Who doesn’t love Aunt Em? The scrappy Gale family matriarch ruled loved ones and farmhands alike with the same firm but loving authority.
For any fan of The Wizard of Oz, it’s easy to remember her in the barnyard, admonishing Hunk, Zeke and Hickory to stop goofing and get back to work, all while serving them fresh-baked crullers to eat. Or begrudgingly submitting to Miss Gulch after reading the sheriff’s order allowing Toto to be taken away, and then tearfully rebuking the old biddy in front of a smiling Uncle Henry.
Stage veteran Clara Blandick was nearly fifty-nine when she took on the role and, although she starred in more than 120 films during her forty-year career, she will forever be Aunt Em to millions of The Wizard of Oz fans around the world.
As hard as it may be to imagine anyone else playing the part, several other actresses were considered. Eighty-year-old May Robson, a highly regarded, Oscar-winning actress at the time, was actually the first choice to play Aunt Em, but she turned down the role deeming it too “unchallenging.”
Successful stage and screen actress Janet Beecher was also considered but was thought to be too elegant to play a farm woman. British actress Sarah Padden screen-tested for the role in 1939, but in the end there was something special about Clara Blandick and she won the role.
The rest, as they say, is Oz history