Billie Burke

Billie Burke
Los Angeles Times


Billie Burke
Film: North side of the 6600 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Born Mary Williams Ethelbert Appleton Burke on Aug. 7, 1884 in Washington, DC
Died May 14, 1970 in Brentwood, Calif.

Actress Billie Burke won fame first as a leading lady of the New York stage and later, in another generation, as the fluttery matron of dozens of movie roles.

She was famous before she met her future husband, master showman Florenz Ziegfeld, in 1914. Enrico Caruso had showered her with flowers and British novelist W. Somerset Maugham had asked her to tea and dancing.

Burke made her stage debut in 1902 as a singer in London's Pavilion Music Hall and made her first appearance on the legitimate stage a year later in "The School Girl."

Broadway producer Charles Frohman signed her to a contract, brought her back to her native land and gave her a role in "My Wife," which starred John Drew in 1907. The part launched the red-haired beauty as a leading lady.

It was George Cukor who, after the death of Ziegfeld in 1932, gave her her start in talking pictures by giving her a role in "A Bill of Divorcement." As in her earlier state career, the role launched her into the ranks of leading matron sophisticates and comediennes of the screen.

She continued an active career in films, with stints on the stage, into her 70s. Her last two films were "The Young Philadelphians" with Paul Newman in 1959 and "Sergeant Rutledge" with Jeffrey Hunter in 1960.

Among the pictures in which she appeared were "Topper," "Merrily We Live," "Dinner at Eight," "The Wizard of Oz," "The Man Who Came to Dinner," "Navy Blue and Gold," "Craig's Wife" and numerous others.

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    Academy Awards

    Year Category Work
    1938 Best Supporting Actress Merrily We Live Nomination

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