Edna May Oliver
Edna May Oliver was an American film actress. During the 1930s, she was one of the American screen’s best-known character actresses often playing tart-tongued spinsters.
Born Edna May Nutter in Malden, Massachusetts, the daughter of Ida May and Charles Edward Nutter, Edna was a descendant of the sixth American president, John Quincy Adams. She quit school at age fourteen in order to pursue a career on stage and achieved her first success in 1917 on Broadway in Jerome Kern’s musical comedy Oh, Boy!, playing the hero’s comically dour Quaker Aunt Penelope.
In 1925, Oliver appeared in The Cradle Snatchers co-starring Mary Boland, Margaret Dale, Gene Raymond, Raymond Hackett & a young Humphrey Bogart. Oliver’s most notable stage appearance was as Parthy, wife of Cap’n Andy Hawks, in the original 1927 stage production of the musical Show Boat. She repeated the role in the 1932 Broadway revival, but turned down the chance to play Parthy in the 1936 film version of the show so that she could play the Nurse in that year’s film version of Romeo and Juliet, her only role in a Shakespeare film or play.
Her film debut occurred in 1923 in the film Wife in Name Only and she continued to appear in films until Lydia in 1941. Oliver first gained major notice in films for her appearances in several comedy films starring the team of Wheeler & Woolsey including Half Shot at Sunrise, her first film under her RKO Radio Pictures contract in 1930.