‘This is Part 3 in a series. See also Part 1 and Part 2.
*The Star Juror Betty Field s1e24 aired March 15, 1963
Betty Field bio:
Betty Field and John Wayne in Shepard of the Hills 1941.
Betty’s fascination with the theatre was ignited in her early teenage years and led her to enroll at the American Academy of Dramatic Art by 1932. She marked her professional debut in 1933, performing in a summer stock production of “The First Mrs. Fraser,” and went on to secure stage roles in various locations. Her passion for theatre took her all the way to London, where she landed a job in a theatre production of “She Loves Me” at the beginning of 1934.
Her Broadway premiere, in November 1934, was as an understudy for the comedy “Page Miss Glory,” directed by George Abbott, in which she also played a minor role. Despite her rather unassuming appearance and distinct, monotone voice, Betty began to regularly perform in comedic plays, often under Abbott’s direction. She received high acclaim for her roles in plays such as “Three Men on a Horse” (1935), “Boy Meets Girl” (1936), “Room Service” (1937), and “The Primrose Path” (1939).
Paramount executives were impressed with Betty’s portrayal of Barbara, Henry Aldrich’s girlfriend, in the stage production of “What a Life” (1938), and they subsequently signed her to a seven-year contract after the play was adapted into a film in 1939. Throughout the 1940s, Betty played a variety of leading ingénue and supporting roles. One of her early career highlights was her performance as Mae, a farm girl, in the film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic novel “Of Mice and Men” (1939), which starred Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney. However, despite her talent, Betty didn’t quite achieve stardom, partly due to her reserved demeanor and tendency to avoid the Hollywood scene.
Betty had the privilege of acting alongside some of Hollywood’s most esteemed leading men, such as Fredric March in “Victory” (1940) and “Tomorrow, the World!” (1944), John Wayne in “The Shepherd of the Hills” (1941), Robert Cummings in “Flesh and Fantasy” (1943), and Joel McCrea in “The Great Moment” (1944).” However, her most remarkable performance was in the heart-wrenching role of the tormented daughter mistreated by her father, played by Claude Rains, in the classic drama “Kings Row” (1942).
Flesh and Fantasy was an eerie and whimsical part for her, she stars in one of the vignettes as Henrietta a dowdy woman who comes upon a mysterious mask during Mardis Gras and then goes to a party festooned with regalia, turbulence, and a romantic game of cat-and-mouse with the handsome Michael (Robert Cummings) A beautifully tragic tale of loneliness and the essence of what beauty is. The use of masks creates a nightmarish landscape of human disconnection.
After delivering a powerful performance as Nona Tucker in the extraordinary depiction of Americana hardship lensed by impressionist director Jean Renoir (one of my favorite auteurs) – “The Southerner” (1945), Betty made the decision not to renew her contract with Paramount.
Zachary Scott and Betty Field in The Southerner 1945.
Instead, she took a hiatus from appearing in pictures and returned to her first love – the stage and Broadway. There, she appeared in distinguished plays like “The Voice of the Turtle” and “Dream Girl,” which was directed by her husband John Abbott, and won the New York Drama Critics Circle award in 1946. Her portrayal of Hedvig in Ibsen’s “The Wild Duck” also received critical acclaim.
Betty came back to work at Paramount cast as Daisy Buchanan in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby co-starring Alan Ladd. It wound up being a misadventure for the actress when the picture flopped with some critics claiming she was miscast and not glamorous enough and Ladd too was accused of being lackluster. However, Betty remained beloved on Broadway, showing off her versatility in plays such as Twelfth Night, The Rat Race, Ladies of the Corridor, and The Fourposter playing opposite Burgess Meredith, both taking over for Jessica Tandy and husband Hume Cronyn.
Betty’s expressive features had become tougher, more weathered, and bleak by the time she greeted Hollywood hello again in the mid-1950s. Still, she thrived as a character actress, portraying a number of mundane, wearisome, and unstylish roles yet with the same Betty Field authenticity. She brought credibility to a range of flawed provincial mothers and wives in films such as the highly-regarded Picnic (1955) with Kim Novak, Bus Stop starring Marilyn Monroe, and Lana Turner in the melodrama soaper Peyton Place 1957.
Even her stage roles reflected the changing face of her acting parts with productions of The Seagull, Waltz of the Toreadors, Touch of the Poet, and Separate Tables. And in the 1950s and 1960s, she began to work steadily in television.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Betty also worked steadily on television, taking on a variety of prominent roles. She continued to act at a consistent pace, although she preferred to avoid the limelight.
Betty’s final film appearance was a small but notable role as a streetwalker in Clint Eastwood’s Coogan’s Bluff (1968). Continuing to work on stage she was fearless as the imperishable Amanda in Eugene O’Neil’s The Glass Menagerie and the fragile Aunt Birdie in The Little Foxes, and in 1971 she turned in her last performance on stage as the mother Beatrice in The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds, a part that in 1972, Joanne Woodward tackled in Alvin Sargent’s film adaption.
Betty passed away at age 57 from a fatal cerebral hemorrhage in 1973, just before filming was set to begin for The Day of the Locust (1975), in which she had been cast as the flamboyant evangelist ‘Big Sister.’ The role was later taken over by Geraldine Page. Betty Field is an often criminally overlooked Hollywood actress who truly contributed some of the finest performances on stage, film, and television.
“You act like you’d like to see me electrocuted.”- George
“A couple of shock treatments wouldn’t do you no harm.”– Betty Field
Slamming the fridge door and shuffling her feet. Jenny confronts George’s peculiar behavior on the jury.
Jenny – “Would the star juror care to give me some justification for his behavior George- “What behavior? What behavior! The behavior that has brought down ridicule and scandal over our heads!”
George-“What you talkin’ bout Jenny?”
Jenny- “Have you gone deaf and blind?… Unplug your ears… open your eyes! George Davies the most respected highly thought-of citizen in this town protecting this infidel, this murderer… No wonder you get indigestion.”
In this darkly humorous episode, Dean Jagger stars as George a mild-mannered Pharmacist who is overcome with murderous lust one afternoon after putting the moves on Lola the town squeeze. When she spurns his advances he chokes her to death to keep her quiet.
Betty Field is shrill and unnerving, playing his fish wife, who annoys all of us with her whining, shrewish voice, her needling and berating George in a way that gets under the skin. Though I can see the tendency to want to needle and berate George.
Lola’s hot-tempered boyfriend J.J. is later arrested for the crime and put on trial. Knowing the boy is innocent, and not able to prove it without his confessing his own guilt, George sees a way out of his dilemma when he is appointed to the jury.
Through his efforts, J.J. is found innocent after he poses so many doubts to the rest of the jurors that he goes free.
The townsfolk boycott George’s store for helping the kid go free. And they treat him like an outcast. His wife treats him like he’s disgraced the family, saying that he’s embarrassing her and that her mother was right all along, there was insanity in his family.
But the townsfolk still believe he did it and persecute him and his mother. This irritates the vengeful townspeople so much that they force him to want to commit suicide and he gets shot by George when he struggles to get the gun away from him. He can’t do anything right.
George can’t deal with his guilty conscience and being hounded by the town and finally cracks up trying to convince them he murdered Lola and shot J.J.
But they just dismiss him as a meek, passionless man not capable of murder and just in need of rest. Having suffered a nervous breakdown from the pressures of the trial…
It begins… the story takes place somewhere in the South. It opens with the mild-mannered storekeeper George Davies and his wife Jenny dozing off on their picnic blanket near the rest of the townsfolk who are spending a lazy day.
George wanders off leaving Jenny sleeping under newspapers used as a blanket. He stumbles onto the town’s young stunner Lola Penderwaller,(Cathy Merchant plays Lola and had a brief screen career from 1961 to 1965 that included roles in four episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and a part in Roger Corman’s The Haunted Palace 1963) who is a spirited flirt boasting her beautiful body in a scant swimsuit. Director Herschel Daugherty subtly emphasizes the contrast between Lola and his dowdy wife Jenny who is back on the blanket, snoring like a truck exhaust and oblivious. Lola teases George, leading him on only to a certain, harmless point, offering him a beer. When George gets sexually aroused, he tries to grab a kiss, and Lola rebuffs his advances. The normally gutless George violently slaps her and proceeds to choke the life out of her.
In a tense moment, Will Hutchins who plays Lola’s boyfriend, the uncultivated and untamed J.J. Fenton floats by in his rowboat, the cowardly George camouflages himself behind a bush then sneaks back to the picnic blanket, taking his place next to the clueless Jenny.
“George here’s that nice fat neck you were eyeing before church… you want it now?”
Regular television character actor Crahan Denton seen on several of Boris Karloff’s anthology series Thriller plays Sheriff Walter Watson who comes to the picnic with his sons to fish at the lake. He greets George and Jenny who offers them her fried chicken and ironically wisecracks that George loves the necks. It’s an inside joke that George finds secretly comical, but it shows on his face.
Jenny asks the same question every time she sees Sheriff Watson. Are there any criminals in jail this month? He remarks ”the only criminal in our town is time.” “Well, he’s a criminal everywhere I wish you could lock Old Man Time up.” Sheriff -” That would be alright. If we could just send Old Man Time to the electric chair.”
That reference hits George a little too close.
Lola’s lifeless body is found in the woods by the Sheriff’s son and George goes back home. There is one instance of black humor when George references ‘necks’ telling Jenny that the sheriff is “up to his neck in trouble.” George decides to go to his local bar to grab a beer, and on walking through the door the crowd accuses him of being the murderer. They all begin to laugh and tell him that they’ve been saying that to everyone who comes into the bar.
Jenny’s beau J. J. ( a role that I could easily have seen James Best take on, being adept at playing young handsome unruly types). J.J. breaks into a frenzy inside his jail cell, violently tearing apart his mattress. The sheriff sends George to his pharmacy to bring back a sedative. He keeps insisting, “You know I didn’t kill her.” Of course, George knows the truth.
George makes an anonymous phone call to the sheriff, disguising his voice, he confesses to the murder but hangs up before revealing his identity. J.J. is released on bail by his mother and begins dating Alice. Back at home with his mother and Alice, his mother is working as a laundrywoman to make ends meet. J.J. is certain he’s going to fry. Alice stands out from J.J.’s humble mother (Katherine Squire) in the downbeat atmosphere of their broken-down house, with the racy way she carries herself.
George calls J.J. to give him an anonymous warning. He also sends the judge a letter and winds up serving on the jury.
The trial begins and George consumed with guilt over J.J. being wrongly accused, insinuates himself and disrupts the courtroom proceedings. He becomes ‘the star juror’, asking a slew of questions that point to reasonable doubt.
That night, he finds a doll in a chair and a sign that says ‘electric chair’s tacked onto his back door. The jury comes back with a not-guilty verdict and J.J. is set free. When George leaves the courthouse, everyone in town now spurns him. Some of the older boys in town go to J.J.’s house and throw mud on his mother’s clean wash that drifts on the clothesline. The townsfolk even boycott George’s pharmacy, bewildered he cries to Jenny, “Well, what have I done, Jenny? Have I committed a crime? You act like you’d like to see me electrocuted.”
J.J. and his new girlfriend Alice (Jennifer West) show up at the pharmacy, looking like a true bad boy, with a black leather jacket, cowboy hat, and black boots, after all, he is the town’s murderous outcast and exile. He already started out from the wrong side of daylight, poor white trash, his mother taking in wash. Like Lola, he chooses to pal around with girls who don’t have any class. Lola was known as the town slut, who lived in a motel and Alice was a girl from up in the hills.
“He’s already got himself a new one, Alice from up in the mountains.”
Jenny gets hysterical, “George Davies if you had wanted to kill me, you couldn’t have done a better job if you had used a knife, you couldn’t have caused more pain. You not only had to smear my name and the name of your child with scandal and ridicule, you had to dishonor us too. By going MAD!!!!
‘Ridicule and scandal over our heads!”
”You’re not getting out of this house George!”
It doesn’t matter that George had managed to persuade the jury that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict J.J. and he is found not guilty. The town goes crazy.
After he loses his job, J.J. is offered the job of strangling chickens, the suggestion once again of George’s mode of killing Lola.
George tries to confess to the Sheriff. “I panicked and choked her and ran. Taking with me the weapons of the act. My and.”
