Mary William Ethelbert Appleton “Billie” Burke was an American actress. She is primarily known to modern audiences as Glinda the Good Witch of the North in the musical film The Wizard of Oz. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance as Emily Kilbourne in Merrily We Live.
Known as Billie Burke, she toured the U.S. and Europe with a circus because her father, Billy Burke, was employed with them as a singing clown. Her family ultimately settled in London where she was fortunate to see plays in London’s historic West End.
She wanted to be a stage actress. In 1903, she began acting on stage, making her debut in London, eventually returning to America to become the toast of Broadway as a musical comedy star. She was praised by The New York Times for her charm and her brightness.
Thanks to her representation by famed producer Charles Frohman, Burke went on to play leads on Broadway in Mrs. Dot, Suzanne, The Runaway, The “Mind-the-Paint” Girl, and The Land of Promise from 1910 to 1913, along with a supporting role in the revival of Sir Arthur Wing Pinero?s The Amazons.