it in her real life.
A few months after filming Oz, she appeared in Babes in Arms (1939) as Jeff Steele's aunt, Martha, a society do-gooder who made it her goal to send the gang of child actors, led by Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, to a work farm. In 1945, she played the domineering sister of Oz co-star Jack Haley in George White's Scandals, comically trying to prevent him from marrying actress Joan Davis, even going so far as to throw a hatchet at her. Hamilton and Ray Bolger were cast members in the 1966 fantasy film The Daydreamer, a collection of stories by Hans Christian Andersen. A few years later, they were reunited on Broadway for the short-lived musical Come Summer.
Radio, television, and stage career
In the 1940s and 1950s, Hamilton had a long-running role on the radio series Ethel and Albert (or The Couple Next Door) in which she played the lovable, scattered Aunt Eva (name later changed to Aunt Effie). During the 1960s and 1970s, Hamilton appeared regularly on television. She did a stint as a What's My Line? mystery guest on the popular Sunday night CBS-TV program. She played Morticia Addams' mother, Hester Frump, in three episodes of The Addams Family. (1965–66; Hamilton had been offered the role of Grandmama, but turned it down.)
In 1962, Hamilton played Leora Scofield, a suffragette who arrives in Laramie, Wyoming, to bolster feminist causes in a territory where women had already obtained the right to vote, in the episode "Beyond Justice" of NBC's Laramie. In the story line, she is depicted as a long-lost friend of series character Daisy Cooper, played by Spring Byington. Series lead character Slim Sherman (John Smith) is skeptical of the suffragettes, and Sheriff Mort Corey and he concoct a tale the women should head to Cheyenne, where their services are more needed than in Laramie.
Having started on the stage in the early 1930s, she began to work extensively in the theater after leaving Los Angeles. She appeared on Broadway in the musical Goldilocks opposite Don Ameche and Elaine Stritch, gave a lighter touch to the domineering Parthy Anne Hawks in the 1966 revival of Show Boat (dancing with David Wayne), and was the tender Aunt Eller in the 1968 Lincoln Center revival of Oklahoma!. Hamilton also toured in many plays and musicals, even repeating her role of the Wicked Witch in specially written stage productions of The Wizard of Oz. For her last stage role, she was cast as Madame Armfeldt in the Stephen Sondheim musical A Little Night Music, singing the song "Liaisons" for the national tour costarring with Jean Simmons as her daughter Desiree.
Even with her extensive film career, Hamilton took roles in whatever medium she could get if she was free, making her soap opera debut as the nasty Mrs. Sayre on Valiant Lady, who schemed to prevent her daughter from marrying the heroine's son. In the 1960s, Hamilton was a regular on another CBS soap opera, The Secret Storm, playing the role of Grace Tyrell's housekeeper, Katie. For ABC's short-lived radio anthology Theatre-Five, she played a manipulative ailing Aunt Lettie to Joan Lorring as the unhappy niece Maude in "Noose of Pearls". In the early 1970s, she joined the cast of another CBS soap opera, As the World Turns, on which she played Miss Peterson, Simon Gilbey's assistant. She had a small role in the made-for-television film The Night Strangler (1973) and appeared as a befuddled neighbor on Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, who is a friend of the very similar Mary Wickes. In The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (1976), she portrayed Lynde's housekeeper, reprising the Wicked Witch role, as well as introducing Lynde to the rock group Kiss. She reprised her role as the Wicked Witch in an episode of Sesame Street, but as a result of complaints from parents of terrified children, the episode has not been seen since 1976. She appeared as herself in three episodes of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, between 1975 and 1976, because Fred Rogers wanted his viewers to recognize the Wicked Witch was just a character and not something to be afraid of. Hamilton continued acting regularly until 1982; her last roles were two guest appearances as veteran journalist Thea Taft (in 1979 and 1982) on Lou Grant.
Throughout the 1970s, Hamilton lived in New York City's Gramercy Park neighborhood and appeared on local (and some national) public-service announcements for organizations promoting the welfare of pets. Her most visible appearances during this period were as general store owner, Cora, in a national series of television commercials for Maxwell House coffee. On October 30, 1975, she guest-starred on the radio revival series CBS Radio Mystery Theater. In the episode, entitled "Triptych for a Witch," Hamilton played the title role.
Her Gramercy Park neighbor Sybil Daneman reported that Hamilton loved children but they were often afraid to meet her because of her portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz. Daneman's nephew refused to meet Hamilton because even though he understood she was an actress, he thought it was still possible she really was like the character in the movie.
In 1973, Hamilton produced the stage production of An Evening with the Bourgeoisie. Her other mid-1970s stage productions, as the producer, were The Three Sisters and House Party.[where?]