J.J. gets angry with George and doesn’t think he did him any favors helping out.”’You couldn’t hurt a fly. I don’t want your lies to save me. I don’t want your burnt offering.”
George goes to the crime scene and hears haunting voices in his head accusing him of being a “killer.” Desperate for absolution, he confesses to the sheriff, but his admission falls on deaf ears. Meanwhile, a group of young men vandalize J.J.’s home and brutally beat him until Alice intervenes with a gun. George rushes to J.J.’s side and prevents him from taking his own life, but in the struggle, the gun goes off and J.J. is fatally shot.
The episode draws to a close with the sheriff telling George to go home to rest. George bursts into laughter as he realizes by the end of the ordeal, he’ll never be taken seriously. The irony and fatalistic tone of the episode has been flipped on its head, Lola’s murder will never find closure and we are left with a touch of macabre humor from the situation.
The episode is directed by Herschel Daugherty who directed 16 episodes, some of the best of Boris Karloff Thriller including The Grim Reaper starring William Shatner, Henry Daniels, Elizabeth Allen, and Natalie Schafer as mystery writer Beatrice Graves, and also Prisoner in the Mirror. He was responsible for 3 of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and episodes of Suspicion 1958, Lux Playhouse 1959.
In the 1960s he appeared in tv shows including, 5 episodes of Checkmate 1960-61, 2 episodes of 87th Precinct 1961-62, Alcoa Theatre 1962-63, Kraft Mystery Theatre 1963, a few of The Twilight Zone, 2 episodes of East Side/West Side 1963-64, Mr. Novak, For the People, The Doctors and The Nurses, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Dr. Kildare, Felony Squad, Mission: Impossible, The Time Tunnel, The Rat Patrol, Hawaii Five-O, It Takes a Thief, Star Trek, an episode ‘Elegy for a Vampire of Circle of Fear and Police Woman in 1975.
The Grim Reaper [Essay on Thriller with Boris Karloff] “To me death is no more than a business partner”
He also directed several made-for-TV movies, Winchester 73 (1967), The Victim 1972, and She Cried Murder 1973.)
The Star Juror is James Bridges’s second script for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour which aired on CBS on Friday, March 15, 1963, It was based on a 1958 French crime novel called The Seventh Juror by Francis Didelot.
The Star Juror stars Dean Jagger started out in vaudeville and on the radio before starting his movie career in 1929 and his TV career in 1948. He won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his role in Twelve O’Clock High in 1949. He also co-starred in master director Fritz Lang’s Western Union (1941). He was also a regular on the TV series Mr. Novak from 1963 to 1965 as the high school principal. He also appeared in The Twilight Zone episode Static. He also appeared in 1972 he appeared in an episode of Columbo -The Most Crucial Game, featuring Robert Culp a regular murderer on the show.
Playing the sheriff is familiar character actor Crahan Denton who appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Presents in Coming Home and Incident in a Small Jail. He appeared in perhaps one of the top five episodes of Boris Karloff’s anthology series Pigeons From Hell.
Pigeons From Hell [Essay on Boris Karloff’s Thriller] “Is anybody home?”
J.J.’s mother is played by Katherine Squire (1903-1995), who was on screen from 1949 to 1989 and who gave similarly odd performances in two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Pen Pal, and Man From the South starring Steve McQueen. Squire plays Peter Lorre’s wife.
She was also in two other episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, as well as episodes of The Twilight Zone and Thriller’s Portrait Without a Face. Her husband, George Mitchell plays the judge and was also a busy character actor from 1935 to 1973. He appeared in four episodes of the Hitchcock series, including Forty Detectives Later and The Black Curtain. Like Squire, he could be seen on The Twilight Zone and Thriller; he also appeared in the classic western, 3:10 to Yuma in 1957.
Norman Lloyd’s daughter Josie plays George’s daughter… you can see Josie in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode Body in the Barn starring this feature’s star Lillian Gish. Josie also can be seen as Mayor Pike’s daughter Josephine who sings Flow Gently Sweet Afton in sour tones and the neurotic wallflower Lydia Crosswaithe on The Andy Griffith Show.
*THREE WIVES TOO MANY – s2e12 -Teresa Wright- aired Jan.4, 1964
TERESA WRIGHT BIO:
“I only ever wanted to be an actress, not a star.”
Teresa Wright – lamblike at first glance, but don’t let the soft smile lead you to believe that there isn’t something gutsy within that charming glow. She is one of the most engaging actors who showed a resolute luster, and independence to take on Hollywood with the same veracity she pursued wicked Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt.
Teresa Wright was not only endearing but there was a lack of ceremony and authenticity to her acting and her personal life She was discovered by Samuel Goldwyn and gained early recognition for her exceptional performances in her first three films, becoming the only actor to receive Oscar nominations for each of them. Wright earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress and one for Mrs. Miniver.
It stands to reason that Times drama editor Edwin Schallert described Wright’s burgeoning career as “one of the most remarkably brilliant for a young player in Hollywood.”
Despite being a Hollywood star, she remained true to herself and rejected the pretentiousness that came along with being a star. She achieved Hollywood stardom on her own terms, without selling out for the sake of glamour.
Teresa Wright was resolute in her refusal to pose for photographs while wearing bathing suits, as well as to subject herself to superficial interviews in gossipy fan magazines. And at first, Goldwyn told her he was not of “the bathing suit school of Hollywood producers.”
Born Muriel Teresa Wright in Harlem, New York City. While attending the exclusive Rosehaven School in Tenafly, New Jersey she discovered a passion for acting after watching Helen Hayes in “Victoria Regina.”
While attending high school in Maplewood, N.J., Wright participated in theatrical productions. Although one teacher advised her to pursue typing instead, a public-speaking teacher mentored her and provided her with plays to read. He also arranged for her to spend two summers at the Wharf Theater in Provincetown.
In the two summers preceding her graduation, after receiving a scholarship, she began apprenticing at the Wharf Theatre in Massachusetts appearing in such plays as The Vinegar Tree and Susan and God.
She performed in school plays and graduated from Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey graduating in 1938, then made the decision to pursue acting professionally and then moved to New York.
Wright had to drop her first name when she found out that another actress named Muriel Wright was already registered with Actors Equity.
In 1938, in her first play, she landed an understudy role in Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” on Broadway and then toured in the play.
It was a minor role, but also served as a chance to understudy the lead ingénue character of Emily, actress Dorothy Maguire however when Maguire failed to return, Teresa continued in the same role under Martha Scott. Wright would eventually replace Martha Scott when the actress adapted the role of Emily in the film version.
Following her successful stage performances, Wright made her remarkable Broadway debut as Mary in Life With Father in 1939. This caught the attention of playwright Lillian Hellman, who recommended her to Goldwyn for the screen version of Hellman’s The Little Foxes.
It was during her one-year run performance in Life with Father when a talent scout from Goldwyn saw her and Teresa Wright landed her breakout role as Alexandra in The Little Foxes in 1941.
Herbert Marshall Teresa Wright and Bette Davis in The Little Foxes 1941.
She gained recognition for her work alongside Bette Davis (who played the cold calculating mother Regina) and Patricia Collinge who reprised her unparalleled Broadway role as the mercurial Aunt Birdie) in the film.
At that time she had signed a contract with MGM but refused to do publicity stunts or cheese-cake shots that would turn her into a centerfold:
“The aforementioned Teresa Wright shall not be required to pose for photographs in a bathing suit unless she is in the water. Neither may she be photographed running on the beach with her hair flying in the wind. Nor may she pose in any of the following situations: In shorts, playing with a cocker spaniel; digging in a garden; whipping up a meal; attired in firecrackers and holding skyrockets for the Fourth of July; looking insinuatingly at a turkey for Thanksgiving; wearing a bunny cap with long ears for Easter; twinkling on prop snow in a skiing outfit while a fan blows her scarf; assuming an athletic stance while pretending to hit something with a bow and arrow.”
Though she became the unwilling pin-up girl, Teresa Wright became Goldwyn’s biggest overall star during the 1940s.
Teresa received Oscar nominations for her roles in “Mrs. Miniver” (1942) the only movie she made for her studio MGM and “The Pride of the Yankees” (1942), winning the Best Supporting Actress trophy for Mrs. Miniver.
In both roles, Teresa Wright gave heartwarming performances as the granddaughter in the sentimental war-era Mrs. Miniver and as baseball icon Lou Gehrig’s kindhearted wife in Pride of the Yankees starring opposite Gary Cooper. Wright now one of the most appealing newcomers in Hollywood had garnered two Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress nods in the same year.
She holds the record for receiving back-to-back Academy Award nominations in her first three film roles, which still stands today.
Teresa Wright received top billing for Shadow of a Doubt a film that was her personal favorite and which earned every bit of that limelight in Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller placing Wright at the center of the story as serial killer Joseph Cotten’s unsuspecting niece Charlie.
Unsuspecting at first…
When Young Charlie (Wright) is over the moon about her favorite Uncle Charlie coming to her sleeping California town for a visit, the whole family celebrates his arrival. Her mother Emma, Charlie’s older sister (Patricia Collinge who appeared with Wright in The Little Foxes and Casanova Brown) can’t wait to dote on her baby brother. But soon, it comes to light that Charlie might have left strangled wealthy women in his wake, and in fact, may be The Merry Widow killer the police have been furiously chasing down up and down the coast. Now young Charlie who once dreamt of leaving her boring existence behind has stumbled onto a terrifying secret that threatens her life.
Teresa Wright manages to give a nuanced performance as Charlie Newton who daringly holds her own in a game of cat and mouse with Joseph Cotten, all tangled up in danger as she carefully draws out his murderous impulses.
Wright never falters or is self-conscious in the role and her chemistry with Cotten is electric. She brings a complex emotional depth to young Charlie that elevates the film beyond its thriller trappings. Overall, Wright’s performance in Shadow of a Doubt is a testament to her skill as an actress and her ability to imbue even the most seemingly ordinary moments with profound emotional gravity.
Young Charlie is in alignment with killer Charlie’s acumen for subterfuge. In the house, all cracks on as simple as one of Emmie’s cakes if you don’t crack the eggs. But in the shadows beyond the edges, the family is unaware of, the two characters diverge – one set on self-preservation with a malignant disgust for fat lazy wives who live off their husbands and the other who seeks out the truth and bends toward humanity. Their same names are where it begins and ends. And Wright is a glowing jewel in the blackness of Hitchcock’s nightmare.
Uncle Charlie: The cities are full of women, middle-aged widows, husbands dead, husbands who’ve spent their lives making fortunes, working and working. And then they die and leave their money to their wives, their silly wives. And what do the wives do, these useless women? You see them in the hotels, the best hotels, every day by the thousands, drinking their money, eating their money, losing the money at the bridge, playing all day and all night, smelling of money, proud of their jewelry but of nothing else, horrible, faded, fat, greedy women.”
Young Charlie: ”But they’re alive. They’re human beings.”
Uncle Charlie: ”Are they? Are they, Charlie? Are they human or are they fat, wheezing animals, hmm? And what happens to animals when they get too fat and too old?”
After marrying screenwriter Niven Busch in 1942, and appearing in the disappointing Casanova Brown 1944, Teresa Wright returned to form as Peggy Stephenson in William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives, featuring the ensemble cast of the Academy Award-winning film in 1946. Wright played the caring daughter of Fredric March and Myrna Loy who develops a romantic connection with the troubled veteran played by Dana Andrews.
Teresa Wright told friends that in William Wyler’s post-war drama, she was relieved to play an aspiring home wrecker.
“I’m going to break that marriage up! I can’t stand it seeing Fred tied to a woman he doesn’t love and who doesn’t love him. Oh, it’s horrible for him. It’s humiliating and it’s killing his spirit. Somebody’s got to help him. “
At last, she could finally shed her wholesome persona trying to save the man she loved from a no-good tramp (Virginia Mayo as Marie) who barely knew Fred (Dana Andrews), but director Wyler couldn’t even give her credit- calling her “the best cryer in the business.” And Goldwyn continued to cast her as the unworldly, vulnerable lasses.
1946 with Dana Andrews in The Best Years of Our Lives.
In 1946 she would star in Lewis Allen’s romantic drama The Imperfect Lady with leading man Ray Milland.
