Gale Sondergaard

(1899 - 1985)

A photo of Gale Sondergaard
Edith Holm Sondergaard
1899 - 1985
Born
February 15, 1899
Litchfield, Minnesota United States of America
Death
August 14, 1985
Woodland Hills, California United States of America
Summary
Gale Sondergaard was born on February 15, 1899 in Litchfield, Minnesota United States of America. She died on August 14, 1985 in Woodland Hills, California United States of America at age 86.
Updated: February 27, 2020
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Gale Sondergaard was an actress between 1936 -1983 who was married to Neill O'Malley in 1922 until 1930 when they divorced, and to Herbert J. Biberman in 1930 until he died in 1971, and they had two children.

Born Edith Holm Sondergaard, she 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 regularly played supporting roles in films during the late 1930s and 1940s, including The Cat and the Canary (1939), The Mark of Zorro (1940) and The Letter (1940). For her role in Anna and the King of Siam (1946), she was nominated for her second Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. After the late 1940s, her screen work came to an abrupt end for the next 20 years.

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. She moved with Biberman to New York City and worked in theatre, and acted in film and television occasionally from the late 1960s. She moved back to Los Angeles where she died from cerebrovascular thrombosis.
Early life

She was born Edith Holm Sondergaard on February 15, 1899 in Litchfield, Minnesota to Danish-American parents, Hans and Christin (Holm) Sondergaard. Her father taught at the University of Minnesota, where she was a drama student.

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. After becoming a member of the Theatre Guild, she began performing on the New York stage.
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 her performance. Her career as an actress flourished during the 1930s, including a role with 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 Evil Queen in Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Sondergaard originally was cast as the witch 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 The Blue Bird (1940).

Around the same time, she played the role of the exotic, sinister wife in The Letter (also 1940), a film starring Bette Davis. She featured in a supporting role in The Spider Woman (aka Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman, 1943), part of the Universal cycle, followed by the non-canonical The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946), also for Universal.
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 (1946).

House Un-American Activities Committee
Sondergaard's career suffered irreparable damage during the United States Congressional HUAC Red Scare of the early 1950s when her husband was accused of being a communist and named as one of the Hollywood Ten.[8] (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).
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.

In 1969, she appeared in an off-Broadway one-woman show entitled Woman. Sondergaard resumed her career in film and television around the same time.
Her revived career extended into the early 1980s.

Her younger sister Hester Sondergaard was also an actress who featured in Seeds of Freedom (1943) The Naked City (1948) and Jigsaw (1949) and The Big Break (1953).
Sondergaard first married in 1922 to actor Neill O'Malley; they divorced in 1930. On May 15, 1930, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she married Herbert Biberman, a theater director then associated with the Theatre Guild Acting Company; he became a film director and died in 1971. They had two children, Daniel Hans Biberman and Mrs. Joan Campos.
Following several strokes, she died from cerebral vascular thrombosis in the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, in 1985, aged 86. She had been admitted to the hospital in 1982.

Acting credits Stage
Opening date Closing date Title Role Theatre Refs
Oct 08, 1928 Nov 1928 Faust The Witch Guild Theatre
Nov 19, 1928 Jan 1929 Major Barbara Sarah Undershaft, Lady Britomart's daughter Guild Theatre
Oct 7, 1929 Nov 1929 Karl and Anna Marie's sister Guild Theatre
Dec 17, 1929 Feb 1930 Red Rust Nina Martin Beck Theatre
May 11, 1931 May 23, 1931 Alison's House Elsa - Replacement Ritz Theatre
Feb 21, 1933 March 1933 American Dream Lydia Kimball, The First Play, 1650 Guild Theatre
May 17, 1934 Jul 1934 Invitation to a Murder Lorinda Channing Theatre Masque
Nov 6, 1933 Nov 1933 Doctor Monica Anna Playhouse Theatre
Dec 19, 1940 Dec 28, 1940 Cue for Passion Frances Chapman Royale Theatre
Apr 02, 1980 April 26, 1980 Goodbye Fidel Prudencia Ambassador Theatre
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Biography
Gale Sondergaard
Most commonly known name
Edith Holm Sondergaard
Full name
Nickname(s) or aliases
Female
Gender
Edith Sondergaard was born on in Litchfield, Minnesota United States of America
Birth
Edith Sondergaard died on in Woodland Hills, California United States of America
Death
Edith Sondergaard was born on in Litchfield, Minnesota United States of America
Edith Sondergaard died on in Woodland Hills, California United States of America
Birth
Death
Several strokes
Cause of death
Ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean
Burial / Funeral
Heritage

Ethnicity & Lineage

Scandinavian

Nationality & Locations

Danish American
Childhood

Education

Her father taught at the University of Minnesota, where she was a drama student.

