Gale Sondergaard

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Gale Sondergaard
Gale Sondergaard in Dramatic School trailer.JPG
in the trailer for Dramatic School (1938)
BornEdith Holm Sondergaard
(1899-02-15)February 15, 1899
Litchfield, Minnesota, U.S.
DiedAugust 14, 1985(1985-08-14) (aged 86)
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
Resting place
Cremated, Ashes scattered into the Pacific Ocean
OccupationActress
Years active1936–1983
Spouse(s)Neill O'Malley (1922–1930) (divorced)
Herbert J. Biberman (1930–1971) (his death) 2 children
 
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Gale Sondergaard
Gale Sondergaard in Dramatic School trailer.JPG
in the trailer for Dramatic School (1938)
BornEdith Holm Sondergaard
(1899-02-15)February 15, 1899
Litchfield, Minnesota, U.S.
DiedAugust 14, 1985(1985-08-14) (aged 86)
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.
Resting place
Cremated, Ashes scattered into the Pacific Ocean
OccupationActress
Years active1936–1983
Spouse(s)Neill O'Malley (1922–1930) (divorced)
Herbert J. Biberman (1930–1971) (his death) 2 children

Gale Sondergaard (February 15, 1899 – August 14, 1985) was an American actress.

Sondergaard began her acting career in theater, and progressed to films in 1936. She was the first recipient of the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her film debut in Anthony Adverse (1936). She played supporting roles in various films during the late 1930s and early 1940s, including The Cat and the Canary (1939), The Mark of Zorro (1940) and The Letter (1940). She was nominated for a second Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for Anna and the King of Siam (1946) but by the end of the decade her film appearances were fewer.

Married to the director Herbert Biberman, Sondergaard supported him when he was accused of communism and named as one of the Hollywood Ten in the early 1950s, which effectively ended her film career. She moved with Biberman to New York City and worked in theatre, and acted in film and television occasionally from the late 1960s. She moved back to Los Angeles where she died from cerebrovascular thrombosis.

Early life[edit]

She was born Edith Holm Sondergaard on February 15, 1899, in Litchfield, Minnesota to Danish-American parents, Hans and Christin (Holm) Sondergaard. Her father taught at University of Minnesota, where she was a drama student.[1]

Stage and film career[edit]

She studied acting at the Minneapolis School of Dramatic Arts before joining the John Keller Shakespeare Company. She later toured North America in productions of Hamlet, Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, and Macbeth. After becoming a member of the Theatre Guild, she began performing on the New York stage.[2]

in the trailer for The Letter (1940)

Sondergaard made her first film appearance in Anthony Adverse (1936) as "Faith Paleologue" and became the first recipient of the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for this performance.[1][3] Her career as an actress flourished during the 1930s, and included a role opposite Paul Muni in The Life of Emile Zola (1937).[4]

During pre-production of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's classic The Wizard of Oz (1939), an early idea was to have the Wicked Witch of the West portrayed as a slinky, glamorous villainess in a black sequined costume, inspired by the Wicked Queen in Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).[1] Sondergaard was originally cast as the witch in "Oz" and was photographed for two wardrobe tests, both of which survive. One was as a glamorous wicked witch, and another as a conventionally ugly wicked witch. After the decision was made to have an ugly wicked witch, Sondergaard, reluctant to wear the disfiguring makeup and fearing it could damage her career, withdrew from the role, and it went to veteran character actress Margaret Hamilton. Sondergaard was, however, cast as the sultry and slinky Tylette (a magically humanized, but devious, cat) in 1940s The Blue Bird.[5]

In 1940, she played the role of the exotic and sinister wife in The Letter, supporting Bette Davis.[1] She received a second Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her role as the King's principal wife in Anna and the King of Siam in 1946.[6]

House Un-American Activities Committee[edit]

Sondergaard's career suffered irreparable damage during the United States Congressional HUAC Red Scare of the early 1950s, when her husband was accused of being a communist and named as one of the Hollywood Ten.[7] (In the 2000 movie One of the Hollywood Ten, Sondergaard was portrayed by actress Greta Scacchi while Jeff Goldblum was cast as Biberman.) With her career stalled, she supported her husband during the production of Salt of the Earth (1954).[8][9]