Next, Wright played Thor Callum in her husband’s screenplay for Raoul Walsh’s Pursued 1947 – a western starring Robert Mitchum and Judith Anderson about a young boy plagued by nightmares of his family’s brutal murder who is taken in by a neighboring family. He falls for his kind-hearted adoptive sister, but he faces trouble from his hateful adoptive brother and enigmatic uncle who want him dead.
So In 1948 she was once again cast as an innocent waif Lark Ingoldsby in the romantic drama Enchantment.
And while she was unhappy with the picture, the critics sang its praises-Newsweek said she “glows as the Cinderella who captivated three men,” and The New York Times said of her performance that she “plays with that breathless, bright-eyed rapture which she so remarkably commands.”
But Wright had enough of playing Cinderellas and after refusing to go on a long publicity tour promoting the film, Goldwyn canceled her $ 5,000-a-week contract and publicly criticize her as “uncooperative.”
“I will gladly work for less if by doing so I can retain the common decency without which the most acclaimed job becomes intolerable,” she told The Times during the wildly public brouhaha more than half a century ago.
Teresa Wright would wind up starring in three films for studios other than Samuel Goldwyn Productions, and in the end, Enchantment opposite David Niven and Farley Granger would turn out to be her last picture with Goldwyn after she refused to star in the studio’s next film.
In December 1948, after rebelling against the studio system that brought her fame, Teresa Wright had a public falling out with Samuel Goldwyn, which resulted in the cancellation of Wright’s contract with his studio. In a statement published in The New York Times, Goldwyn cited as reasons her refusal to publicize the film Enchantment, and her being “uncooperative” and refusing to “follow reasonable instructions”.
In her written response, Wright denied Goldwyn’s charges and expressed no regret over losing her $5,000 per week contract.
“I would like to say that I never refused to perform the services required of me; I was unable to perform them because of ill health. I accept Mr. Goldwyn’s termination of my contract without protest—in fact, with relief. The types of contracts standardized in the motion picture industry between players and producers are archaic in form and absurd in concept. I am determined never to set my name to another one … I have worked for Mr. Goldwyn for seven years because I consider him a great producer, and he has paid me well, but in the future, I shall gladly work for less if by doing so I can retain my hold upon the common decencies without which the most glorified job becomes intolerable.” –Teresa Wright
Even though her removal resulted in Wright losing a salary of $125,000, it did not diminish her capability to secure distinguished parts. Despite working on her subsequent film for a significantly lower budget of $20,000, it turned out to be another timeless classic – a post-war era drama that was released in 1950. Teresa gave a marvelous performance in Fred Zimmerman’s The Men starring newcomer Marlon Brando.
Working freelance with other studios she appeared in several inconsequential pictures that were never critical successes, though she did star in screenwriter husband’s western thriller Pursued in 1947 starring alongside Robert Mitchum, and another of his, The Capture in 1950 another crime western starring with Lew Ayers.
She starred in Something to Live For in 1952 directed by George Stevens, starring Ray Milland and Joan Fontaine.
She appeared in California Conquest in 1952, Count the Hours! 1953 a film noir directed by Don Siegel and starring Shadow of a Doubt co-star Macdonald Carey. And after that, she appeared in Track of the Cat in 1954 and Escapade in Japan in 1957.
In 1952 Teresa Wright made her foray into television with an episode of Robert Montgomery Presents. The show was called And Never Come Back and 2 episodes of Betty Crocker Star Matinee.
Also in 1952, she starred with Joseph Cotton in Andrew L. Stone’s The Steel Trap an obscure film noir about a Los Angeles bank manager (Cotten) who comes up with a plan to steal money from the bank’s vault and flee to Brazil with unsuspecting wife Laurie. (Wright) Andrew L. Stone made quite a few off-the-beaten-path noirs like A Blueprint for Murder in 1953, The Night Holds Terror in 1955, and Cry Terror! In 1958.
In 1953 she was cast in The Actress, although she was only in her early 30s, Teresa Wright began taking on character roles, even playing Jean Simmons’ mother.
The Actress directed by George Cukor and written by Ruth Gordon it is an account of the actress/playwright Ruth Gordon’s life. Teresa Wright plays Annie Jones, with Jean Simmons as Ruth Gordon Jones. The film also stars Spencer Tracy, Ian Wolfe, Anthony Perkins, Kay Williams, and Mary Wickes.
During a period in which Teresa Wright struggled to find dramatic roles, though immersed in her distinguished career in the theater she started to do considerable work for television starting with live dramatic anthology series.
The Golden Age of TV provided another lifeline to active work. She remained the strong actor that she was in productions including a TV adaptation of the beloved holiday classic, The Miracle on 34th Street (1955), in which she played the role Maureen O’Hara brought to life.
Wright was keeping very busy on television. She would appear as Mary Todd Lincoln in Love is Eternal installment of General Electric Theater and that same year in 1955 she appear on The Elgin Hour, Your Play Time, The Loretta Young Show, 3 episodes o Lux Video Theatre, The Alcoa Hour and a TV movie called The Devil’s Disciple. In 1956 she appeared on Screen Directors Playhouse and 2 episodes of Four Star Playhouse, 3 episodes of Climax!, Star Stage, The Star and the Story, Celebrity Playhouse, Studio 57, and 2 episodes of The 20th Century-Fox Hour.
Between 1952 and 1957 she appeared on several episodes of Schlitz Playhouse and The Ford Television Theatre, also in 1957 with an episode of The Web and Playhouse 90. Between 1954-1962 she made 5 appearances on The United States Steel Hour.
She also began shifting her focus to the stage, where she found the dependability her acting craved. She appeared in productions of Salt of the Earth in 1952, Bell, Book and Candle, and The Country Girl in 1953. In 1954 she starred in Henry James’ The Heiress and in The Rainmaker in 1955. In 1957 she co-starred with Pat Hingle in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs returning to Broadway.
Throughout her television career, she received three Emmy nominations. The first nomination was for her portrayal of Annie Sullivan in the 1957 CBS adaptation of “The Miracle Worker.” Her second nomination was for her role as the renowned photographer in “The Margaret Bourke-White Story” on NBC in 1960. Lastly, she was nominated for a guest appearance on the short-lived CBS series “Dolphin Cove” in 1989.
She starred as Ruth Simmons in the captivating, low-budget The Search for Bridey Murphy (1956) which tells the story of an American housewife who believed she lived before. And in 1958 she appeared in the film noir crime drama The Restless Years with John Saxon and Sandra Dee.
And In 1959, she married playwright Robert Anderson, continuing to focus on the stage and working in television. She appeared in Anderson’s emotional drama I Never Sang for My Father in 1968 in the role of Alice.
The film would be adapted to the screen in 1970 and starred Gene Hackman and Melvyn Douglas, with Estelle Parson in the role of the adult daughter Alice.
In 1969, Teresa Wright would be cast as Jean Simmon’s mother giving the strongest performance in Richard Brook’s bleak drama The Happy Ending starring Jean Simmons as a disillusioned wife who runs away from her stifling married life in a depressed fugue binging on Casablanca, popping pills and drinking.
Wright Was just 11 years older than star Jean Simmons who played her daughter in The Actress in 1953 and The Happy Ending in 1969.
During the 1960s, Teresa Wright returned to the New York stage, starring in three plays: Mary, Mary (1962) at the Helen Hayes Theatre as Mary McKellaway, I Never Sang for My Father (1968) at the Longacre Theatre as Alice, and Who’s Happy Now? (1969) at the Village South Theatre as Mary Hallen. She also toured across the United States in stage productions of Mary, Mary (1962), Tchin-Tchin (1963) as Pamela Pew-Picket, and The Locksmith (1965) as Katherine Butler Hathaway.
Teresa made numerous television appearances throughout the decade, including on CBS’s The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1964), NBC’s Bonanza (1964), CBS’s The Defenders (1964, 1965), and CBS Playhouse (1969). She would also appear in numerous made-for-TV movies.
In 1975, Teresa Wright appeared as Linda Loman opposite George C. Scott in the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. In addition to her previous roles, she depicted the rigid Aunt Lily in a 1975 revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! on Broadway, as well as in “Mornings at Seven” during its Broadway run and subsequent tour.
And in 1980, she won a Drama Desk Award as a member of the Outstanding Ensemble Performance for her appearance in the revival of Mornings at Seven. During her appearance in Los Angeles for a performance in Mornings at Seven at the Ahmanson Theater, she shared a bit of her wisdom with aspiring actors in a USC class in 1982. “I wouldn’t pursue film, and I didn’t back then. I’d use every angle to try to get into a repertory company.”
In 1989, she earned her third Emmy Award nomination for her performance in the CBS drama series Dolphin Cove. Teresa also appeared in Murder, She Wrote in the episode “Mr. Penroy’s Vacation”. Her final television role was in an episode of the CBS drama series Picket Fences in 1996.
Teresa Wright’s later film appearances included a major role as Laura Roberts in Somewhere in Time (1980), playing the grandmother in The Good Mother (1988) alongside Diane Keaton, and her last role as Matt Damon’s eccentric landlady Miss Birdie in John Grisham’s The Rainmaker (1997), which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
“I’m just not the glamour type. Glamour girls are born, not made. And the real ones can be glamorous even if they don’t wear magnificent clothes. I’ll bet Lana Turner would look glamorous in anything.”
Teresa Wright was a masterful actor, luminous, unflinchingly genuine, and too – she is unforgettably resilient, and undeniably beautiful.
According to A. Scott Berg’s book, “Goldwyn: A Biography”, it is stated that Samuel Goldwyn “offered her a contract that night” (pg. 358). However, in a 1959 interview with Reel Classics, Teresa expressed her interest in playing the part of Alexandra in “The Little Foxes” but was hesitant about committing to a long-term studio contract. Despite this, after the film wrapped and her attempts to return to the stage were unsuccessful, she ultimately signed with Goldwyn and remained in Hollywood. (The interview is archived in the Columbia University Oral History Research Office.)
Her nickname was “Mooch”.
Married two famous Playwrights: Niven Busch and Robert Anderson, both also native New Yorkers.
Was the first female star signed under contract to Samuel Goldwyn Productions.
Was supposed to star in The Bishop’s Wife opposite David Niven and Cary Grant, which is a vehicle that Goldwyn had bought especially for her.
In honor of her heartfelt performance in The Pride of the Yankees (1942), when Teresa Wright died in 2005, when the roll call of former Yankees who had passed on was announced, her name was read out among all the ballplayers.
Along with Fay Bainter, Barry Fitzgerald, Jessica Lange, Sigourney Weaver, Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Emma Thompson, Julianne Moore, Jamie Foxx, Cate Blanchett, and Scarlett Johansson, she is one of only twelve actors to receive Academy Award nominations in two acting categories in the same year. She was nominated for Best Actress for The Pride of the Yankees (1942) and Best Supporting Actress for Mrs. Miniver (1942) at the 15th Academy Awards in 1943, winning the latter award.
Her husband, Niven Busch, originally penned Duel in the Sun (1946) for her to play the lead, as a departure from her girl-next-door roles. But pregnancy forced her to drop out, and Jennifer Jones got the lead.
She was originally set to star in producer David O. Selznick’s Duel in the Sun (1946), which was written by her then-husband, Niven Busch. However, shortly before filming was to begin she got pregnant, and Busch had to go to Selznick’s office to inform him that she would have to bow out of the film. Selznick, known for his single-mindedness, tried to talk Busch into letting her play the part, which called for a lot of physical action, and Busch absolutely refused. As he turned to leave the office, Selznick blurted out, “Dammit, Busch, she isn’t the only one you screwed!”
She was nominated for the 2015 New Jersey Hall of Fame for his services in the Performance Arts.
Teresa Wright’s cheeky stroke of genius in this episode is filled with macabre and black humor delivering a diabolically composed and humorous resolve as she works her way through each of Dan Duryea’s other wives, as casually as a housewife doing chores. A serial murderer housewife that is.
It is perhaps one of my favorite performances of Wright because of the comical dark side she invokes, quite the departure as Wright greatly envisioned from the ‘best little cryer’ that had been hitched to her in the 1940s and 50s.
Her chemistry with Duryea is fabulous as they play off each other and slowly the revelation comes to his character that she’s been shadowing him on each of his routine rendezvous’ with the other Mrs. Browns at his 3 other homes. It’s a brilliant setup. As he realizes she’s a killer and he’s out three wives.
And now… THREE WIVES TOO MANY!