She married Paul Boynton Meserve on June 13, 1931 and made her debut on the New York City stage the following year. While her acting career developed, her marriage began to fail; the couple divorced in 1938. They had one son, Hamilton Wadsworth Meserve (born 1936), whom she raised on her own. She had three grandchildren, Christopher, Scott and Margaret. Hamilton never remarried.
Hamilton remained a lifelong friend of The Wizard of Oz castmate Ray Bolger.
Final years and death
Hamilton's early experience as a teacher fueled a lifelong interest in educational issues. She served on the Beverly Hills Board of Education from 1948 to 1951 and was a Sunday school teacher during the 1950s. She lived in Manhattan for most of her adult life. In 1979, she was a guest speaker at a University of Connecticut children's literature class. She later moved to Millbrook, New York. She subsequently developed Alzheimer's disease and died in her sleep following a heart attack on May 16, 1985 in Salisbury, Connecticut at age 82. Her remains were cremated at Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, and her ashes were scattered in Amenia, New York.
- ^ ab"Margaret Hamilton, 82, Dies; Played Wicked Witch In 'Oz'". The New York Times. May 17, 1985. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
- ^"Ah, The Songs of Long Ago! Miss Hamilton Sings 1840 Song at Play House". Plain Dealer. Cleveland, Ohio. Retrieved 12 August 2020 – via NewsBank.
- ^Zeitlin, Arnold. "Kindergarten Lost Margaret Hamilton." Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 1958.
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The Wizard of Oz Invented the ‘Good Witch’
Eighty years ago, MGM’s sparkly pink rendering of Glinda expanded American pop culture’s definition of free-flying women.
By Pam Grossman
Whenever I introduce myself as a witch who writes about witches, the conversation often turns to The Wizard of Oz, and when it does, I’m always tempted to focus on the movie’s verdant villain. Many fans delight in the Wicked Witch of the West’s deranged cackle and her lust for power and ruby pumps. Even when she meets her demise at Dorothy’s hands, she goes down in style, seething: “Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness?” The filmmaker John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Hairspray) has said, “That line inspired my life. I sometimes say it to myself before I go to sleep, like a prayer.”
Still, on the 80th anniversary of the movie that made the Wicked Witch famous, I find myself more drawn to her pastel counterpart, Glinda the Good Witch of the North. She was arguably the first American pop-culture figure to prove that, despite their reputation for diabolical antics, witches could be benevolent beings. Though there had been two silent-film adaptations of the Oz story before MGM’s The Wizard of Oz came out in August 1939, the typical moviegoer would have been most familiar with screen witches who were creepy old crones or black-frocked fairy-tale monstresses out to get wide-eyed ingenues. In all her rosy-pink goodness, Glinda was literally and figuratively a witch of a different color and an unlikely feminist force.
It can be easy at first to dismiss the Good Witch as frivolous when compared with her nemesis. “Of the two Witches, good and bad, can there be anyone who’d choose to spend five minutes with Glinda?” Salman Rushdie once asked in The New Yorker, calling her “a silly pain in the neck.” It’s true that there’s a cartoonish high femininity to Glinda: her butterfly-bedazzled pageant gown, her honeyed singing. And then there’s the way her character affirms old-fashioned ideas about the value of beauty: “Only bad witches are ugly,” Glinda tells Dorothy upon their meeting. In Oz, prettiness and virtue are conflated, and Glinda is the fairest of them all.
Billie Burke, the 54-year-old actor who played Glinda, also prized beauty, and some of her opinions on the matter come across as retrograde today. “To be a woman, it seems to me, is a responsibility which means giving, understanding, bearing, and loving. To begin with, these things require being as attractive as possible,” she declares in her 1959 autobiography, With Powder on My Nose. But she thought the wise and gracious Glinda was a departure from the (in her words) “skitter-wits” and “spoony ladies with bird-foolish voices” that she was known for playing. She came to consider Glinda her favorite role, though she’d insist on referring to the character as a “good fairy” rather than a “good witch,” thereby distancing herself from the very word that the film sought to redefine for the better.
As Burke recognized, there’s more to Glinda than her saccharine trappings. When the Wicked Witch threatens her, she responds with a laugh: “Oh, rubbish! You have no power here. Be gone, before somebody drops a house on you too.” Glinda later asks Dorothy whether she has a broomstick for flying to the Emerald City. “Well, then, you’ll have to walk,” the Good Witch replies when Dorothy says no. Glinda then sends the child to brave the wilds of Oz with nothing more than a canine companion and some flashy footwear. Beneath Glinda’s tulle outfit is a spine of steel—and a belief that a young woman like Dorothy could grow one and become independent too.
