Billie Burke In Color

Billie Burke was a popular actress who married Flo Ziegfeld and appeared in The Wizard Of Oz

 She was born Mary William Ethelbert Appleton Burke on August 7, 1884 in Washington, D.C. Her father, William Burke, was a clown with the Barnum & Bailey circus. During her childhood the family moved to London, England, Billie began her career on the London stage. She went to New York where she appeared in the Broadway shows Suzanne and The Land Of Promise. In 1914 she married Flo Ziegfeld, producer of the famous Ziegfeld Follies. Their daughter, Patricia, was born two years later. Billie had a starring role in the 1916 silent drama Peggy. The film was a hit and made her a popular movie star.  Her success continued with starring roles in Gloria’s Romance, Let’s Get A Divorce, and The Mysterious Miss Terry. She quickly became one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood earning $300,000 a film. Billie was known for her delicate beauty and great fashion sense. Stores across the country sold the “Billie Burke Dress” which featured her signature flat collar and lace trim. By 1921 she had grown tired of acting and decided to retire so she could raise her daughter. She adored her husband Flo but their marriage was sometimes tumultuous due to his infidelity. Then in 1929 the couple lost most of their fortune in the stock market crash.

Billie BurkeBillie Burke
To make some money she accepted a role in the 1932 drama A Bill Of Divorcement. While filming the movie Flo died suddenly of a heart attack. Billie was devastated by her husband’s death but she continued to work. She had supporting roles in films like Forsaking All Others and Dinner At Eight with Jean Harlow. When MGM made a movie about Flo Ziegfeld’s life in 1936 Myrna Loy played Billie. In 1938 she received an Oscar nomination for her performance in Merrily We Live. Director Victor Fleming offered her the role of Glinda The Good Witch in the 1939 fantasy film The Wizard Of Oz. The movie became a classic and she Glinda became her best known role. Billie, who was bisexual, enjoyed a long romance with director Dorothy Arzner. Dorothy directed her in the films Craig’s Wife and The Bride Wore Red. During the 1940s she had her own radio show and wrote her autobiography. She co-starred with Bette Davis in The Man Who Came Dinner and with Joan Bennett in Girl Trouble. Her final acting role was in the 1960 film Sergeant Rutledge. On May 14, 1970 Billie died from natural causes at the age of eighty-five. She was buried next to her husband at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.

Billie Burke Billie Burke