Marion Brown tells her husband (Duryea)- “You have been a bigamist 4 times. Now you can stay alive with me or be dead away from me!”
Dan Duryea is a gambler and a proud bigamist name Raymond Brown. Ray has a passion for fine cuisine and is a professional gambler who uses his wealthy wive’s money to finance his bets.
Each of his wives believes he is a salesman, so he uses his trips away from home to visit his bookie when spending a few days with each wife in three different cities.
He truly loves his wife… I mean all four of them. But something is going quite wrong. One by one his wealthy meal tickets are all turning up dead.
Though Marion is Ray’s third and they’ve been married for three years. She is the most central wife and has been the long-time dutiful wife who discovers that Ray is a bigamist. Marion has been patiently waiting to finally have her philandering husband all to herself.
Could she be the one who is bumping off all of Ray’s wives? Wright takes a much different approach from the gentle farm wife Stella in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour’s Lonely Place and shows herself off to be quite resourceful when holding onto her cheating husband.
Marion who is the wealthiest and oldest of the bunch is driven to murder by jealousy and the survival instinct to keep Ray all to herself. She visits each of the other wives and quietly dispenses with them by lacing their cocktails with poison.
Each town Ray arrives at home to see one of his wives, the police are there while she is being carried out on a stretcher. At first, the police just chalk up each death to suicide and he convinces the cops that he has an alibi. Raymond starts to suspect that Marion is behind the deaths, but he doesn’t have any proof.
Because each murder has happened in 3 different cities, the police never connect the women’s deaths. Marion is able to move easily from murder to murder because she is a refined, beautiful, and charming woman who can easily seduce unsuspecting women into dropping their guard.
And she has learned to be a fantastic bartender who brings her own strychnine.
Ray has managed to stick to an unchallenging subterfuge with his four wives, in order to prevent them from knowing about each other.
Directed by Joseph M. Newman, who directed 10 episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Three Wives Too Many is a powerfully satirical parody with sharpened edges pulled off masterfully by Teresa Wright who is the strong protagonist Marion Brown, in a predominantly woman-centered thriller. Leaving Duryea on the periphery looking in on the wake of his misadventures and marital anarchy. The episode explores greedy love, betrayal, and delicious revenge.
As Brown comes to the realization that all of his wives are now dead, the television adaptation abandons suspense, instead going for the cynical observations about post-war American gender roles of husbands and wive in the 1960s.
The episode is a masterful bit of dark humor as the two paths converge, the take-offs and landings of Ray and Marion both traveling on the same path but for different reasons, and only Marion is aware of both.
The show begins in Newark, N.J. where a taxi pulls up to an apartment complex. A woman, elegantly attired and with a little grey in her hair, steps out of the cab. There’s a close-up of her finger pressing the doorbell of an apartment. The card on top of the button bears the inscription “Mr. & Mrs. R. Brown.”
Now inside the apartment, a younger woman in pants gets up from an upscale modern sofa (a contrast to the traditional interior design and furnishings of her home in Baltimore) to answer the door. Marion, tells Bernice that she flew in from Baltimore just to see her. After dancing around with niceties, she lays it out that she’s a relative by marriage…
Bernice –“Forgive this place I’m a terrible housekeeper when my husband isn’t around -well even when he is.”
Marion “It’s difficult to care when your husband’s gone so much.”
Bernice “Oh well won’t you sit down I didn’t even ask your name.”
Marion “Mrs. Brown.”
Bernice “Mrs. Brown?”
Marion “Mrs. Raymond Brown we’re kind of related.”
Bernice “Well that’s kind of reassuring, knowing I belong to such a large family.”
Marion “Haha tremendous. I’m just astonished at how many relatives keep showing up in Baltimore.”
Bernice “Are you here on a pleasure trip Mrs. Brown- Oh that sounds like I’m talking to myself.”
Marion “My name is Marion. Sort of on business for all of us but your husband said that for any big investment, both of you have to agree.”
Bernice “Oh no not always.”
Marion “I mean since the money is really yours.”
Bernice “He told you that?”
Marion “Well it’s true isn’t it?”
Bernice “Well in a way. When we were first married he needed some extra money and I had some. But then husbands and wives share don’t they?”
Marion “Oh yes always, everything.”
Bernice “You say that so pointedly.”
Marion “My dear the Browns are famous for getting to the point.”
Bernice “You’re not related are you There’s something in back of this Mrs. Brown what is it? You’re not remotely related to my husband.”
Marion “That’s right.”
She maintains that sardonic southern charm that stings like a snake bite.
Marion “It’s more than remotely.” her eyes flicker as she looks at Bernice
Bernice “I don’t understand.”
Marion “I’m related directly to your husband.”
Marion “By a previous marriage.”
Bernice “You’re his ex-wife?”
Marion “His present wife. He’s my husband too.”
Bernice “How could he! how could he!”
Marion “By being selfish.”
Bernice “He was kind.”
Marion “He married both of us. there may be others.”
Bernice “He loved me.”
Marion “I know it hurts but you must realize what he is.”
Bernice “How can you be so unemotional about it?”
Marion “I’ve had my tears…”
As the scene unfolds, Marion reveals Ray’s bigamy to Bernice (Jean Hale) and to us. Shaken, Bernice is consoled by Marion, who suggests they should both retaliate against their husband.
Marion tells her, “’ You are a beautiful woman, Bernice, you’ll have no trouble at all finding a new husband. But a woman my age, now I would have a problem.'”
However, Marion’s own sinister plan comes to light as she prepares cocktails for the two of them, but secretly laces Bernice’s drink with poison.
Having premeditated the murder, Marion takes great care to wipe her fingerprints from the bottle and glass. Bernice unwittingly ingests the lethal drink and promptly collapses onto the floor and Marion goes home to Baltimore.
Brown is seen trimming a flower outside his house before he heads inside to give it to Marion. On the surface, it seems the perfect image of a happy couple. However, their easy banter carries an ominous undertone, evident to both Marion and us who have already seen Bernice lifeless on the floor after a lethal dose of Marion’s payback to Ray.
Ray thinks he’s been successful at hiding his secret life, but what Ray doesn’t realize is that Marion is onto him. Now both he and Marion share a blueprint of duplicitous and now sinister transgressions.
She’s happy he’s finally home. He tells her that he plans on taking her to Europe, where women in their 40s come into their own.
At some point, the scene turns ominous as Ray and Marion go down to the cellar to inspect the hole and the oil tank that will eventually be installed there. We’re aware that Ray feels something lurking as he slips and falls into the hole like a grave. He gazes up at the tank that is suspended over his head held only by a chain.
Marion reaches for a crank handle that could potentially trigger the tank to release abruptly. Brown cautions her to handle it carefully, oblivious to the fact that she is privy to his marital treachery.
She tells him ”It just wants you here all the time.” and when she goes to hug him, he falls into the hole. He yells at her to take her hand off the handle. But she lingers a bit… one slip and the tank could fall and crush him.
As the camera follows Marion up the stairs it pauses and something in her eyes says that she knew exactly what she was doing when her hand lingered on the handle.
Once Ray goes back upstairs Marion strokes the handle following his footsteps flirting with the idea of killing him. She seems to be holding it like an old friend. Or maybe a new one?
Teresa Wright is an absolute natural beauty. She’s glowing and totally empowered.
Another plane lands, prompting Brown to drive to a nearby public park where he rendezvouses with Bleeker, who outwardly appears like a businessman but is, in reality, a bookie. Brown places a significant bet and Bleeker who is already on his third marriage and confesses that he’s constantly arguing with his wife. Brown offers some discreet and telling advice, that you can choose to marry “for love AND money…
“I’m a creature of habit.”
Ray gets home to see Bernice and finds the police swarming all over the apartment, investigating what they say is an apparent suicide. The scene is played as an absurd comedy as he seems utterly flustered by the commotion, all the while hiding the fact that this is only one of his many wives. He insists that she wouldn’t kill herself. She just bought a new cookbook, because she knew he liked fine cooking. Everything she did was to please him. She was happy. “She was beautiful and strong. I loved her.”
”I envy you…”
Following the funeral, Brown is confronted by Bernice’s sister and brother-in-law at the empty apartment he lived with Bernice. Her catty sister confronts Ray about Bernice having cried every day from loneliness, and his being on the road all the time. This paints a very different picture of their seemingly ideal marriage. She blames him for her death However, as they leave, the sister’s timid husband tells Ray that “I envy you”, a hint that he wishes his overbearing wife would meet a similar fate.
Ray is now in Hartford he goes to call his other wife Lucille. But by now she has answered the door and once again Marion is waiting for her and doesn’t waste any time putting her cards on the table.
“Why did you do it? Why did you marry my husband?”
She asks, “‘Why did you marry my husband?'” As she points a small pistol at Lucille. This other beautiful wife tells Marion that they’ve been married for five years, which means she’s been married the longest to Ray.
Marion toys with Lucille and tells her that she has not yet decided whether to kill her or not.
The two women begin to talk about him and Marion shares her insight with Lucille, ‘A man is what he does, not what he says.’
Quote shockingly, Lucille defends Ray ‘I admire any man who can get along with so many women.”
As part of Marion’s method of choice, she goes into the kitchen to prepare the drinks and slips the poison into the bottle. One more to go…
Lucille (Linda Lawson) played the role of the enigmatic mermaid in Curtis Harrington’s surreal NIGHT TIDE.
THE BEACH PARTY BLOGATHON- CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) & Night Tide (1961) : Gills-A LOVE STORY!!!
“He seemed happy.”
“Well, he pretended so much how could you tell? A man is what he does not what he says. Why should we spare his feelings we’re not his only wives.”
”Mix it with something.” Marion laughs, “what did you say?” I said mix it with something.” “Delighted!” She pours the poisonous cocktail.
Once again Ray arrives as Lucille’s lifeless body is being taken out of their apartment. And once again he is greeted by another policeman who says she must have killed herself. Ray is absolutely aghast at this point, “She loved life too much!'” And in this odd twist on the husband always being suspected, he is not suspected of foul play.
Ray phones Marion that he’s leaving for Boston and for the first time she asks to go with him and he says yes. In their hotel room, she is beaming after having had a ‘wonderful day.’
He tells her that he has a late-night business appointment, but she informs him that she’s going home that night. Revealing in a cryptic comment –
‘I know I’m becoming more important in your life every day,’ she says, and he responds, “‘More than you realize …'” Wright is so comically effective with all her dialogue using a cheeky sardonic purr that tickles you with each delivery. This particular line highlights its best example.
Ray suspects Marion but still isn’t quite sure, those his facial expression conveys it with mocking distress, as she pulls the strings. He meets Bleeker one more time and tells him that he’ll need more financial backers before he can proceed with any more wagers. Though he loves each one of his wives, essentially they have been business ventures after all.
The last wife is carried out by the police.
He enters his house in Baltimore and finds Marion lying on the couch, and he fears the worst.
When she wakes up and seems perfectly fine, Brown feels relieved. Marion suggests they have a cocktail informing him that she’s become very good at mixing drinks.
And as they talk, he notices a pamphlet titled The Widow’s Guide on the coffee table and grows visibly worried.
He runs downstairs to check the basement and discovers that the hole is still there and will remain as a reminder that it can always turn into a grave. But the tank suspended above it is now gone.
“Why did you yell at me like that?” “You were so still. So motionless.”
Marion insists on mixing Ray a cocktail. “Where’s the harm? A drink here and there never harmed anybody. At least not me… I turned over a whole new leaf”
“It sounds like you turned over a whole new tree.” “You are delicious!”
“She tells him to stop acting like a fugitive from justice .”Why’d you say that?”
“As if the police had you linked with some terrible crime.”
“Out with it! Say it and get it over with.”
Marion uses his traveling sales job as a metaphor.
That the company has asked too much of him. That he should concentrate on this area. ‘Our Area.” Meaning their marriage.
“What if I don’t like it?”
“You don’t have to like it. You just have to accept it.”
“Then it’s true You did it… all of them.”
She drinks from both glasses. “See a marital bond.”
When he goes to call the police, she warns him, “I will see you executed for murder if you leave me.”
Whatever the police find out they’ll only discover that you had a motive. ”The police accepted my explanations.” “Explanation singular. One explanation yes, two…maybe… three.” (she shakes her head)
“I will see you executed for murder if you leave me.”
