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Charlotte Greenwood

Charlotte Greenwood

It took the talkies to establish Greenwood's film career. With the success of her speaking debut, "So Long, Letty" (1930), Greenwood was starred in a series of slap-dash musicals and comedies in the early 1930s. Most were unbearable: "Parlor, Bedroom and Bath," "Flying High" (both 1931, with Buster Keaton and Bert Lahr, respectively), but Greenwood invariably got off a laugh or two with her robust high spirits. One of the high points was the sprightly Eddie Cantor vehicle "Palmy Days" (also 1931), with Greenwood leading a large group of chorines in an exercise song-and-dance routine to the song, "Bend Down, Sister." By this time married to Martin Broones, head of MGM's music department (an early marriage to actor Cyril Ring had ended in scandal), Greenwood returned to the stage in the mid-30s. 20th Century-Fox rediscovered the middle-aged actress in 1940, casting her as Shirley Temple's adoptive mother (and Jack Oakie's wife) in the musical "Young People." She was such a hit that Fox signed her to a long-term contract, supporting such stars as Betty Grable, Alice Faye and Carmen Miranda in colorful musicals such as "Down Argentine Way" (1940), "Moon Over Miami" (1941), "Springtime in the Rockies" (1942) and "The Gang's All Here" (1943), among others. Playing the wise-cracking aunt or chaperone, Greenwood generally got the chance to show off her still-impressive dancing skills, her mile-high sideways kicks and comically eccentric coordination as amusing as ever. Greenwood's career slowed in the 1950s, her later films including "Dangerous When Wet" (1953) and "Oklahoma" (1955), the latter in the role of Aunt Eller, which had been written for her but played onstage by Betty Garde. Her last film was the ill-advised musicalized remake of "The Women," "The Opposite Sex" (1956). Wealthy and happily married, Greenwood retired in Los Angeles, where she died at the age of 87 in 1978.
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