“Tap your heels together three times!”
I’m going to start this article with a question – how old was Billie Burke when she played the iconic role of Glinda in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1939 masterpiece The Wizard of Oz? I want you to come up with your best guess before you read any further – and I’ll tell you the answer in a minute!
I have been told far too often recently by beautiful, lovely middle-aged women that they are “too old” to have long hair. “Too old” to wear sparkles. “Too old” to wear flashy jewelry or try out the latest trends.
I have long been a firm believer that age is incredibly relative. Maybe you’re an old soul, or maybe you’re young at heart, but truthfully, what is age more than a mere marking of our time spent here on earth? So much of age is strictly of our own imagination.
As a little girl, I absolutely loved The Wizard of Oz. I read all of the books, collected all the memorabilia, and watched the movie over and over again. I thought Glinda was the absolute epitome of glamour. A few years ago I did some reading on Billie Burke, and was very inspired by her life and her spirit. Let me tell you a little bit about her!
Born Mary William Ethelbert Appleton “Billie” Burke in August 1884, she dappled in stage and song early on in her life. She traveled with her father, who was a singer, throughout the United States and Europe. She eventually returned to New York City and became known as a musical comedy star on Broadway.
It was there that she met Florenz Ziegfeld, the great producer of Ziegfeld’s Follies. He believed that Billie was one of the ten most beautiful women in the world. With Flo’s loving help and encouragement, her fame and popularity quickly rose to a higher level than ever before. They were married in 1914, and just two years later she gave birth to their little girl, Patricia.
Sadly, towards the end of Florenz’s life, his incredible stage career suffered increasingly as Broadway was damaged by the motion picture craze. Each failed attempt at a ground-breaking new production left him deeper and deeper in debt. In 1932, sick, heartbroken and depressed, The Great Ziegfeld passed away.
That same year, Billie made her debut into Hollywood’s motion pictures, as an attempt to erase away the great load of debt that was left upon her. She played roles in many different movies, including a film in which she played the role of Judy Garland’s mother. But at the age of 55 (were you close?), it was the role of Glinda that would bring her to fame throughout all of America.
Her unforgettable entrance in the pink bubble, resplendent in sparkles, waving her wand and regally wearing her tiara has immortalized her for all time. Her dignity is a character study all in it’s own, the slight tip of her head, the way she glides as she walks, the diction and speech pattern that is all her own.
Billie Burke passed away in 1970 at the age of 86, but her gentle, elegant spirit will live on in the lives of children and all fans of the Wizard of Oz.
Ladies, you’re never too old to sparkle!