Brainard Hamilton was cremated in May 1985 at the Poughkeepsie Rural
and her ashes were scattered in Amenia, NY, which is not too far from
Margaret was born December 9, 1902 in Cleveland,
Ohio, as the youngest of four children to Walter J. and Jennie (Adams)
Hamilton. She was educated
at the prestigious Hathaway Brown School and Wheelock College in Boston.
She was trained to be a kindergarten school teacher, which she
did only a short time before becoming a character actress in films for
seven years prior to being cast in the Wizard of Oz in 1939, not only as
the Wicked Witch of the West, but as Miss Almira Gulch, the kind
neighbor of Dorothy Gale and her grandparents. In 1940, she played in My Little Chickadee and in 1948 the less-known Bungalow 13.
She worked hard to support herself and her son as a single mother, and
she never worked under a studio contract but asked for $1,000 a week for
Ms. Hamilton remained an active actress for many
years, doing commercial and TV sitcom work. She was a noted advocate for
children and animals, and public education.
In the 1940s-1950s she played in The
Couple Next Door, a radio series where she was Aunt Eva/Effie (the
name changed). In 1960, she played maid Elaine Zacharides in
director/producer William Castle’s 13
Ghosts, a horror film of note at the time. In 1965-6, she played
Morticia Adams’ mother Hester Frump in The
Addams Family three times. She had turned down the memorable role of
Grandmama. During that time she was a regular on the CBS soap opera The
Secret Storm as housekeeper Katie. In the early 1970s she played
Miss Peterson on the CBS soap opera As
The World Turns.
In 1976, she played a witch opposite Oscar the
Grouch on Episode #847 on Sesame
Street. That same year she played on the Paul
Lynde Holloween Special as the housekeeper resembling her earlier
Wicked Witch role and introduced Lynde to the rock group Kiss. She also
appeared as herself in an episode of Mister
Rogers’ Neighborhood. In
1979 and 1982, she played veteran journalist Thea Taft on Lou
Grant. She finally retired from acting in 1982, at age 80.
She married Paul Boynton Meserve on June 13, 1931,
divorcing in 1938. She never remarried. They had one son, Hamilton
Wadsworth Meserve who she solely raised. Her three grandchildren are
Christopher, Scott and Margaret Meserve.
She died on May 16, 1985 at age 82 in Salisbury,
Connecticut. She will forever be remembered by millions of people
throughout the world as the “Wicked Witch of the West” in the Wizard
of Oz. According to the website Wikipedia, Ms. Hamilton was ranked #4 in
the American Film Institute’s list of the 50 Best Movie Villains of
All Time, making her the highest ranked female villain.