Edna May Oliver - Rotten Tomatoes

Edna May Oliver

Highest Rated:   100% Pride and Prejudice (1940)
Lowest Rated:   53% Cimarron (1931)
Birthday:  
Birthplace:   Not Available
"Horse faced" was the usual capsule assessment given American actress Edna May Oliver - a gross disservice to her talent and accomplishments. A descendant of President John Quincy Adams, she aspired to a career in opera, and at 16 her uncle secured her a job with a light opera company. Her voice was damaged from overuse and exposure to bad weather, so Oliver turned her energies to acting. Stock company work began in 1911, and even as a teenager she lanternlike facial features assured her older character roles. Her 1916 Broadway debut led to a string of small and unsatisfying roles, until fortune smiled upon her with a supporting part as a servant in Owen Davis' Icebound. Davis' play won the 1923 Pulitzer Prize, thrusting everyone involved into the spotlight. Oliver was hired to repeat her Icebound duties for the film cameras in 1924, and though not technically her film debut, she would always list Icebound as her starting point in cinema. Solid roles in the Broadway productions The Cradle Snatchers, Strike Up the Band and the immortal Show Boat kept Oliver busy during the '20s, culminating in a contract with RKO Radio Studios. RKO thrust her into anything and everything, from Wheeler and Woolsey comedies to the Oscar-winning Cimarron (1931). The best testament to her popularity in films were the Edna May Oliver caricatures (complete with "Oh, reaaallly" voice imitation) that popped up with regularity in animated cartoons of the '30s. Oliver worked for virtually all the big studios in the '30s, at one point starring briefly in the Hildegarde Withers mystery series, a role she seemed born to play. Evidently, producers loved to put her angular frame in period costumes, as witness her marvelous roles in David Copperfield (1934), Tale of Two Cities (1935), Romeo and Juliet (1936) and Drums Along the Mohawk (1939). By 1940, Edna May Oliver was a law unto herself (even dictating what hours she would and wouldn't work) and filmakers wisely allowed her to use all the acting tricks at her disposal, from her famous loud sniff of distaste to her low, claxonish voice. After a long intestinal illness, Edna May Oliver died in 1942 on her 59th birthday; ironically, her last screen role had been as an infuriatingly healthy hypochondriac in Lydia (1941).

Highest Rated Movies

Filmography

MOVIES

RATING TITLE CREDIT YEAR
No Score Yet We're Rich Again
  • Actor
2014
No Score Yet Lydia
  • Actor
1941
100% Pride and Prejudice
  • Lady Catherine de Bourgh
1940
80% Drums Along the Mohawk
  • Mrs. McKlennar
1939
No Score Yet Nurse Edith Cavell
  • Countess de Mavon
1939
No Score Yet Second Fiddle
  • Aunt Phoebe Hovland
1939
67% The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle
  • Maggie Sutton
1939
No Score Yet Little Miss Broadway
  • Sarah Wendling
1938
No Score Yet Parnell
  • Aunt Ben Wood
1937
No Score Yet Rosalie
  • Queen
1937
75% Romeo and Juliet
  • Nurse to Juliet
1936
No Score Yet No More Ladies
  • Fanny Townsend
1935
No Score Yet David Copperfield (The Personal History, Adventures, Experience, & Observation of David Copperfield the Younger)
  • Aunt Betsey Trotwood
1935
100% A Tale of Two Cities
  • Miss Pross
1935
No Score Yet Alice in Wonderland
  • Red Queen
1933
92% Little Women
  • Aunt March
1933
No Score Yet Only Yesterday
  • Leona
1933
No Score Yet Meet the Baron
  • Dean Primrose
1933
No Score Yet Ann Vickers
  • Malvina Wormsor
1933
No Score Yet The Great Jasper
  • Madame Talma
1933
No Score Yet Penguin Pool Murder
  • Miss Hildegarde Martha Withers
1932
No Score Yet The Conquerors
  • Matilda Blake
1932
No Score Yet Hold 'em Jail
  • Violet Jones
1932
100% The Lost Squadron
  • Actor
1932
No Score Yet Cracked Nuts
  • Aunt Minnie Van Varden
1931
No Score Yet Laugh and Get Rich
  • Sarah Austin
1931
53% Cimarron
  • Mrs. Tracy Wyatt
1931
No Score Yet Hook, Line and Sinker
  • Actor
1930
No Score Yet Half Shot at Sunrise
  • Mrs. Marshall
1930
No Score Yet Let's Get Married
  • J.W. Smith
1926
No Score Yet Lucky Devil
  • Auntie McDee
1925
No Score Yet The Merry-Go-Round
  • Eitel/Prince Eitel Hogemut
1923

Quotes from Edna May Oliver's Characters

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