“Now you can be happy with me or be dead away from me.”
“I was a happy man.” “A very unhappy man.” “Ecstatically happy.”
She gives him the choice. If not the police… there’s always the hole in the cellar.
Three Wives Too Many was adapted for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and broadcast on CBS on Friday, January 3, 1964. It was written by Kenneth Fearing who wrote seven novels, including The Big Clock in 1946, which the 1948 film that kept the title was released. It was later adapted as No Way Out in 1987. From the mid-1950s to 1960 he had several of his stories were published in crime and mystery digest.
Arthur A. Ross wrote the teleplays for eight episodes in the last two seasons of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, airing in 1964 and 1965. Beginning his career as a scriptwriter for films in 1942, he diversified to radio in 1951 and television in 1952.
Ross was responsible for the screenplays of The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and The Creature Walks among Us (1956), although he endured a period of blacklisting in the 1950s. He won an Edgar Award for collaborating on the script of the Kraft Mystery Theatre episode “The Problem in Cell Block 13” (1962) and continued to write for both television and film until 1980.
Joseph Newman embarked on his Hollywood career in the 1930s, initially as an assistant director, before progressing to directing shorts. Eventually, in 1942, he earned the distinction of a feature director. One notable film he directed during the span of 1942 to 1961 was “This Island Earth” (1955). Newman transitioned to television directing from 1960 to 1965, helming notable episodes of “The Twilight Zone” and “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” including the acclaimed episode “An Unlocked Window.”
Dan Duryea (1907-1968), cast as Richard Brown started out on Broadway in the 1930s before venturing into film in 1941. Duryea made frequent appearances in Westerns, and at times entered the world of villainy during the dark, sordid, and guilt-ridden days of film noir including Fritz Lang’s “The Woman in the Window” (1944) and “Scarlet Street” (1945). He also had roles in The Great Flamarion, Criss Cross, Too Late for Tears and Johnny Stool Pigeon, Black Angel, Terror Street, and The Burglar -He also made an appearance on “The Twilight Zone.” episode Mr. Denton on Doomsday.
Robert Cornthwaite portrayed Bleeker, Brown’s bookie. His on-screen presence extended from 1950 to 2005, encompassing numerous television appearances in shows like “Thriller,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Batman,” “The Night Stalker,” and two episodes of “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.” You might remember his performance as the altruistic scientist who insists on making friends with the volatile super-carrot-like alien in Howard Hawk’s The Thing from Another World” (1951).
David Fresco who portrayed Bernice’s sister-in-law’s husband who envies Duryea being free of his wife can be seen in numerous television roles in shows such as “The Twilight Zone,” “Batman,” “Night Gallery,” and “The Odd Couple.” Impressively, he was featured in a total of 12 episodes of the Hitchcock show, including “The Gloating Place.”
*THE EVIL OF ADELAIDE WINTERS – Kim Hunter s2e16 -aired Feb. 7, 1964
KIM HUNTER BIO:
Kim Hunter is diminutive, shy, and unembellished with glamorous indulgences, an interesting cadence to her soft voice, and a gentility that followed her throughout her career.
She was said to have had, “nothing but talent.” is an American actress in the theatre, radio, film, and television. Her career was temporarily disrupted by the Hollywood blacklists of the 1950s.
In her earliest days on screen, she was usually cast as wide-eyed ingénues or faithful wives. As an actress her career became visible with her Academy Award-winning performance as Stella in director Elia Kazan’s adaption of Tennessee William’s play A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951.
In 1947, renowned film producer David O. Selznick, who had played a pivotal role in discovering Kim Hunter, suggested her to his former wife, Irene Selznick, who was producing the Broadway adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s play. This opportunity turned out to be the defining role of Hunter’s career, making it the most recognizable and memorable character she ever portrayed.
She gained recognition for her portrayal of Stella Kowalski in the original production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, which she reprised in the 1951 film adaptation and won both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Kim Hunter was honored with the Donaldson and New York Drama Critics Awards. Repeating the role of Stella in the 1951 film version, her first major Silver Screen project, she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, the Look Magazine Award, and the Hollywood Foreign Correspondents Award. She also won the 1952 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for the same film.
During her rise to fame in A Streetcar Named Desire, she was asked if she had any ambitions of becoming a Hollywood superstar. Hunter said
“In the back of my mind, I think I felt that if that kind of stardom had occurred, I wouldn’t have fought it. But such stardom often happens through extraordinary luck or an extraordinary personal quality or an extraordinary drive in a human being. One can always hope for luck, but I don’t have that kind of annihilating drive as a human being. You know, ‘Out of my way, here I come.’ I’m not that kind of a person. And the other thing is, it’s just not my way of performing, I don’t go into a role saying ‘I’m going to take what is me and make that the most important thing in the part I’m playing.’ I do work from myself and use all of myself but I don’t take any personal quality and try to find the character to portray it. It’s an image thing, I just want to do the best I can with the given, in life or in work.” – Kim Hunter
Even after her various roles in film, she began a prolific career in television and back to theater after having been temporarily blacklisted.
Kim Hunter’s film debut was the role of Mary Gibson in Val Lewton’s low-budget suspense art piece for RKO – based on Dewitt Bodeen’s The Seventh Victim in 1943.
It’s a story of a modern-day arcane society of murderous Epicureans. The Seventh Victim is a film about a sequence of sacrificial killings designed to suppress knowledge of a satanic cult called the Palladists. As part of Val Lewton’s atmospheric collection of quasi/horror noirs.
It also features the directorial debut of Mark Robson. Kim Hunter plays Mary Gibson, the fresh-faced innocent who goes on a nightmarish quest to locate her sister Jacqueline (Jean Brooks) who has mysteriously disappeared.
Jacqueline becomes the object of a series of searches, first by Kim Hunter then by two detectives (one working for her sister Mary, the other for Jacqueline’s husband Gregory Ward (Hugh Beaumont), and finally by a poet and a psychiatrist Tom Conway who offer their help.
The film pays tribute to the mechanism of repetition also used in Cat People, yet develops this further by emphasizing the archetypes of life and death, infused with haunting imagery, unique narrative structures, and symbols of conventional life. “in which existence is portrayed as a hellish void from which all souls yearn for the sweet release of death.” (Joel Siegel)
In her first screen role, Hunter is marvelous as the naive and gentle soul who travels through a very nihilistic world, exploring the undefinable anxieties of the human psyche and the human preoccupation with life and death.
It examines the fear of life being meaningless and death being its only release. The narrative creates a disparity between what the characters know and what they desire to know. Mark Robson maintains focused on a thematic and structural discovery of the common human experience of limitation.
(1942) Stage: Appeared in “Arsenic and Old Lace”, Pasadena Playhouse, Pasadena, CA
In Kim Hunter’s second film, she was cast as Doris Dumbrowski in Edward Dmytryk’s Tender Comrade 1943 released by RKO. It’s the story of the women watching over the home front living communally while their husbands are away at war. The film stars Ginger Rogers, Ruth Hussy, and Robert Ryan. HUAC would later use the film as evidence that writer Dalton Trumbo was spreading communist propaganda. It led to his being blacklisted.
In 1944 When Strangers Marry was released under the title Betrayed. Kim Hunter plays Mildred ‘Millie’ Baxter, a naïve woman, who comes to New York City to meet her salesman husband Paul Baxter, whom she had met only months before, and discovers that he may be a murderer. The film was directed by ballyhoo director William Castle, in one of his several forays into the noir genre. The film stars Robert Mitchum and Dean Jagger as Paul Baxter.
In 1945 she appeared as Frances Hotchkiss in John Farrow’s romantic comedy-drama You Came Along.
She then co-starred with David Niven in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s much-heralded British romantic fantasy, ”Stairway to Heaven (1946).
In her first leading role, she was cast as June in the much-heralded British romantic fantasy Stairway to Heaven known as A Matter of Life and Death in 1946 directed by British duo Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. She co-starred with David Niven.
An RAF pilot Peter Carter (played by David Niven) miraculously survives a jump from his burning plane and meets the American radio operator (Kim Hunter) to whom he just conveyed his last wishes. After they fall in love, a messenger from the afterlife tells Peter that there was a clerical error and he just won’t be able to remain on earth unless he can prove that he has the right o stay.
She was a founding member of the newly created Actors Studio, alongside, Lee Grant, Marlon Brando, and Karl Malden. And like Lee Grant and too many who suffered at the hands of HUAC during the witch hunts of the McCarthy era during the 1950s, Kim Hunter was blacklisted and unable to return to television and film for a time.
“Kim Hunter and I were both members of the Actors Studio, very celebrated, very young. Both were in our early twenties when I acted in Detective Story and Kim acted in A Streetcar Named Desire. We both originated roles on Broadway, appeared in films, and were nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1952. Kim won for her moving Stella in Streetcar. I won the Cannes International Film Festival award for Best Actress of 1952 for Detective Story. We were golden girls with great lives and careers ahead of us.” Lee Grant
Kim Hunter was talked into telling her story in front of the committee. She testified that Vincent Hartnett considered an expert on the topic of alleged communist infiltration, and founder of the publication of Red Channels, asked for and received $200 from her to clear her name.
And demanded her show of support, but when she refused, “he demanded she sends in a telegram in support of AWARE, Inc. She agreed. She was blackmailed for work, pure and simple.” – Lee Grant I Said Yes to Everything.
Although blacklisted, Hunter was not a member of the Communist Party, simply a campaigner for civil rights and a sponsor of a 1949 World Peace Conference in New York.
Kim Hunter returned to Broadway giving 186 performances as Luba opposite Claude Rains and Jack Palance in Darkness at Noon in 1951.
As early as 1949 Hunter began appearing in dramatic teleplays and anthology shows on TV. The Silver Theatre, The Philco Television Playhouse, The Ford Theatre Hour, and Actor’s Studio. In 1952 she appeared in episodes of Robert Montgomery Presents, and Celanese Theatre.
Then came the role that would not only immortalize the use of the name “STELLA!”
Marlon Brando’s ‘simian mating call’ inspire a gestalt reaction in our collective consciousness, but it would also ensure Kim Hunter’s ascension as a serious actor.
“Stanley plants himself on the street outside his apartment and screams, ” Stella!’’ In the censored version, she stands up inside, pauses, starts down the stairs, looks at him, continues down the stairs, and they embrace. In the uncut version, only a couple of shots are different – but what a difference they make! Stella’s whole demeanor seems different, seems charged with lust. In the apartment, she responds more visibly to his voice. On the stairs, there are closeups as she descends, showing her face almost blank with desire. And the closing embrace, which looks in the cut version as if she is consoling him, looks in the uncut version as if she has abandoned herself to him.” – Roger Ebert
Elisa Kazan’s Southern Gothic drama adapted from Tennessee William’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, shined the spotlight on 4 incredible actors Vivien Leigh, and Marlon Brando in only his second film, Karl Malden, and of course Kim Hunter.
A Streetcar Named Desire is considered to be one of the fifteen films that changed American cinema.
Southern Belle Blanche DuBois who dances and suffers with shadows from her past and present anguish, takes refuge at her sister Stella’s New Orleans tenement apartment where she lives with her brutish husband Stanley Kowalski.
Blanche DuBois is a middle-aged high school English teacher who arrives in New Orleans and boards a streetcar called “Desire” to reach the French Quarter.
Blanche informs them that she is on leave from her teaching job due to her nerves and requests to stay with them. In truth, she lost her job for having sexual relations with one of her students.
While Blanche exudes a demure and refined demeanor, Stanley’s behavior is crude and vulgar, which creates a stark contrast between them and fuels mutual wariness and hostility. Stella is in the middle.
“No performance had more influence on modern film acting styles than Brando’s work as Stanley Kowalski, Tennessee Williams’ rough, smelly, sexually charged hero… Brando, as Kowalski, stalks through his little apartment in the French Quarter. He is, the dialogue often reminds us, an animal. He wears a torn T-shirt that reveals muscles and sweat. He smokes and drinks in a greedy way.”– Roger Ebert
While Kim Hunter as Stella welcomes Blanche as a guest, she is masterful as the torn young sister and wife of Stanley – who is often condescending and critical of Blanche.
Blanche urges Stella to leave him, calling him a sub-human animal. Stella disagrees and stays. Blanche discloses that the family’s estate, Belle Reve, has been seized by creditors, leaving her penniless and with no place to go.
