Biography

​ She was born Edna May Nutter, a child of solid New England stock, on 9th November 1883 in Malden, Massachusetts. The daughter of Ida May and Charles Edward Nutter, Edna was a descendant of the 6th American president John Quincy Adams. Miss Oliver took an early interest in the stage, and she would quit school at the age of 14 to pursue her ambitions in the theater.

Despite abandoning traditional schooling, Edna continued to study the performing arts, including speech and piano. One of her first jobs was as pianist with an all female orchestra which toured America around the turn of the century. By 1917 she had achieved success on Broadway in the hit play "Oh, Boy". By 1923 she had appeared in her first film. Edna May Oliver seems to have been born to play the classics of American and British literature. Some of her most memorable film roles were in adaptations of works of Charles Dickens. Although some have described her as plain or "horse faced", Edna May Oliver's comedic talents lent a beautiful droll warmth to her characters. She was usually called upon to play less glamorous roles such as a spinsters, but she played them with such soul, wit, and depth that to this day she remains one of the best loved of Hollywood's character actresses. A fine example of her comedic talent can be found in Laugh and Get Rich (1931). Here we find her playing a role almost autobiographical in nature, that of a proud woman with Boston roots who has married "down". As the plot unwinds, she is invited to a society gala despite her modest circumstances. At the gala she becomes tipsy. With a frolicsome air Edna May seems to use the role to gently mock her real self. Her slightly drunk character seizes upon a bit of flattery, and alluding to her old New England family, proudly proclaims to each who will listen, "I am a Cranston. That explains everything!". In real life, Edna May Oliver was a Nutter, and perhaps that explains everything. Edna May Oliver married stock broker David Pratt in 1928, but the marriage ended in divorce five years later. In 1939 she received an Oscar nomination for her supporting role as Widow McKlennar in the picture Drums Along the Mohawk (1939). That was to be one of her last films. Miss Oliver was struck ill in August of 1942. Although she seemed to recover briefly, she was re-admitted to Los Angeles's Cedars of Lebanon hospital in October Her dear friend actress Virginia Hammond flew out from New York to stay by her bedside. Edna May Oliver died on her 59th birthday, 9th November 1942. Virginia Hammond was with her and said, "She died without ever being aware of the gravity of her condition. She just went peacefully asleep."

​ She was born Edna May Nutter, a child of solid New England stock, on 9th November 1883 in Malden, Massachusetts. The daughter of Ida May and Charles Edward Nutter, Edna was a descendant of the 6th American president John Quincy Adams. Miss Oliver took an early interest in the stage, and she would quit school at the age of 14 to pursue her ambitions in the theater.

Despite abandoning traditional schooling, Edna continued to study the performing arts, including speech and piano. One of her first jobs was as pianist with an all female orchestra which toured America around the turn of the century. By 1917 she had achieved success on Broadway in the hit play "Oh, Boy". By 1923 she had appeared in her first film. Edna May Oliver seems to have been born to play the classics of American and British literature. Some of her most memorable film roles were in adaptations of works of Charles Dickens. Although some have described her as plain or "horse faced", Edna May Oliver's comedic talents lent a beautiful droll warmth to her characters. She was usually called upon to play less glamorous roles such as a spinsters, but she played them with such soul, wit, and depth that to this day she remains one of the best loved of Hollywood's character actresses. A fine example of her comedic talent can be found in Laugh and Get Rich (1931). Here we find her playing a role almost autobiographical in nature, that of a proud woman with Boston roots who has married "down". As the plot unwinds, she is invited to a society gala despite her modest circumstances. At the gala she becomes tipsy. With a frolicsome air Edna May seems to use the role to gently mock her real self. Her slightly drunk character seizes upon a bit of flattery, and alluding to her old New England family, proudly proclaims to each who will listen, "I am a Cranston. That explains everything!". In real life, Edna May Oliver was a Nutter, and perhaps that explains everything. Edna May Oliver married stock broker David Pratt in 1928, but the marriage ended in divorce five years later. In 1939 she received an Oscar nomination for her supporting role as Widow McKlennar in the picture Drums Along the Mohawk (1939). That was to be one of her last films. Miss Oliver was struck ill in August of 1942. Although she seemed to recover briefly, she was re-admitted to Los Angeles's Cedars of Lebanon hospital in October Her dear friend actress Virginia Hammond flew out from New York to stay by her bedside. Edna May Oliver died on her 59th birthday, 9th November 1942. Virginia Hammond was with her and said, "She died without ever being aware of the gravity of her condition. She just went peacefully asleep."

Personal Info

Known For Acting

Gender Female

Known Credits 42

Birthday 1883-11-09

Day of Death 1942-11-09

Place of Birth Malden, Massachusetts, USA

Official Site -

Also Known As

  • -

Acting TV ShowsMovies

1941 Lydia as Sarah MacMillan
1940 Pride and Prejudice as Lady Catherine de Bourgh
1939 Drums Along the Mohawk as Mrs. McKlennar
1939 Nurse Edith Cavell as Countess de Mavon
1939 Second Fiddle as Aunt Phoebe
1939 The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle as Maggie Sutton
1938 Little Miss Broadway as Sarah Wendling
1938 Paradise for Three as Mrs. Kunkel
1937 Rosalie as Queen of Romanza
1937 Parnell as Aunt Ben Wood
1937 My Dear Miss Aldrich as Mrs. Atherton
1936 Romeo and Juliet as Nurse to Juliet
1935 A Tale of Two Cities as Miss Pross
1935 No More Ladies as Mrs. Fanny 'Grandma' Townsend
1935 Murder on a Honeymoon as Hildegarde Withers
1935 David Copperfield as Aunt Betsey
1934 We're Rich Again as Maude Stanley
1934 Murder on the Blackboard as Hildegarde Withers
1934 The Last Gentleman as Augusta Pritchard, Cabot's sister
1934 The Poor Rich as Harriet Spottiswood
1933 Alice in Wonderland as Red Queen
1933 Little Women as Aunt March
1933 Only Yesterday as Leona
1933 Meet The Baron as Dean Primrose
1933 Ann Vickers as Malvina Wormser
1933 It's Great to Be Alive
1933 The Great Jasper as Madame Talma
1932 The Penguin Pool Murder as Miss Hildegarde Martha Withers
1932 The Conquerors as Matilda Blake
1932 Hold 'Em Jail as Violet Jones
1932 Ladies of the Jury as Mrs. Livingston Baldwin Crane
1931 Fanny Foley Herself as Fanny Foley
1931 Newly Rich as Bessie Tate
1931 Laugh and Get Rich as Sarah Cranston Austin
1931 Cracked Nuts as Aunt Minnie Van Varden
1931 Cimarron as Mrs. Tracy Wyatt
1930 Half Shot at Sunrise as Mrs. Marshall
1929 The Saturday Night Kid as Miss Streeter
1926 Let's Get Married as J.W. Smith
1926 The American Venus as Mrs. Niles
1925 Lovers in Quarantine as Amelia Pincent
1924 Icebound as Hannah

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