Edna May Oliver

  1. Lucille Watson, The Bishop Misbehaves, 1934.  Change of Lady Emily, sister of the bishop-cum-detective – Edmund Gwenn in his Hollywood debut as an upgraded Father Brown. UK censors ordered a new title, The Bishop’s Misadventures  “because bishops do not misbehave.” Of course not!
  2. Janet Beecher, The Mighty Barnum, 1934.      No can do. And no will do, added EMO, unnwilling to cycle between two films (and studios) on alternate days. She was already Aunt Betsey in in MGM’s David Copperfield. After throwing out John Huston’s script, head Fox Darryl F Zanuck declared: “First, last and always our Barnum should be a comedy, a boisterous, loud-mouthed comedy with a tear. ” ie showman Phineas T Barnum must be Wallace Beery.
  3. Constance Collier, Professional Soldier, 1934.      Change of Lady Augusta – far better in the choice of an English actress, after all. Then again all eyes were on the uncredited gypsy dancer. Rita Hayworth!
  4. Helen Broderick, Murder On A Bridle Path, 1935.       RKO kicked off what we now call a franchise (or a series – Murder She Wrote, anyone?) with Oliver as Stuart Palmer’s creation: the feisty schoolmarm Miss Hildergarde Withers, giving good detection to James Gleason’s Inspector Oscar Piper. After solving three murder cases – Penguin Pool Murder, 1931,  Murder on the Blackboard, 1933, Murder on a Honeymoon, 1935 –  Oliver quit RKO. And the series died. Oh, the suits tried some mouth-to-mouth. Like this one with Broderick as Miss Marple, er… Withers…and two more with Zazu Pitts, no less.  The public could hardly have cared less. 
  5. Helen Westley, Show Boat, 1936.   Edna May  wanted to be Juliet’s Nurse so much  in MGM’s quite preposterous Romeo and Juliet that she refused to repeat her  Broadway role of Parthenia “Parthy” Hawks in the Show Boat  filmusical. Didn’t seem to bother her that the 13-year-old Juliet was being played by Norma Shearer at age… 36. And Leslie Howard’s Romeo, 42.  No, the important issue was wining her first – and only – Shakespearian role..
  6.  Billie Burke, The Wizard of Oz, 1938.
  7. Margaret Hamilton, The Wizard of Oz, 1938.
  8. Elizabeth Patterson, The Story of Alexander Graham Bell, 1938.      Head Fox Darryl F Zanuck got his own way about “containing too much science and not enough romance.” But not about who should be Mrs MacGregor. 
  9. Fay Bainter, The Lady and the Mob, 1938.  Columbia Pictures had negotiations with EMO for what had earlier been less shy about the plot when titled…  Old Mrs. Leonard and Her Machine Guns.

 Birth year: 1883Death year: 1942Other name: Casting Calls:  9