Biography

American actress Esther Dale concentrated her cinematic efforts on portraying warm-hearted aunts, mothers, nurses, neighbors and shopkeepers--though there were a few domineering dowagers along the way. She began her career on a semi-professional basis with a New England stock troupe operated by her husband, Arthur Beckhard. Esther was the resident character actress in stage productions of the late '20s and early '30s featuring such stars-to-be as Henry Fonda and Margaret Sullavan. She first appeared before the cameras in 1934's Crime Without Passion, filmed in Long Island. Esther then moved to Hollywood, where she popped up with increasing frequency in such films as The Awful Truth (1937) (as Ralph Bellamy's mother), Back Street (1941), Margie (1946) and The Egg and I (1947). Her participation in the last-named film led to a semi-regular stint in Universal's Ma and Pa Kettle series as the Kettles' neighbor Birdie Hicks. Esther Dale's last film, made one year before her death, was the John Wayne vehicle North to Alaska (1960), in which she had one scene as "Woman at Picnic." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi