Peggy Wood

Who did she play in The Sound of Music?

Peggy Wood played the part of the caring and understanding Mother Abbess, sometimes known as Mother Superior, who was head of the convent where Maria (played by Julie Andrews) was attending.

MotherDirector Robert Wise knew Peggy as a warm and generous person and thought she would be perfect for playing Mother Abbess. The Sound of Music ended up being Peggy Wood’s last big screen appearance, and even though she once had a beautiful singing voice, for this movie her singing had to be dubbed. Margery McKay’s voice was used, which apparently Peggy liked as she thought it sounded similar to her own singing voice. Margery was the wife of the rehearsal pianist, Harper McKay.

In The Sound of Music movie,Peggy Mother Abbess feels unsure about Maria’s suitability in becoming a nun and persuades Maria to take some time away from the abbey and become a governess. When Maria shows her concern, Mother Abbess reminds her that it is God’s will. As the movie progresses, Mother Abbess sees that Maria has fallen in love with the Captain.

It is in these situations that she can always be trusted in giving Maria sound advice:

“Maria, these walls were not meant to shut out problems. You have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live”.


Mother Abbess plays an important part in the von Trapp Family’s escape. She makes sure that Maria and the family are safe and allows them to hide behind the gravestones in the abbey when the Nazi’s are looking for them.

Peggy Wood received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in The Sound of Music.

Peggy was much more than the Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music, she was known as one of the great dames of Broadway.

Before The Sound of Music

Peggy Wood was born on February 9th 1892 in Brooklyn, New York, USA and was named Mary Margaret Wood. She was the daughter of a newspaper columnist, who encouraged her musical ambitions.

Peggy made her stage debut in 1910 and it was to be a career that lasted for six decades. She proved to be more successful on stage than in films, and as Peggy herself has said, this was because

“I was not attractive in the way one was supposed to be out there, and I think that, and the fact that I could act, confused them terribly.”


PeggyShe began her career in musicals and operettas and had a beautiful soprano voice, making her stage debut in the chorus of Naughty Marietta in 1910. She soon became a Broadway singer and actress, and later in the 1920’s and 1930’s she played leading roles in musicals in London and New York.

Here is a list of the stage productions that Peggy Wood appeared in:

Rape of the Belt (Hera) 1960
The Girls in 509 (Aunt Hettie) 1958 – 1959
Transposed Heads (Voice of the Goddess Kali)1958
Charleys Aunt (Donna Lucia d’Alvadorez) 1953-1954
Getting Married (Mrs George Collins) 1951
The Happiest Years (Clara Graves) 1949
Blithe Spirit (Ruth) 1943
Old Acquaintance (Mildred Watson Dave) 1940-1941
Love For Love (Mrs Foresight) 1940
Miss Quis (Liz Quis) 1937
Birthday ( Jennifer Lawrence) 1934-1935
Champagne Sec ( Rosalinde) 1933-1934
Best Sellers (Jaqueline) 1933
A Saturday Night (Marguerite Langdon) 1933
PeggyDress"A Play Without a Name (Anne Russell) 1928-1929
The Merchant of Venice (Portia) 1928
A Lady in Love (Clarissa) 1927
King Henry 1V Part 1 (Lady Percy) 1926
Candida (Candida) 1925
The Bride (Marie Duquesne) 1924
The Clinging Vine (Antoinette Allen) 1922-1923
Marjolaine (Mlle. Marjolaine Lachesnais) 1922
Buddies (Julie) 1919-1920
Maytime (Ottillie Van Zandt) 1917-1918
Love o’Mike (Peggy) 1917
Young America (1915)
Hello Broadway (Elsie Workingson) 1914-1915
The Madcap Duchess (Gilette) 1913-1914
Mlle Modiste (Nanette) 1913
The Lady of the Slipper (Valerie) 1912-1913
The Three Romeos (Vera Steinway) 1911

Peggy Wood was a very talented stage actress.Peggy She also loved the few films and television performances that she was given. However when she was on the screen, she always seemed to play supporting roles: as a secretary in 'A Star is Born’ in 1937 and as Mama in ‘I Remember Mama’ in 1949 (photo right). She also acted in 'Handy Andy' (1934), 'Jalna' (1935), 'Call it a Day' (1937), 'The Housekeepers Daughter', 'The Bride Wore Boots' (1946), 'Magnificent Doll' (1946) and 'Dream Girl' (1948). She later played the part of Naomi in ‘The Story of Ruth’ in 1960.

Peggy Wood married her first husband, the poet and writer, John Weaver, in 1924 and had one child. John later died in 1973 from tuberculosis. In 1946 she married again to William Walling, who worked in the printing business and with whom she had another child.

In 1941 Peggy Wood wrote her autobiography ‘How Young You Look’, and then an updated version was printed, 'Arts and Flowers’ in 1963. She also wrote a biography of John Drew called ‘A Splendid Gypsy', co-wrote a play ‘Miss Quis' and wrote a novel ‘The Star Wagon'. She also wrote articles on the theater and acting for newspapers and magazines.

After The Sound of Music

In 1969 Peggy Wood played Dr Kate Nolan in the TV soap One Life to Live. This half hour program portrayed the lives of wealthy families living in a town called Llanview in Pennsylvania. This was to be her last screen appearance.

Peggy Wood was president of American National Theater and Academy and received many awards for her theatrical work.

She was nominated for The Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in The Sound of Music in 1965.

She was nominated for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in the Drama Series Mama in 1957.

Peggy also received a nomination in 1966 for Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in The Sound of Music.

PeggyPeggy enjoyed retirement, however her husband Will died in 1973 and Peggy died of a cerebral haemorrhage on March 18th 1978 in Stamford, Connecticut. When Peggy died, her television ‘family’ from Mama held a few moments of silence, where they drank some champagne to Peggy, because apparently she loved it! In fact, while in Salzburg filming The Sound of Music (see photo on right with Anna Lee), Peggy was one of the crowd that would regularly be found in the Bristol Hotel in the evenings, where she would sing and listen to Christopher Plummer playing the piano whilst they drank Dom Perignon champagne!

“The love between a family never dies, no matter where it’s members are”
- Peggy Wood as Mama.


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