Religion

Protestant
Adulthood

Professions

Film and television Character Actress
Obituary

Average Age

Life Expectancy

1936 Anthony Adverse Faith Paleologus First winner of Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1937 Maid of Salem Martha Harding
Seventh Heaven Nana, Diane's Sister
The Life of Emile Zola Lucie Dreyfus
1938 Lord Jeff Doris Clandon
Dramatic School Madame Therese Charlot
1939 Never Say Die Juno Marko
Juarez Empress Eugenie A historical drama starring Paul Muni and Bette Davis
Sons of Liberty Rachel Salomon Short
The Cat and the Canary Miss Lu
The Llano Kid Lora Travers
1940 The Blue Bird Tylette (the cat) A Shirley Temple fantasy
The Mark of Zorro Inez Quintero
The Letter Mrs. Hammond A Bette Davis drama
1941 The Black Cat Abigail Doone
Paris Calling Colette
1942 My Favorite Blonde Madame Stephanie Runick
Enemy Agents Meet Ellery Queen Mrs. Van Dorn
1943 A Night to Remember Mrs. Devoe
Appointment in Berlin Gretta Van Leyden
Isle of Forgotten Sins Marge Willison
The Strange Death of Adolf Hitler Anna Huber
Crazy House Herself Uncredited
1944 The Spider Woman Adrea Spedding A/K/A Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman
Follow the Boys Herself Uncredited
The Invisible Man's Revenge Lady Irene Herrick
Christmas Holiday Mrs. Monette
Gypsy Wildcat Rhoda
The Climax Luise
Enter Arsène Lupin Bessie Seagrave
1946 The Spider Woman Strikes Back Zenobia Dollard
Night in Paradise Queen Attossa
Anna and the King of Siam Lady Thiang nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress [4]
The Time of Their Lives Emily
1947 Pirates of Monterey Señorita De Sola
Road to Rio Catherine Vail A Bob Hope-Bing Crosby-Dorothy Lamour comedy in the Road to ... series [4]
1949 East Side, West Side Nora Kernan
1969 Slaves New Orleans lady
It Takes a Thief Madame Olga Millard Episode: "The Scorpio Drop"
1970 Get Smart Hester Van Hooten Episode: "Rebecca of Funny-Folk Farm"
Tango TV movie
The Best of Everything Amanda Key 2 episodes
Savage Intruder Leslie
1971 Night Gallery Abigail Moore Episode: "The Dark Boy"
The Bold Ones: The Lawyers Mrs. Marley TV, episode "The Letter of the Law"
1973 The Cat Creature Hester Black TV movie
1974 Medical Center Myra Episode: "Adults Only"
Nakia Bert Episode: "The Quarry"

Police Story Marge White Episode: "A World Full of Hurt"
1976 Ryan's Hope Marguerite Beaulac 6 episodes
The Return of a Man Called Horse Elk Woman [4]
Pleasantville Ora
Hollywood on Trial Herself Documentary [4]
1977 Visions Ora Drummond Episode: "Pleasantville" [27]
1978 Centennial Aunt Augusta TV mini series
1981 The Fall Guy Mrs. Jackson Episode: "The Human Torch"
1983 Echoes Mrs. Edmunds (final film role) [4]
Daniel Pinna shared
on Feb 27, 2020 12:09 AM

Edith's immediate relatives including parents, siblings, partnerships and children in the Sondergaard family tree.

Edith's Family

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Parent
Gale Sondergaard
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Child
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Gale Sondergaard passed away on August 14, 1985 in Woodland Hills, California United States of America at age 86. She was buried in Ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean. She was born on February 15, 1899 in Litchfield, Minnesota United States of America. We are unaware of information about Edith's family.

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Edith's lifetime.

In 1899, in the year that Gale Sondergaard was born, on February 14th, the first voting machines were approved by Congress for use in federal elections. Several states were already using voting machines in their elections and the Federal government was finally convinced of their safety and accuracy.

In 1935, she was 36 years old when the BOI's name (the Bureau of Investigation) was changed to the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and it officially became a separate agency with the Department of Justice. J. Edgar Hoover, the Chief of the BOI, continued in his office and became the first Director of the FBI. The FBI's responsibility is to "detect and prosecute crimes against the United States".

In 1959, she was 60 years old when on August 8th, Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States. The US flag was changed to show 50 stars.

In 1978, she was 79 years old when on November 18th, Jim Jones's Peoples Temple followers committed mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana - where they had moved, from San Francisco, as a group. Jones was the leader of the cult and ordered his followers to drink cyanide-laced punch, which they did. Whole families (women and children included) died - more than 900 people in all.

In 1985, in the year of Gale Sondergaard's passing, in May, a paper published in Nature by three British scientists reported that a huge hole was discovered in the ozone layer over the Antarctic. It was much larger than expected and is due to the use of manmade chemicals.

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