She also reveals that she was widowed at a young age after her husband’s suicide. In the film version, her husband’s homosexuality was censored. Stanley becomes suspicious that Blanche may be concealing an inheritance
Kim Hunter’s more nuanced performance as Stella is undeniably more complex throughout the combustible environment created by Blanche’s alcoholism and her spiral into madness which is more tangible in the un-cut director’s version restored in 1993.
One night, while Stella is in labor, Blanche waxes poetic about old admirers and future plans but Stanley mercilessly destroys her illusions.
In their physical struggle, It is conveyed that Stanley rapes her. He also ruins any chances of happiness for her with Mitch (Karl Malden) by disclosing the dark secrets about her past.
In the unsterilized version, Kim Hunter’s portrayal of Stella offers a clearer understanding of her attraction to Stanley, making her character less mysterious. Vivien Leigh’s Blanche, on the other hand, is depicted as a sexually charged woman who disguises herself as a fragile and fading flower, revealing her hidden desires more explicitly than in the previous rendition. As for Karl Malden’s hapless gentleman caller -Mitch, Blanche’s unsuspecting suitor, appears more vulnerable and naive.
Stella refuses to believe Blanche about Stanley assaulting her and Mitch rejects her once Stanley poisons his mind, Blanche descends further into a fantasy world and must be restrained and taken away, as the doctor speaks Kindly to her it leads to the famous line, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
Once Stella realizes that Blanche was telling the truth, she takes the baby upstairs to the Hubbell’s apartment having decided that she is leaving Stanley.
When “A Streetcar Named Desire” was first released, it created a firestorm of controversy. It was immoral, decadent, vulgar, and sinful, its critics cried. And that was after substantial cuts had already been made in the picture, at the insistence of Warner Bros., driven on by the industry’s own censors.” – Ebert
The subsequent film and TV adaptations opted for a bleaker ending, having Stella remain with Stanley for various reasons. This twist was added to conform to the Production Code so the film industry in their need to punish Stanley for the rape added the alternate ending.
Another scene lost crucial dialogue. Stella tells her sister, “Stanley’s always smashed things. Why, on our wedding night, as soon as we came in here, he snatched off one of my slippers and rushed about the place smashing the light bulbs with it.” After Blanche is suitably shocked, Stella, leaning back with a funny smile, says “I was sort of thrilled by it.” All that dialogue was trimmed, perhaps because it provided a glimpse into psychic realms the censors were not prepared to acknowledge. (Ebert)
As the film progresses, the set of the Kowalski apartment actually gets smaller to heighten the suggestion of Blanche’s increasing claustrophobia.
Composer Alex North wrote and recorded the first ever jazz-orientated film score for a dramatic picture. The score served to color the sound of the film’s steamy New Orleans setting. It has become a well-deserved landmark in the history of film music and paved the way for numerous movie jazz scores.
The Catholic Legion of Decency threatened to sink the box office prospects for the film with a Condemned rating. Elia Kazan made a last-ditch effort to get his un-cut version seen by the public. He asked Warner Bros. to try releasing the film in both his director’s version and the edited version, with each clearly marked so audience members could choose for themselves. Warners said no, and Kazan then campaigned for his director’s cut to be screened at the Venice Film Festival. Again, Warners refused, since the Legion mandated that only their approved version could be released, and the studio didn’t want to risk earning a Condemned rating which would hurt the film at the box office. As a result, Kazan’s version would not be seen until Warners restored the film in 1993.
the Catholic Legion of Decency led to even further cuts, most of them having to do with references to homosexuality and rape. In his memoirs, Tennessee Williams wrote that he liked the film but felt it was “slightly marred by the Hollywood ending.”
Brando hadn’t yet become a sensation Robert Mitchum was offered the role of Stanley Kowalski, but RKO refused to let him do it. Olivia de Havilland was offered the part of Blanche but turned it down.
After the Streetcar, Hunter co-starred with Humphrey Bogart and Ethel Barrymore in Richard Brook’s film noir classic Deadline USA in 1952. It is the story of a crusading newspaper editor who exposes a gangster’s crimes while also trying to keep the paper from going out of business. Also
in 1952, she starred in Anything Can Happen, an episode of The Gulf Playhouse in 1953, and played Joan of Arc in the segment The Trial of St. Joan for the Omnibus Tv series in 1955. Followed that same year with Screen Directors Playhouse and Lux Video Theatre. The dramatic teleplays suited Kim Hunter’s acting background perfectly.
During the early 1950s, theatre called once again for The Chase, The Children’s Hour, Write Me A Murder, and many other plays, including the role of Sylvia Crewes in The Tender Trap in 1954.
Next in 1956, she would appear alongside Bette Davis in Storm Center as Martha Lockridge. It is a drama that hits close to home during the turbulent climate of the Red Scare, with Davis playing a librarian in the 1950s who is shunned by the town when she refuses to remove a book on Communism from her library.
Alicia (Davis) finds herself in a challenging transition as she prepares to leave a job she has dedicated her entire life to. Library assistant Martha Lockridge her successor says: “Whatever was the issue? A stubborn woman was fired. Your council blew itself up with civic virtue. The city got something to buzz about.”
In 1956, with the HUAC’s influence subsiding, she starred in Rod Serling’s Peabody Award-winning teleplay on Playhouse 90, “Requiem for a Heavyweight” co-starring Jack Palance. The telecast won multiple Emmy Awards including Best Single Program of the Year.
In 1957, Hunter starred alongside Mickey Rooney in the live CBS-TV production of The Comedian, a dramatic work penned by Rod Serling and directed by John Frankenheimer.
She also appeared in The Young Stranger in 1957 also directed by John Frankenheimer.
In 1958, television continued to give Hunter visibility in shows like Studio One, Climax!, and Alcoa Theatre and she portrayed Amelia Spaulding in the 1959 episode “Incident of the Misplaced Indians” on Rawhide, and appeared in another television western on NBC TV series Bonanza and played Sister Angela in an episode of The Lineup. She appeared in two episodes of General Electric Theater in 1956 and one in 1960 titled Early to Die.
The early 1960s on TV included Sunday Showcase, Playhouse 90, a TV movie called Special for Women ‘The Cold Woman’ and appeared as Edna Dagger in Face of the Enemy an episode of Naked City in 1962, followed by The DIck Powell Theatre, The United States Steel Hour and an episode of The Eleventh Hour in a very touching dramatic piece called Of Roses and Nightingales and Other Lovely Things that same year.
In 1963, she appeared in The Doctors and the Nurses, in an episode directed by Alex March. The show, an extraordinary dramatic series is practically non-existent and features some of the finest bits of acting, directing, and camerawork. Kim Hunter appears in They Are As Lions. 1963 offered Hunter roles on Breaking Point and Arrest and Trial.
This leads us to The Alfred Hitchcock Hour’s episode which features Hunter’s performance as the black-hearted Adelaide Winters.
In 1964, she played Dr. Bea Brice who works in a progressive sanitarium for the mentally ill. There she meets Jean Seberg. “Somehow insanity seems a lot less sinister to watch in a man than a woman.” – Dr. Brice
4 Outstanding Actresses: It’s 1964 and there’s cognitive commotion!
Kim Hunter followed up with appearances on The Defenders and Dr. Kildare in 1965. She gave a forgotten performance (overshadowed by Planet of the Apes having preceded it), as that of Kim Hunter’s Betty Graham in director Frank Perry and Sydney Pollock’s The Swimmer starring Burt Lancaster. A film where Lancaster’s often scenery-chewing performances are completely eclipsed by Janice Rule’s profoundly stunning performance as his ex-lover Shirley Abbott.
Then in 1968, her second significant cultural identity would emerge with Planet of the Apes directed by Franklin J. Schaffner with teleplays written by Rod Serling and Michael Wilson based on the novel by science fiction author Pierre Boulle. Hunter’s character held a significant role in the movie, appearing alongside British actors Roddy McDowall and Maurice Evans.
Hunter auditioned for the part in 1967., She had known Producer Arthur P. Jacobs for many years: “he had been my press agent before he went into making films. So he was an old friend, very much so.” – (An Afternoon with Kim Hunter – ‘Apesfan’ Special Edition 1999)
Kim Hunter in addition to her iconic role as Stella, will always be beloved for her recurring role as scientist Dr. Zira who possessed a strong intellectual curiosity about the species called man. Her portrayal of the chimpanzee scientist brought a lot of endearing charm amidst the raging violence to Planet of the Apes in 1968 and its sequels Beneath the Planet of the Apes 1970 and Escape from the Planet of the Apes in 1971.
In the first of the three Apes movies, Hunter is married to Galen played by Roddy McDowall whose own performance is memorable—both sympathetic characters who are the beating heart of the story. Hunter even spend hours at the Los Angeles Zoom in order to prepare for the role which would prove to be challenging to make it seem realistic. Hunter felt that the first Planet of the Apes had a “special, experimental nature that was exciting.”
She said of the scene where the coquettish Zira kisses Roddy McDowall -“They kiss somewhat as we do, but not exactly. With apes, it’s more a biting of the lips, and a caressing, rather than the solid contact humans prefer to make. Anyhow, it’s really very dear.”
“It’s all very antiseptic and mechanical, and we had to work hard to get a romantic effect. We had no actual physical contact with each other, you see. You might say that it was something like modern dancing.” – Kim Hunter
“She portrayed a highly intelligent and articulate chimpanzee anthropologist whose abiding interest is the study of an inarticulate sub‐species known as man… It is quite impossible to recognize” Miss Hunter in her role as Dr. Zira, a chimpanzee scientist. Like all the leading “anthropoids” in these films, she wears heavy makeup that takes more than three hours a day to apply and completely disguises her features. Only her voice is recognizable.” Ira Peck New York Times
“As he seemed to find comfort and freedom with the external protections,” she said, “so do I. It’s like putting on somebody else’s cloak in a sort of total way. From a performing point of view, playing Dr. Zira was really quite freeing. In every other way, it was a trap — like being boxed in.”
Kim Hunter was put through the rigors during the grueling makeup process by Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji.
According to Hunter: “I had to take a tranquilizer every morning when I sat down in that make-up chair – it was so completely claustrophobic. After a few weeks, I said, well, now you’re used to the whole thing, you shouldn’t need this crutch anymore. One morning I didn’t take it, and my make-up artist, Leo Lotito, said to me after that session, ‘If you don’t take one of those tranquilizers every morning from now on, you’d better get another make-up artist. I won’t touch you again.’ He practically had to hold me in the chair that morning!”
“On the other hand, a kind of marvelous thing happened during that three and a half hours. It served to give us a period of adjustment, going from human to ape. By the end of the make-up time, you believed, you really did, that you were an ape. You’d look in the mirror and say ‘By golly, that’s me.'”
In a 1995 interview, she recalled: “It was pretty claustrophobic, and painful to a certain extent. The only thing of me that came through were my eyeballs.”
Of the many films to Kim Hunter’s credits she loved Stella more than anything else, but to her she loved ZIra and the “crazy, imaginative freedom of Planet of the Apes” (Cinefantastique Planet of the Apes issue 1972)
1970 came around and she made appearances in The Young Lawyers, Bracken’s World, Mannix, and The Bold Ones: The New Doctors, In 1971 she appeared in an episode of Cannon and Gunsmoke.
She acted in Paul Zindel’s play, “And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little,” at the Hanna Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio with Julie Harris (November 8, 1971).
Kim Hunter with Don Ameche in Columbo: Suitable for Framing 1971.
And In the same year, she starred in one of Columbo’s best episodes – Suitable for Framing” Directed by Hy Averback, Hunter plays the scatterbrained yet winsome aunt Edna Matthews, whose nephew Dale Kingston ( perhaps one of Columbo’s most vile murderers deliciously acted by Ross Martin at his smarmiest) murders her ex-husband in order to get his hands on his priceless art collection. Hunter is delightfully eccentric and just a bit off-center as she wanders through the episode as Dale tries to frame her for two murders.
In 1972 she starred in the cheeky episode The Late Mr. Peddington where she buys a funeral service for the husband she hasn’t pushed out the window yet! A few other television appearances include Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law, Mission: Impossible, Love, American Style, The Magician, Marcus Welby, M.D., and Police Story. Included are 2 episodes of the rare horror anthology series The Evil Touch and in 1974 she appeared on Raymond Burr’s Ironside.
