Blanche Yurka was born in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 18, 1887 to Anton, a librarian, and Carrie Jurka. She had two sisters - Mila (Chicago, Dec 1873) and Rose (St. Paul, March 1882) and two brothers - Charles (St. Paul, July 1884) and Anton (St. Paul, July 1892). Sometime between 1900 and 1910 the family moved from St. Paul to 72nd St in Manhattan, either due to Blanche's career in the theater or due to Anton getting a new job as a librarian with public school system. Both brother later became dentists while Mila was a dressmaker and Rose a teacher. Carrie, Mila, Rose, Blanche and Anton all lived together in Manhattan in 1920. Anton Sr had died in 1917 and Charles had moved to Westchester with his wife, two kids, and mother-in-law. Their sister Mila died in 1927, and according to her obituary - her mother had also passed on by that time and there is no record of Anton after it. By 1930 only Blanche and Rose were still living on 72nd St. According to the marriage notices of his children, Charles also passed away sometime before 1941. Rose passed on September 22, 1964 - leaving Blanche as the last surviving member of her immediate family. However, she did have two nieces and a nephew from her brother Charles - both of whom married in the 1940 and had families of their own.
Blanche was an opera star before she became an actress. She made her Broadway debut in 1910 and established herself as a character actor, also appearing in several films. In addition to her many stage roles, including Queen Gertrude opposite John Barrymore's Hamlet, she was an occasional director and playwright. She remained active in theatre and film until the late 1960s. Her most famous film role is the vicious MAdame Defarge in MGM's 1935 version of "A Tale of Two Cities" (1935), but she was also the compassionate aunt in "The Song of Bernadette". Another memorable role was in "The Southerner". Once married to actor Ian Keith, she died June 6, 1974 in New York City. She was buried at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, Westchester, New York - she shares a grave with "Florence Reed (1880-1967).
4th Ward, St. Paul, Ramsey, Minnesota - May 8, 1885
Jurka, Anthony - wm age 45 born in Bohemia
Jurka, Carrie - wf age 37 born in Bohemia
Jurka, Milida - wf age 12 born in Minnesota
Jurka, Rosa - wf age 2 born in Minnesota
Jurka, Charles A - wm age 9 months, born in Minnesota
16 Doug Ave, 5th Ward, St. Paul, Minn - June 2, 1900
1900 US Federal Census
Jurka, Anton - b June 1846 in Hungary - clerk
Jurka, Caroline - b Nov 1848 in Hungary
Jurka, Mildred - b Dec 1873 in Illinois - seamstress
Jurka, Rosa - b March 1882 in Minnesota
Jurka, Charles - b July 1884 in Minnesota
Jurka, Blanch - b June 1887 in Minnesota
Jurak, Anton - b July 1888 in Minnesota
242 East 72nd St., Manhattan, NY - April 21, 1910
1910 US Federal Census
Jurka, Anton - wm 69, b Aus-Bohemia - librarian for public library
Jurka, Cari - wf age 61, b Aus-Bohemia
Jurka, Mildred - wf age 36, born Illinois - seamstress
Jurka, Rosie - wf age 27, born Minnesota - teacher
Jurka, Charles - wm age 23?, born Minnesota - dentist
Jurka, Blanche - wf age 22, born Minnesota - artist in studio
Jurka, Anton B. - wm age 18, born in Minnesota
242 72nd St., Manhattan, NY - June 16, 1920
1920 US Federal Census
Jurka, Carrie - wf 71 (widow), Nat 1858, born Bohemia
Jurka, Mila (dau) - swf 46, b Chicago, Illinois - dressmaker in shop
Jurka, Rose (dau) - swf 36, b Minnesota - teacher
Jurka, Blanche (dau) - swf 30, b Minnesota - actress
Jurka, Anton (son) - swm 28, b Minnesota - Dentist
US Passport Application - June 30, 1924
Rose Antoinette Jurka [Blanche's sister]
b. March 12, 1883 in St. Paul, Minnesota
father: Anton Jurka, born Bohemia, now deceased
father: immigrated from Bremen
plans: travel to Czechoslovakia and France
stature: 5 ft 10.5 inches
Distinguishing Marks: 2 stiff fingers on right hand.
New York Time (New York, New York) - December 2, 1926
MILA JURKA, a sister of Blanche Yurka, the actress, died at her home, 242 East Seventy-second Street, Tuesday. Besides her sister Blanche she is survived by a sister Rose, and two brothers, Dr. Charles Jurka and Anton B. Burka. Funeral services will be held at her late home at 1:30 tomorrow afternoon.
325 East 72nd St., 14th Ward, Manhattan, NY - April 10, 1930
1930 US Federal Census
Yurka, Rosa A - wf age 47, born Minn, pb Bohemia - teacher
Yurka, Blanche (sister) - wf age 41, born Minn, pb Bohemia - actress
SS Berengaria from Southampton to NYC - Nov 28th to Dec 4th, 1934
Yurka, Blanche - age 43, single, born June 19th, 1891 in St. Paul, Minn.
address: 325 E. 72 St., New York, N.Y.
New York Times (New York, New York) - September 24, 1964
JURKA - Rose A., on Sept 22, 1964, beloved sister of Blanche Yurka. Reposing at New York Funeral Service, 148 E. 74th St. Services at Jan Hus Presbyterian Church, 351 E. 74th St., Friday, 1:30 PM. Cremation at Fresh Pond Crematory.
New York Times (New York, New York) - June 7, 1974
YURKA - Blanche, on June 6, 1974. Aunt of Dr. Edith M. Jurka, Carol Jurka Coggeshall and Dr. Charles E. Jurka. Services at Universal Funeral Chapel, 52nd St and Lexington Ave, Saturday 11 AM in lieu of flowers, contributions to the Actors Fund, 1501 Broadway, New York, NY, 10036 would be appreciated.