Delving into the provenance of Glinda’s character reveals a lineage of thinkers who saw the witch as a symbol of female autonomy. Though witches have most often been treated throughout history as evil both in fiction and in real life, sentiments began to change in the 19th century as anticlerical, individualist values took hold across Europe. It was during this time that historians and writers including Jules Michelet and Charles Godfrey Leland wrote books that romanticized witches, often reframing witch-hunt victims as women who’d been wrongfully vilified because of their exceptional physical and mystical capabilities. Per Michelet’s best-selling book, La Sorcière of 1862: “By the fineness of her intuitions, the cunning of her wiles—often fantastic, often beneficent—she is a Witch, and casts spells, at least and lowest lulls pain to sleep and softens the blow of calamity.”
The ideas of Michelet and like-minded writers influenced Matilda Joslyn Gage, an American suffragist, abolitionist, and theosophist. She posited that women were accused as witches in the early modern era because the Church found their intellect threatening. “The witch was in reality the profoundest thinker, the most advanced scientist of those ages,” she writes in her feminist treatise of 1893, Woman, Church, and State. Her vision of so-called witches being brilliant luminaries apparently inspired her son-in-law, L. Frank Baum, to incorporate that notion into his children’s-book series about the fantastical land of Oz. (Some writers have surmised that “Glinda” is a play on Gage’s name.)
Like Gage, Baum was a proponent of equal rights for women, and he wrote several pro-suffrage editorials in the South Dakota newspaper he owned briefly, the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. Although his book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900, is titled after a man, it is fundamentally a female-centric story: a tale about a girl’s journey through a land governed by four magical women. There are actually two good witches in Baum’s original version: Glinda is the witch of the South, not the North, in his telling, and she doesn’t appear until the second-to-last chapter. The book states that she is not only “kind to everyone,” but also “the most powerful of all the Witches.”
On closer examination, the airy Technicolor Glinda is an exemplar of female leadership in keeping with Baum’s vision. She is, after all, a ruler, and it’s her decisions that drive much of the film’s plot. A maternal Merlin of a sort, Glinda is both a generous guide and a firm teacher. She assists Dorothy in key moments, giving her the ruby slippers and changing the weather to wake her out of a poppy-induced stupor. But she doesn’t let the young heroine take the easy way out. At the end of the film, she explains that she chose not to tell Dorothy that the girl had the power to heel-click herself home from the get-go, so that Dorothy could “learn it for herself.” Glinda knows Dorothy will awaken to her full potential and become self-sufficient only by facing each hex and hoax head-on. This cinematic Glinda is not only a sorceress then, but also a sage. It’s clear why Oprah Winfrey chose to be styled as the Oz sovereign for the Harper’s Bazaar 2015 Icons issue, declaring, “Glinda is a spiritual goddess.” The Good Witch may float in a bubble, but she has plenty of gravitas.
Glinda’s arrival on-screen blazed an iridescent trail for the aspirational witch characters that followed. It also opened the door for a new type of narrative featuring the witch as a protagonist, and not just as a villain or sparkly sidekick. Though the specific conflicts that these lead witches face vary from script to script, each must negotiate her relationship to the power she has—and whether her magic is seen as an asset or a threat is often a reflection of the sexual politics of her time. Veronica Lake’s Jennifer in I Married a Witch (1942) and Kim Novak’s Gillian Holroyd in Bell, Book and Candle (1958) are charming, glamorous women who use witchcraft to manipulate the men they fancy. But they have to relinquish their gifts in exchange for true love, prioritizing conjugal bliss over conjuration. Elizabeth Montgomery’s Samantha Stephens, of the 1960s show Bewitched, must constantly choose between her desire to be a “normal” housewife to please her husband and her own need to use her (super)natural abilities—a tension that many second-wave feminists would have recognized.
The witches of ’90s films such as Practical Magic and The Craft deploy vengeance spells against their male abusers. These occult guerrilla girls manifested in the movies during a decade when sexual harassment came to the fore of public discussion, partly because of the riot grrrl movement and Anita Hill’s testimony at the Clarence Thomas hearing. And the enchanting champions of the Harry Potter films and the Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina display a cautiously hopeful outlook about the intersection of magic and social justice. The Potter films and original books can be read as an allegory about the fight against prejudice. Sabrina has plotlines that center black and queer characters, which is especially fitting when one considers that witchcraft has been historically linked to marginalized groups. Such fictional covens reflect not only the diversity of TV audiences, but also the broad range of contemporary witchcraft practitioners who draw from non-Europeantraditions. It’s notable that in HarryPotter and Sabrina, 21st-century witches get to keep their powers and use them to save the world. Slowly but surely, as feminism has evolved and expanded, the pop-culture witch has shape-shifted along with it.
Today many people—including me—proudly describe themselves as witches. Sometimes the label is chosen to signify one’s engagement in some form of modern witchcraft; just as often, it’s used as a way to express opposition to patriarchal constraints. But no matter the connotation, Glinda helped pave that yellow brick road for us, amplifying the notion that a witch is someone we can root for or, better yet, be.