Margaret Hamilton was an actress known for her role as the Wicked Witch of the West in the film titled The Wizard of Oz. In the film, she starred with Judy Garland, Billie Burke, Frank Morgan, and several other actors and actresses.
She was a former school teacher that eventually debuted as a notable silver screen star. She also appeared in many films, sitcoms as well as commercials. Aside from devoting her life as an actress, Hamilton also spent her years as an advocate of causes that benefited children and animals.
Who is Margaret Hamilton?
Margaret Hamilton was an American actress born on December 9, 1902. She was the youngest among the four children of Mary Jane and Walter Hamilton. Earlier in her life, she had attended Hathaway Brown School in Cleveland. During her young age, Margaret was fond of theatres and had her debut in 1923. Subsequently, in the year 1929, Margaret also debuted as a professional entertainer in Charles S. Brooks Theatre at the Play House in Cleveland. Before focusing on acting, her mother had urged her to attend Wheelock College in Boston. Later on, she became a teacher in Kindergarten.
Margaret Hamilton in Films
In 1933, Hamilton debuted as a screen star in the film Another Language. In the subsequent years, Hamilton also appeared in films including These Three, Nothing Sacred, Saratoga, When’s Your Birthday?, You Only Live Once, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, My Little Chickadee, and in The Sin of Harold Diddlebock. During her career, she starred alongside Richard Cromwell and Buster Keaton in a 1940 melodrama, The Drunkard. Years passed, she was also cast in a film noir Bungalowin 1948. In the 1950s and after that, she had more supporting roles. Furthermore, her most notable role was from the film titled The Wizard of Oz, in which she appeared as one of the most memorable and iconic villains, the Wicked Witch of the West.
Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz
In 1939, Margaret Hamilton appeared in the Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer’s The Wizard of Oz. Initially, the role was offered to Gale Sondergaard. However, after the decision that the Witch should appear ugly, Sondergaard declined the role.
During one of the scenes of her fiery exit from the Muchkinland, Hamilton had suffered from a second-degree burn on her face. With that, Hamilton recuperated in the hospital for six weeks. Despite that, she returned to work to finish the film. But for the rest of the film, she had refused anything that has to do with fire. The studio executives also cut some of the terrifying scenes, in the fear that they would frighten children.
According to Hamilton, her biggest fear was that the children would have a wrong idea about her role as a witch. She often remarked about children coming to her and asking her why she was mean to Dorothy. However, despite her evil role, Hamilton cared deeply for the children. In fact, she frequently gave donations to charitable institutions. In an interview on an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, she explained to children that she was only playing a role and showed them how she put costume to transform herself into the Witch.
Due to her popularity as the Wicked Witch of the West her line, “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!” was ranked 99th in the American Film Institute survey for the most memorable movie quote in 2005. Hamilton had also said that she sometimes enjoyed using the phrase, even in real life.
Personal Life and Death
Even after the years of The Wizard of Oz, Margaret Hamilton remained friends with co-star Ray Bolger, the actor who portrayed the Scarecrow. Also, in 1931, Hamilton was married to Paul Boynton Meserve. However, they divorced in 1938. Before that, Hamilton and Meserve had a son named, Hamilton Wadsworth Meserve, whom Margaret had raised herself.
Aside from acting, Hamilton’s interest in education brought her to serve on the Beverly Hills Board of Education. Also, she was a dedicated Sunday school teacher during the 1950s. At the age of 82, Margaret Hamilton had an Alzheimer’s disease that subsequently followed a heart attack, which caused her death. She died on May 16, 1985, and was cremated at Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery. Her ashes were scattered at Amenia in New York.