Billie Burke (Who’s Who at MGM, 1937) 🇺🇸

January 08, 2022

Thorough knowledge of the oil of pantomime, learned from her father, who was a famous circus clown, was the foundation upon which Billie Burke built her outstanding dramatic reputation. She aspired to become a writer, but the love of the theatre was in her blood.

Billie was born in Washington, D. C., on August 7. She was sent to school in England and acquired an English accent which, even today, she can always draw upon when a stage or screen role demands it.

Her first stage appearance was in England, where she imitated famous British stars. Later, she went into musical comedy in the operetta, “School Girls.” Concluding this engagement, she returned to the United States and became one of the outstanding stars of Broadway.

Lead With Will Rogers

Widow of the late Florenz Ziegfeld, founder of the famous “Follies” and discoverer of many of the screen’s top names, Billie has often stated that she will never marry again. She met Will Rogers in one of her husband’s productions and the two of them became firm friends. Later, Miss Burke played the feminine lead in one of Rogers’ last pictures, “Doubting Thomas.”

She made her greatest stage hit in the title role of “Becky Sharpe.” Her first appearance on the screen was in a silent picture for Thomas Ince, after which she returned to the stage. She came back to the screen in “A Bill of Divorcement,” and has remained in films ever since.

Among her outstanding pictures have been Christopher StrongDinner at Eight, “Where Sinners Meet,” ‘We’re Rich Again,” “Society Doctor,” ‘Splendor,” and with Robert Montgomery  in “Piccadilly lnn.” After aiding in the filming of The Great Ziegfeld, Miss Burke joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer under a long-term contract, and was cast with Clark Gable and Myrna Loy in Parnell. She next appeared in The Bride Wore Red and “Navy Blue and Gold.”

Daughter a Writer

She had hoped that her daughter, Patricia, had inherited some of her father’s genius for the stage, but the daughter has chosen writing for her profession. But, remember, Billie started out for a career in letters, too.

One of her most vivid childhood memories is the occasion of Queen Victoria’s death and the school holiday which followed. She still nurses a secret ambition to write a successful play. And she would like to try her hand at being a newspaper reporter, because she feels that that is the most romantic of all professions.

Miss Burke is extremely timid in spite of her years in the public eye. She seldom goes out in public and when she does it is almost always with her daughter, Patricia, or her closest friend, Mrs. Will Rogers.

Student of Metaphysics

She has always been interested in educational subjects and at the present time is devoting herself to a study of metaphysics. She is of the opinion that the human brain is a natural instrument of communication and will eventually be developed to replace mechanical devices. She relaxes between scenes on the set by knitting and has become an expert at making sweaters.

Miss Burke plays tennis, swims and does her daily dozen every morning before breakfast.

She loves children and, if she were compelled to earn her living outside the field of entertainment, would like nothing better than taking care of children and training them for mothers who were obliged to work.

Source: Who’s Who at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1937