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 late 1960s. She moved back to Los Angeles where she died from cerebrovascular thrombosis.

Early life[edit]

She was born Edith Holm Sondergaard in Litchfield, Minnesota to Danish-American parents, Hans and Christin (Holm) Sondergaard. 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. Her younger sister Hester Sondergaard was also an actress.

Film career[edit]

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. Her career as an actress flourished during the 1930s, and included a role opposite Paul Muni in The Life of Emile Zola (1937).

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). 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 BirdFox's answer to Oz.

In 1940, she played the role of the exotic and sinister wife in The Letter, supporting Bette Davis. 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.

Marriages[edit]

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.[1] They had two children, Daniel Hans Biberman and Mrs. Joan Campos.

Career[edit]

Sondergaard's career suffered irreparable damage during the Red Scare of the early 1950s, when her husband was accused of being a communist and named as one of the Hollywood Ten. (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).[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Death[edit]

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.

Filmography[edit]

YearFilmRoleNotes
1936Anthony AdverseFaith Paleologusfirst recipient of the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1937Maid of SalemMartha Harding
Seventh HeavenNana, Diane's Sister
The Life of Emile ZolaLucie Dreyfus
1938Lord JeffDoris Clandon
Dramatic SchoolMadame Therese Charlot
1939Never Say DieJuno Marko
JuarezEmpress Eugenie
Sons of LibertyRachel Salomon
The Cat and the CanaryMiss Lu
The Llano KidLora Travers
1940The Blue BirdTylette (the cat)
The Mark of ZorroInez Quintero
The LetterMrs. Hammond
1941The Black CatAbigail Doone
Paris CallingColette
1942My Favorite BlondeMadame Stephanie Runick
Enemy Agents Meet Ellery QueenMrs. Van Dorn
1943A Night to RememberMrs. Devoe
Appointment in BerlinGretta Van Leyden
Isle of Forgotten SinsMarge Willison
The Strange Death of Adolf HitlerAnna Huber
Crazy Houseuncredited cameo performance
1944The Spider WomanAdrea Spedding
Follow the Boysherself
Christmas HolidayMrs. Monette
The Invisible Man's RevengeLady Irene Herrick
Gypsy WildcatRhoda
The ClimaxLuise
Enter Arsène LupinBessie Seagrave
1946The Spider Woman Strikes BackZenobia Dollard
Night in ParadiseQueen Attossa
Anna and the King of SiamLady Thiangnominated Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
The Time of Their LivesEmily
1947Pirates of MontereySeñorita De Sola
Road to RioCatherine Vail
1949East Side, West SideNora Kernan
1969Savage IntruderLeslie
SlavesNew Orleans lady
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"
The Bold Ones: The LawyersMrs. MarleyTV, episode "The Letter of the Law"
1973The Cat CreatureHester BlackTV
1974Medical CenterMyraTV, episode "Adults Only"
NakiaTV, 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
PleasantvilleOra
Hollywood on Trialherselfdocumentary
1977VisionsOra DrummondTV, episode "Pleasantville"
1978CentennialAunt AugustaTV mini series
1981The Fall GuyMrs. JacksonTV, episode "The Human Torch"
1983EchoesMrs. Edmunds

References[edit]

  1. ^ "A Theatre Guild Wedding: Gale Sondergaard, Actress, Bride of H. J. Biberman, Executive", The New York Times, May 16, 1930

External links[edit]