Highly controversial when it was made, and not a commercial success, its artistic and cultural merit was recognized in 1992 when the National Film Preservation Board selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. One of the Hollywood Ten (2000) chronicled Sondergaard's relationship with Biberman and her role in the making of Salt of the Earth. The Bibermans sold their home in Hollywood shortly after they completed Salt of the Earth, and moved to New York where Sondergaard was able to work in theatre.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Her younger sister Hester Sondergaard was also an actress who starred in the following films: Jigsaw, The Naked City, and Seeds of Freedom.[10]

Sondergaard was first married in 1922 to actor Neill O'Malley; they divorced in 1930. On 15 May 1930, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she married her second husband, Herbert Biberman, a theater director then associated with the Theatre Guild Acting Company; he became a film director and died in 1971.[11] They had two children, Daniel Hans Biberman and Mrs. Joan Campos.[1]

Sondergaard made a few more film and television appearances, before retiring. She died from cerebrovascular thrombosis in Woodland Hills, California at the age of 86.[1]

Acting credits[edit]

Stage[edit]

Opening dateClosing dateTitleRoleTheatreRefs
Oct 08, 1928Nov 1928FaustThe WitchGuild Theatre[12]
Nov 19, 1928Jan 1929Major BarbaraSarah Undershaft, Lady Britomart's daughterGuild Theatre[13]
Oct 7, 1929Nov 1929Karl and AnnaMarie's sisterGuild Theatre[14]
Dec 17, 1929Feb 1930Red RustNinaMartin Beck Theatre[15]
May 11, 1931May 23, 1931Alison's HouseElsa - ReplacementRitz Theatre[16]
Feb 21, 1933March 1933American DreamLydia Kimball, The First Play, 1650Guild Theatre[17]
May 17, 1934Jul 1934Invitation to a MurderLorinda ChanningTheatre Masque[18]
Nov 6, 1933Nov 1933Doctor MonicaAnnaPlayhouse Theatre[19]
Dec 19, 1940Dec 28, 1940Cue for PassionFrances ChapmanRoyale Theatre[20]
Apr 02, 1980April 26, 1980Goodbye FidelPrudenciaAmbassador Theatre[21]

Film and television[edit]