Kim Hunter really made the round of popular television in the 1970s. And in (1973) she appeared in the Broadway revival of “The Women” with Hunter, Myrna Loy, Alexis Smith, Rhonda Fleming, and Dorothy Loudon.
And also in 1974, the TV movie Born Innocent sent a bit of a shock wave through television sets. Linda Blair plays Chris Parker, a young girl who in her attempt to run away from her abusive home life finds herself thrown into a juvenile detention center, only to be brutalized by her sadistic peers. The show was very controversial for its depiction of Chris Parker’s brutal assault. Hunter made the bold decision to portray Blair’s mother in the film.
Another TV movie that has quite a cult following amongst us fans of 70s made-for-TV movies, is her appearance at the beginning of Buzz Kulik’s Bad Ronald, where she plays Scott Jacoby’s mother Elaine Wilby, who protects Ronald after he accidentally kills a neighborhood girl. She hides him in the house while the police search for him. But when she dies suddenly she leaves her strange son to fend for himself. A new family moves into his house, and he remains living in the walls and watches the daughters and sneaks around til he’s found out.
In (1975) she wrote an Authored autobiographical cookbook, “Loose in the Kitchen.” A whimsical cookbook with some of her favorite recipes.
Kim Hunter also starred in several episodes of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater during the mid-1970s.
In 1979, she appeared as First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson in the mini-series Backstairs at the White House. She made an appearance on The Rockford Files in the episode Never Send a Boy King to Do a Man’s Job. And plays the Sister Superior in the TV movie The Golden Gate Murders.
Hunter appeared in the (1981) Broadway play “To Grandmother’s House We Go” with Eva LeGallienne
In recognition of her experience with Planet of the Apes, Kim Hunter presented the Oscar for best makeup to Rick Baker in 1982.
Hunter received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1980 for her work in ABC’s The Edge of Night which aired on television from April 2, 1956, to November 28, 1984.
She appeared in the awful horror/sci-fi film The Kindred in 1987 and sorry to say was in The Black Cat segment of Dario Argento and George Romero’s Two Evil Eyes in 1990.
Television in the 1990s found her in Murder, She Wrote, Mad About You, the TV movie Bloodlines: Murder in the Family, L.A. Law, and 3 episodes of the soap As the World Turns.
Hunter’s last major motion picture was in Clint Eastwood’s 1997 film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. In it, Hunter portrayed Betty Harty, a legal secretary for real-life Savannah lawyer Sonny Seller.
In 2000, she starred as Muriel an aging mother struggling with dementia co-starring with Timothy Bottoms. Her last appearance was in the tv series The Education of Max Bickford in 2001.
Kim Hunter has left a full legacy of performances and memorable characters. She is very dear to my heart.
Robert (Gene Lyons)- “I taught you everything there is to know about this racket..” Adelaide “Profession Robert.” Robert – “That’s what you’d like to pretend, but it is a racket, a swindle a con game as any I ever did.” Adelaide-“ I only obtain the more crude aspects of the profession from you.” Robert-“Everything and I want you to stop pushing me around.” Adelaide-“You taught me a series of Halloween tricks. Carnival mumbo jumbo… I made it pay.” Robert –“They’re still carny tricks.” Adelaide-“Science!” Robert- ‘And you took them from me…”
The Evil of Adelaide Winters was directed by Laszlo Benedek with a story and teleplay by Arthur A. Ross who first wrote it as a radio play and then later revised it as the teleplay for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
Kim Hunter is stunning and austere as the malicious mastermind, who holds little regard for men, mocks and ridicules Robert, who was initially the one who groomed her in the art of the con game. Adelaide is a skilled gaslighter, and even Robert is a casualty within her brutal sphere of influence. Hunter is flawless as the ruthless Adelaide who bares no conscience and borders on the sociopathic.
Gene Lyons plays Adelaide’s companion in the art of bunk, as Robert, helps set up the stage for the unsuspecting targets.
The emergence of the Occult and Spiritualist phenomena throughout Europe and America at the time and following World War I found a heightened interest in the loss, separations, and deaths caused by the war.
The extensive destruction and significant loss of life resulting from the horrors of war influenced the mournful, anguished families to seek out and try to bridge the gap between this world and the life after. Finding a ripe market, there was a surge in phony mediums and psychics who would seek to profit from the suffering of these desperate people.
At the end of WWII, Adelaide exploits the grief and loss of surviving members of families and acts as a spiritual medium, finding the names of families impacted by the war listed in newspapers and then calling on them offering her help to contact them in that ethereal plane between worlds.
Adelaide places a helmet, a gun, and a bayonet on the table, “These have become the objects of man’s faith.”
Mrs.Thompson urges her to try and contact her son. But Adelaide explains that contacting the departed is not easy and can’t be rushed nor is it guaranteed. Hunter is inflexible and shivery in the way she explores a woman without a twinge of conscience.
With ease and in earnest, she wears well, the disguise of a medium who seeks to aid the grieving parents. What works is her style of discipline rather than the audacity in her tone.
“Only the willingness to try. I need your willingness to trust me.”
“We do, we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t”- Mr. Thompson the father of a Private Harry Thompson killed in the war, seems to lack the faith that his wife so readily has.
“Do I still sense some hostility in you?” As she reigns in her stringent tone –“I cannot help anyone who doesn’t want to be helped.”
Using the symbols of war she has placed on the table she explains
‘These are the objects of invocation. The presence of things common to the last moments of the deceased helps in contacting the departed spirit. We shall fill this room with the kind of things that surrounded your son’s last living moments.”
Adelaide in her cruelty, even with Mrs.Thompson’s unguarded protestations to see the horrible portrait of war, her cries are met with Adelaide’s callous insistence that it must be done.
She inflicts the projected slides displaying photographic images of the violent scenes from the battlefield on the Thompsons – Adelaide scoring the ritual with a record composed of the sounds of battle. “There is no deception, no magic, no fraudulent means.” As Adelaide narrates the ceremony, the room is barraged with the sounds of artillery, the screaming whistle of bombs falling to the earth, and the wind blast of explosions. She puts the Thompsons through an ordeal as she seeks to ask how he died. It is beyond sadistic.
Adelaide maneuvers around Mr. Thompson (Bartlett Robinson who made notable television appearances including -The Twilight Zone, Thriller, and The Outer Limits. Additionally, and 11 episodes of the Hitchcock show, including the episode Bad Actor) skepticism and succeeds to make him a believer and by the end of her cinematic performance he asks when they can meet again.
Adelaide seems pleased with herself and the art which she has mastered for making a fast buck off people like the Thompson’s pain. As they leave the house, her smug glance follows them out with a cold-hearted spirit.
Adelaide –“Look at that man, he comes in despising me, and goes out like a clod. I can’t stand weak people. I can’t stand them.”
Robert –“These people are different from the ones we used to work with. They have the worst unhappiness.” But Adelaide is unmoved. “Did you get all the newspapers?”
Using the lists of casualties announced by the War Department, and the potential names of new targets she tells Robert, “Only those missing in action.” She finds her next victim. Edward Porter.
Enter the wealthy widower Edward Porter (John Larkin) whose son has been reported missing in the war.
Adelaide tells Robert what to do. He calls Edward presenting himself as the war department he informs him that his son is dead. Bernard Herrmann’s sweeping strings help orchestrate Edward going to pieces. This has cleared the way for Adelaide to move in for the confidence game.
The scene opens with Edward reflecting on a photo album of his son on a sailboat that speaks of better times in the past. A place where Edward now dwells.
Adelaide comes to see him, he at first keeps her detained, telling her he had a business meeting. She comes back with her routine declaration of her mission being as vital if not more so.
“I have more than business to attend to Mr. Porter I have other people’s feelings.” Like a wounded child – “I said I’m sorry. Please sit down.”
Adelaide “When I first called you I thought you said you’d want to talk and then make your decision about going ahead.” Edward “I wanted to.” Adelaide “Well, this is my third visit to discuss it. My third trip to help you decide if you wish to contact your son.”Edward “It takes time.” Adelaide “Time to admit that what I do is legitimate and worth a try. Time to admit you need my help.” Edward “To trust what you do Miss Winters would take faith. I need time to have that.”
“There’s no reason to have faith until it’s proven itself… this one last hope to know the sound of him, the reality of him, you toss aside. Let me try to help you.”
In order to prolong the subterfuge in hopes of getting more money out of him, she exploits Edward’s longing for his son to materialize. So she pretends that the first attempts fail. “Will you try again.” “Whenever you wish.” “I want you to. Just one more time.” “But at my home. This is a place of the past. Distant past. Doesn’t let in the present.”
Edward Porter who has been a realist all his life, begins to trust that Adelaide is sincere. Her finely honed powers of perception and influence manage to convince Edward to let her try and reach his son.
He agrees to continue with the invocation at her home. Using her phony technique that parallels a séance, she lays out the same props as before, photographs, and the sound effects that create the atmosphere of battle.
Each time, he longs to get closer to his son. “Not if I can’t break through” she reels him in. “You must try, again and again.” “And if I fail?” “Then again! Until you succeed.”
Desperate to reach his son he waits, convinced that she is a genuine clairvoyant. Finally, after Adelaide pleads with John to prove his love for his father, Edward hears his son’s soft zephyr-like incorporeal voice. in a phantasmal whisper “Do not lose me, father. Do not lose me.” Adelaide collapses.
The bait has been cast into the waters, and now Edward is hooked. He begins to arrive earlier and earlier to their meetings, and he starts to show warmth and devotion to Adelaide.
Peering through the curtain, Robert reports to Adelaide –“He’s out there again. For a half hour or so. He wasn’t out there I let our last client in.”Adelaide “His appointment is next.” Robert“No, it isn’t he’s a couple of hours early. I don’t like it.” She puffs on her cigarette, dismissing it. Adelaide “Well, he has nothing else to do.” Robert “Yeah, but this has been going on for over a week.”Adelaide says mockingly “Only because this is where he’s found a greater happiness.”
He interrogates her – does she have personal feelings for him? She insists Robert answers the door, he is furious. Edward enters and she switches it on, “I’m flattered that you’ve come so early.” “Well to see you as well”, he says with affection in his voice. She grabs his arm “We’ve been having wonderful success haven’t we? I’m always delighted when the gift I have is successful. It’s a good feeling.”
Edward tells her “You’re a fine person.” “I try to be. Sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I fail myself. That’s when astral communication is impossible. When I concentrate only on myself.” “You’re a rare human being.” “Why thank you.” “I recognized it” “How?” “They’re truly aware of other people’s needs.” “ I’ve tried to be a help to everyone.” “Maybe too many.” “Why too many? How could I possibly help too many?… You’re acting unusual today Mr. Porter. Is something wrong?”
Edward insists on beginning with the communication but she tells him she offers her services but does not give anyone license to tell her what to do. Not even from him. “ I can’t stand you spending so much time with others.” “But it’s my work.”
He offers to give her a lot of money. But there are only so many hours in a day and it exhausts her. With desperation in his voice, he tells her that he wants all her time. At first, she tells him it’s impossible, the expense alone, and she’s never worked that way before. He is finally at the mercy of Adelaide’s control and mesmerism, he must be with his son. He must.
Very shrewdly she plants the seed that they would be interrupted by other people who seek their own comfort from her. So, she must come and stay at his home. She pretends to be flustered by the idea. Well played. “But Bain my assistant.” “Well, why do you want him?” “Because he’s always been with me.” “Bring him. Both of you. Come… live in my home. It’s a huge house. Since my wife died years ago. Since she died and now my son… I need your help. You can bring my son to me. You can. Please, Please I need you.” And of course, she agrees.
Adelaide arrives at Edward’s magnificent house and moves into a suite that Edward has prepared for her.
As Robert unpacks in his meager room above the garage the two argue. She tells him to hang in there, so they can get what they want. “So you can get what you want.” “Alright, if you choose.” “Well it’s true isn’t it.” “I don’t owe you anything.” “We stopped being more than business associates a long time ago.” “You did. I didn’t.” “ I still like you. You know that.” “Yeah, but not enough huh.” She caresses him, he grabs her and they kiss, Adelaide giving him just enough to ask him, “Help me get what I want. And you’ll see we’ll be comfortable for the rest of our lives.” “Together?” “Maybe.” “For good?” “For a while. At least for a while.”
