Her Broadway debut was in Victor Herbert’s Naughty Marietta (1910), then appeared in several other shows before making her breakthrough as Ottilie in Maytime (1917), in which the duet she sang with Charles Purcell, Sigmund Romberg’s ‘Will You Remember?’ became a huge hit (and is often known by it first line: ‘Sweetheart, sweetheart, sweetheart!’). Wood’s sparkling stage presence brought her a steady flow of good parts in plays and musical comedies not only on Broadway but also in London’s West End. Best known of all her London roles was when she played Sarah Millick in Noël Coward’s Bitter Sweet (1929). Her big songs were ‘Zigeuner’ and ‘The Bitter Sweet Waltz’ (another song known often by its first line: ‘I’ll See You Again’).
On Broadway again, she was in the original American cast of Coward’s Blithe Spirit. Later, now concentrating on non-musical roles, Wood played the mother in the very popular American television drama series Mama aka I Remember Mama (1949-57). Wood had made films from 1919 onwards, including Wonder Of Women (1929), The Right To Live (1935), Jalna (1935, from Mazo De La Roche’s bestselling novel), A Star Is Born (1937), The Housekeeper’s Daughter (1939), Magnificent Doll (1946, which starred Ginger Rogers as First Lady Dolly Madison), Dream Girl (1948, starring Betty Hutton), and The Story Of Ruth (1960). Only in the last of these was Wood’s role anything other than minor, but she made up for this relative anonymity with her last screen role. Although only on screen for a short time, her performance as Mother Superior in the film version of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s The Sound Of Music (1965) brought her an Oscar nomination, even though her singing on the film’s soundtrack of ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’ was dubbed by Margery McKay.
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