YearTitleRoleNotesRefs
1936Anthony AdverseFaith PaleologusAcademy Award for Best Supporting Actress[4]
1937Maid of SalemMartha Harding[4]
Seventh HeavenNana, Diane's Sister[4]
The Life of Emile ZolaLucie Dreyfus[4]
1938Lord JeffDoris Clandon[4]
Dramatic SchoolMadame Therese Charlot[4]
1939Never Say DieJuno Marko[4]
JuarezEmpress Eugenie[4]
Sons of LibertyRachel Salomon[22]
The Cat and the CanaryMiss Lu[4]
The Llano KidLora Travers[4]
1940The Blue BirdTylette (the cat)[4]
The Mark of ZorroInez Quintero[4]
The LetterMrs. Hammond[4]
1941The Black CatAbigail Doone[4]
Paris CallingColette[4]
1942My Favorite BlondeMadame Stephanie Runick[4]
Enemy Agents Meet Ellery QueenMrs. Van Dorn[4]
1943A Night to RememberMrs. Devoe[4]
Appointment in BerlinGretta Van Leyden[4]
Isle of Forgotten SinsMarge Willison[4]
The Strange Death of Adolf HitlerAnna Huber[4]
Crazy Houseuncredited cameo performance[4]
1944The Spider WomanAdrea Spedding[4]
Follow the Boysherself[4]
Christmas HolidayMrs. Monette[4]
The Invisible Man's RevengeLady Irene Herrick[4]
Gypsy WildcatRhoda[4]
The ClimaxLuise[4]
Enter Arsène LupinBessie Seagrave[4]
1946The Spider Woman Strikes BackZenobia Dollard[4]
Night in ParadiseQueen Attossa[4]
Anna and the King of SiamLady Thiangnominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress[4]
The Time of Their LivesEmily[4]
1947Pirates of MontereySeñorita De Sola[4]
Road to RioCatherine Vail[4]
1949East Side, West SideNora Kernan[4]
1969Savage IntruderLeslie[23]
SlavesNew Orleans lady[4]
It Takes a ThiefMadame Olga MillardTV, episode "The Scorpio Drop"
1970Get SmartHester Van HootenTV, episode "Rebecca of Funny-Folk Farm"
TangoTV
The Best of EverythingAmanda KeyTV
1971Night GalleryAbigail MooreTV, episode "The Dark Boy"[24]
The Bold Ones: The LawyersMrs. MarleyTV, episode "The Letter of the Law"
1973The Cat CreatureHester BlackTV[25]
1974Medical CenterMyraTV, episode "Adults Only"
NakiaBertTV, episode "The Quarry"
Police StoryMarge WhiteTV, episode "A World Full of Hurt"
1976Ryan's HopeMarguerite BeaulacTV, 6 episodes
The Return of a Man Called HorseElk Woman[4]
Hollywood on Trialherselfdocumentary[4]
1977VisionsOra DrummondTV, episode "Pleasantville"[26]
1978CentennialAunt AugustaTV mini series
1981The Fall GuyMrs. JacksonTV, episode "The Human Torch"
1983EchoesMrs. Edmunds[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Axel Nissen (2007). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 196–202. ISBN 978-0-7864-2746-8. 
  2. ^ "Gale Sondergaard". International Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Retrieved 2 August 2014. 
  3. ^ "The 9th Academy Awards". Oscars.org. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao "Gale Sodergaard". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  5. ^ Peter Lev (15 March 2013). Twentieth Century-Fox: The Zanuck-Skouras Years, 1935–1965. University of Texas Press. pp. 67–68. ISBN 978-0-292-74447-9. 
  6. ^ "1946 19th Oscar nominees". Oscar.org. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  7. ^ a b David J. Hogan (1 June 2014). The Wizard of Oz FAQ: All That's Left to Know About Life, According to Oz. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. pp. 113–115. ISBN 978-1-4803-9719-4. 
  8. ^ Daniel Eagan (26 November 2009). America's Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide to the Landmark Movies in the National Film Registry. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 483. ISBN 978-1-4411-1647-5. 
  9. ^ Ellen R. Baker (12 March 2007). On Strike and on Film: Mexican American Families and Blacklisted Filmmakers in Cold War America. UNC Press Books. p. 106. ISBN 978-1-4696-0654-5. 
  10. ^ "Hester Sodergaard". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  11. ^ "A Theatre Guild Wedding: Gale Sondergaard, Actress, Bride of H. J. Biberman, Executive", The New York Times, May 16, 1930
  12. ^ "Faust". IBDB. The Broadway League. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  13. ^ "MajorBarbara". IBDB. The Broadway League. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  14. ^ "Karl and Anna". IBDB. The Broadway League. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  15. ^ "Red Rust". IBDB. The Broadway League. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  16. ^ "Alison's House". IBDB. The Broadway League. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  17. ^ "American Dream". IBDB. The Broadway League. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  18. ^ "Invitation to a Murder". IBDB. The Broadway League. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  19. ^ "Doctor Monica". IBDB. The Broadway League. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  20. ^ "Cue for Passion". IBDB. The Broadway League. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  21. ^ "Goodbye Fidel". IBDB. The Broadway League. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  22. ^ Deirdre Clancy Steer (2009). Colonial America. Infobase Publishing. p. 63. ISBN 978-1-4381-2728-6. 
  23. ^ Jeff Lenburg; Joan Howard Maurer; Greg Lenburg (2012). The Three Stooges Scrapbook. Chicago Review Press. p. 353. ISBN 978-1-61374-085-9. 
  24. ^ Scott Skelton; Jim Benson (1999). Rod Serling's Night Gallery: An After-hours Tour. Syracuse University Press. p. 203. ISBN 978-0-8156-2782-1. 
  25. ^ Michael McKenna (22 August 2013). The ABC Movie of the Week: Big Movies for the Small Screen. Scarecrow Press. pp. 117–118, 210. ISBN 978-0-8108-9157-9. 
  26. ^ Jerry Roberts (5 June 2009). Encyclopedia of Television Film Directors. Scarecrow Press. pp. 345, 455. ISBN 978-0-8108-6378-1. 

External links[edit]