Teaching Students About Billie Burke
The enchanting world of Broadway and Hollywood boasts numerous stars throughout history. One such star often overlooked in education is the captivating actress known as Billie Burke. This talented actress graced both stage and screen, most famously as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, in the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz. Integrating tales from Billie Burke’s life and career into your curriculum can inspire students to follow their creative passions and build respect for these theatrical trailblazers.
Early Life and Career
Begin by providing students with a glimpse of Billie Burke’s early life. Born Mary William Ethelbert Appleton Burke on August 7, 1884, in Washington, D.C., she came from a family intimately connected to the theater world. Her father was a prominent singer, while her mother was a stage-loving socialite. Despite experiencing several hardships in life, including the death of her mother and family financial struggles, Billie pursued her passion for acting.
Incorporate a lesson on her transition from stage to screen, exploring how she made her Broadway debut in 1907 before moving on to silent films in 1916. Examining this period allows students to understand how actors navigated different platforms within the entertainment industry at that time.
Noteworthy Roles and Performances
Highlight some notable roles that helped establish Billie Burke as an iconic performer:
1. Peggy Shippen in The Heart of Maryland (1915)
2. Lady Nora in The Land of Promise (1917)
3. Emily Kilbourne in Merrily We Live (1938)
4. Glinda, the Good Witch of the North in The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Discussing these performances offers an opportunity for students to dive deep into each character’s importance within their respective stories and develop an understanding of Billie Burke’s diverse acting range.
Personal Life and Legacy
Teach students about Billie Burke’s marriage to Florenz Ziegfeld, the famous Broadway impresario and creator of the Ziegfeld Follies. This relationship could serve as an excellent conversation starter on the intertwined personal and professional lives of artists during that period.
Following her husband’s death in 1932, Billie faced financial hardship which compelled her to focus more on her acting career. Her resilience and determination can be highlighted as an inspiration for students to overcome obstacles in their own lives.
Lastly, emphasize Billie Burke’s storied legacy, detailing her philanthropic work through the establishment of the Ziegfeld-Burke Foundation for orphaned and underprivileged children. She passed away on May 14, 1970, leaving behind an enduring cultural impact that deserves recognition and respect from generations to come.