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On This Day in History, February 9: She Could ‘Climb Every Mountain’

Peggy Wood was born in Brooklyn on Feb. 9, 1892, the daughter of Eugene Wood and his wife Mary. She was named Margaret after both grandmothers.

As a young girl her family moved from place to place. Her father was a magazine writer who loved music and wanted his daughter to become an opera singer. Wood studied singing under Arthur Van der Linde and later under Madame Calvé. She started singing professionally at the age of 8 and by the time she was 18 was earning $20 a week in the chorus of Oscar Hammerstein’s musical Naughty Marietta.

Soon she became a Broadway fixture in such shows as Maytime (1917), Buddies (1919), Marjolaine (1922), The Clinging Vine (1922) and Champagne, See (1933). Wood’s career was mostly in stage work and she appeared in countless plays on Broadway, Off-Broadway, road companies, summer theaters and drama groups at home and abroad. During WWII, Wood took a company of Blithe Spirit to Europe, where it entertained troops for seven months.

She will always be remembered  fondly for her role as Mama Marta Hansen for eight years in the classic TV series “I Remember Mama.”

Wood’s career in films began in the silents in 1919 when she played opposite Will Rogers in Almost a Husband. Her next film was 10 years later in the part-talkie Wonder of Women. Other films included Handy Andy, The Right to Live, Jalna, A Star is Born, Call It a Day, The Housekeeper’s Daughter, The Bride Wore Boots, Magnificent Doll, Dream Girl and The Story of Ruth.

In 1965, she played the Mother Abbess in the film version of The Sound of Music, for which she received an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress. She sang “Climb Every Mountain” in the film.

Wood also wrote her autobiography in two volumes: How Young You Look (1943) and Arts and Flowers (1963). She served as president of the American National Theatre and Academy and remained honorary president after she retired. Peggy Wood passed away in 1978.

February 9, 2012 - 9:47am


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