Robert joins her moving into a room above the garage which will be the control center of their operations. He sets up radio transmitters throughout the house, even in the garden where they can give rise to the illusion that John is communicating with Edward and Adelaide from the spirit world. In time, Adelaide is able to invoke John without using any visual or audible triggers at all.
Edward and Adelaide, spend time creating a sense of peace and tranquility within the walls of the house, surrounded by memories of happier days with his son, shown with images of sailboats on calm waters.
They begin their seances invoking Edward’s son to join them. “To this place, John, your father’s house that you knew so well. And lived with love. I bring you to this house of loving memory… To forget war, to forget death. We call you to the living.”
“We move, and to share that place with you.” The voice of John emerges through the superimposed images of those calm seas from his safe world. “To share this place with me.” “For this moment, to be remembered as your new world. As peaceful and contented.” John’s voice answers, “More peaceful, more than the world I left.”
Edward tells Adelaide that each day his life becomes more wonderful because of her. That she makes his world more beautiful because she brings him and John together again.
Robert grows increasingly impatient and jealous of Adelaide’s unhurried scheme to dominate and mislead Edward. Robert is weary of Adelaide toying with Edward’s emotions.
Robert warns Adelaide that “He’s given enough, or I should say taken enough. I can see it in his eyes when you walk past him.” “You’re jealous.” “You know he sits up most of the night. I’ve looked in and watched. He sits downstairs. And he looks up at your room. And sometimes he even takes a chair and sits outside your door.” “What of it?” “He talks like you and his son like the three of you are a family,” Robert asks if Edward has proposed marriage yet. She tells him, “No… but he will.”
Edward comes to her in the middle of the night and tells her that his son seems so happy. “He’s in a world more peaceful than he’s ever known.” “Yes, that’s it, happier than I’ve ever heard him.”
Adelaide “What are you thinking?” Robert “That I feel like a younger man since we’ve begun our life together.” Adelaide “Time turns back. When we’re with our loved ones. Time turns back.” Robert “But we become more hopeful. To share your life with someone. I have been sharing my life with you.”Adelaide “We’ve only worked together.” Edward “More than that.” Adelaide “Because I wanted to help.”Edward Adelaide do you remember what my son said… he seems to know so much about you.”
“In astral telepathy, there is communication beyond words.” “Yes, my son has become very fond of you. I know it. I can tell by the sound of his voice.” “You speak as if he were al… (She almost gives herself away) … Like us.” “Isn’t he?” “Oh well yes of course he’s like us. We’re all as one. But we have a life in this world before the other. So much to live for. “ “Can it compare to his world beyond the grave?” “Well, no but, we must wait our time.”
But Edward cannot wait. He asks Adelaide to be his wife ”My dear my wonderful wife.” “ Kind, sweet Edward.” As she strokes his cheek an eerie invisible shadow crept into his thoughts and Bernard Hermann lurks with his unquiet organ, oboes, and a trace of electronica at the high notes. It’s a score/motif that we’ve heard before in episodes of The Twilight Zone.
Something comes over Edward “I sensed something. Just now. Odd. Someone with us.” Adelaide “There’s no one with us.” “Not as if we were in this room at all.” “But we’re here…” “We were with my son for the first time For the first time we were with my son. As if he wanted us to be with him To share his happiness.”
Adelaide tells Robert that she is going to marry Edward. Robert “I tell you he’s dangerous.” Adelaide “Oh, I’ve seen many like this before. It’s the shock of belief. The shock of faith and then it subsides.” Robert “Will you stop talking like we’re a religion. We’re racketeers, honey, we’re con artists.”Adelaide “You are.” Robert “He doesn’t know what’s real. Or not.”
He insists Edward is dangerous, and she just dismisses this as jealousy. He doesn’t know how exactly. More than just turning her over to the police. He’s losing his reason. It’s like he can’t hear anything else. It’s something more…
She sees that he is frightened. Robert says with an ironic tone “Those are the ones who stay alive.” The premonitory warning
He laughs at her when he realizes that she is frightened, that she’s putting on an act. But she tells him that nothing’s going to make her leave. She slaps him, “Coward! Coward!” He throws her down and storms out of her room.
As Robert had predicted, Edward comes for her with his plan to release them both from the constraints of this world. He is holding a gun, talking about the other world, and handling his gun. She pleads with him, “This is the only world. The only one. There is no astral world beyond. None it was a lie.” “John’s voice a lie… my own son’s voice. I would know his voice in a crowd. In an eternity.” Frantically, she runs out of the great house, and up the stairs calling for Robert to help her, but she discovers the room above the garage is now empty. Robert has cleared out. She hears Edwards’s slow footsteps as they scrape up the stairs.
Transfixed, his presence is threatening. In the low light of Robert’s room, he shoots her and then himself. The world is so much more beautiful on the other side.
The Evil of Adelaide Winter was directed by Laslo Benedek who had an extensive career directing film and television from 1948 to 1977 having begun in the German cinema as an editor and assistant director in the late 1920s. One of his most renowned films was The Wild One (1953), featuring Marlon Brando. He also directed two episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, as well as episodes of Thriller and The Outer Limits. Toward the end of his career, Benedek taught film studies at NYU.
Robert McBain, Adelaide’s partner, is depicted by Gene Lyons who was a notable member of the Actors Studio and graced the Broadway stage during the 1940s and 1950s. He later transitioned to television and appeared extensively from 1950 to 1974, with only a few film roles during that period. Lyons left his mark on iconic shows such as The Twilight Zone and Star Trek, and he held a recurring role on Ironside from 1967 to 1974. Additionally, he made three appearances on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, one of which was What Really Happened playing the nasty piece of work Howard Raydon who gets a dog ligament cup of hot milk.
John Larkin (brings to life the character of Edward Porter. Larkin was a well-known radio actor, having played various roles from the 1930s to the 1950s, including a stint as Perry Mason. Following his radio career, Larkin shifted his focus to television acting, appearing in multiple shows from 1954 to 1965, and starring in a few films during the mid-1960s. He held recurring roles on The Edge of Night (1956-61) and the series Saints and Sinners (1962-66)
*Where the Woodbine Twineth -Margaret Leighton & Juanita Moore -s3e13- aired Jan. 11, 1964
Margaret Leighton Bio:
I’m not sure when I discovered Margaret Leighton. All I can recall was that I was struck down and drawn to her for life. Glamorous British actress the divine Margaret Leighton 5’10 lanky, exquisitely regal bone structure and penetrating eyes, is known for her ‘sense of grandeur and refinement’ and possesses an astonishing presence and singular imaginative acting style with a sharp and witty dignity. Leighton had an ‘exceptional versatility and a delightful stage presence.’ A reporter at Theater World commented, “One noticed in her an ability to change with complete naturalness even the timbre of her voice.”
She was considered part of the theatrical aristocracy. And you knew when she was part of the cast either stage, film, or television, that there would inevitably be moments that may well flare and flicker and leave a perceptible imprint from her performance.
She won two Tony Awards for Broadway performances as Best Actress (Dramatic): in 1957 for ‘Separate Tables’ and in 1962 for Tennessee Williams’ ‘The Night of the Iguana’. ‘Leighton received an Oscar nomination and a BAFTA award for her role in The Go-Between’ (Joseph Losey, 1971). She also won an Emmy Award for a 1970 television version of ‘Hamlet’.
Leighton isn’t celebrated more as a leading actress as she deserves, having played more supporting roles in films, despite her distinguished career on the stage and in films in both the U.K. and the U.S. and despite her beauty, glamour, and cultured demeanor, she was often characterized as “neurotic,” “odd,” and “eccentric” due to her fluttery essentiality.
Born in Barnt Green, Worcestershire, England, in 1922, Leighton embarked on her professional acting career in the late ’30s, joining the Birmingham Repertory Company at the young age of 15
After she left school and successfully auditioned for Sir Barry Jackson’s Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Recognizing her talent, he not only hired her as a stage manager but also offered her the small role of Dorothy in the stage play Laugh with Me (1938), where she began to shine as one of his star students and marked her professional career on stage. And The play was soon adapted to BBC TV.
During these productive repertory years, she involved herself in the classical plays by Chekov, Shakespeare, and Shaw. In 1944, Margaret made her London debut for the Old Vic Company playing the daughter of the troll king in ‘Peer Gynt’.
After their return to London, the company showcased a total of five plays from its repertoire.
Among the talented cast, the dramatically grand actress who was unconventionally beautiful and possessing captivating and distinctive features wound up eclipsing even the leading stars in the plays. Giving stunning performances as neurotic and vulnerable women.
Recognized as a prodigy, she quickly gained experience by performing in significant classical roles, which proved valuable when she later joined the Old Vic under the guidance of Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson. These were productive years for Margaret Leighton and in 1944, she dwelled in prominent roles in theater productions of Shakespeare, Chekov, and Shaw.
In her next performance, in 1946 as Raina in Arms and the Man, the young Leighton captured the attention of critics. “Margaret Leighton, tall, slender and fair … was an enchanting Raina, with a shy humor lurking behind the romantic dignity,” reported Audrey Williamson.
“I was convinced that the entire world existed within that theater and the two streets I walked through to get there,” she said in a later interview with the New York World-Telegram (June 10, 1946).
In the theater, she acted in various production from 1944-1975 including Queen Elizabeth in Richard III (September 1944), Elena in Uncle Vanya (January 1945); made her New York debut with the Old Vic Company as Lady Percy in Henry IV May 6, 1946);
With the support of Olivier and Richardson whom she’d later work with in film, she earned the distinction as a classical stage actress In 1946, she made her Broadway debut as the Queen in ‘Henry IV’, starring both Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson, but was also engaged in working with contemporary playwrights as well.
1947 was an exciting year for Leighton she earned critical acclaim for undertaking three roles in a single play with The Sleeping Clergyman, she portrayed ‘a betrayed young woman, a murderess, and an international pacifist.’
She appeared as Harriet Marshall, Wilhelmina Cameron, and Hope Cameron in The Sleeping Clergyman (1947), Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story (1949), Celia Coplestone in The Cocktail Party (1950), Masha in The Three Sisters (1951.
“The most exciting performance is Miss Leighton’s,” reported William Hawkins in the New York World-Telegram and Sun. “This actress made her mark on Manhattan five years ago with Olivier and Richardson in the Old Vic. Since then she has grown in command and expressiveness until she is most striking.”
She played Lady Macbeth in Macbeth (Shakespeare Memorial Theater, 1952), Ariel in The Tempest (Shakespeare Memorial Theater, 1952), Rosalind in As You Like It (Shakespeare Memorial Theater, 1952), Orinthia in The Apple Cart (1953), Lucasta Angel in The Confidential Clerk (1953), Mrs. Shankland and Miss Railton-Bell in Separate Tables (1954, New York 1956), Rose in Variations on a Theme (1958), Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing (New York, 1959), Elaine Lee in The Wrong Side of the Park (1960), Ellida in The Lady from the Sea (1960), Hannah Jelkes in The Night of the Iguana (1961), Pamela Pew-Pickett in Tchin-Tchin (New York, 1962), She in The Chinese Prime Minister (1964), Stephanie in Cactus Flower (1967). Birdie in The Little Foxes (New York, 1967), Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra (Chichester Festival, 1969), Lettice Mason in Girlfriend (1970), and Mrs. Malaprop in The Rivals (1971), Elena in Reunion in Vienna (1971), Matty Seaton in A Family and a Fortune (1975).
Leighton would play Roxanne to Richardson’s Cyrano in the 1946 London stage revival of
‘Cyrano de Bergerac’, which would become one of Ralph Richardson’s greatest roles.
Margaret Leighton made her screen debut in the film adaptation of Terrence Rattigan’s “The Winslow Boy” (1948), directed by Anthony Asquith and starring Peter Donat. She also co-starred opposite David Niven in the period piece Bonnie Prince Charlie that same year.
She also appeared in the original production of Williams’ two one-act plays, Slapstick Tragedy, four years later. She was also part of the original West End production of T.S. Eliot’s The Cocktail Party in 1950.
Also In 1950, Leighton as Leonora co-starred with Celia Johnson and Noël Coward in The Astonished Heart, written by Coward and directed by Terence Fisher who would go on to direct a slew of Hammer horror films. In the film Leighton and Coward married to Johnson, carry on a secret affair.
Leighton’s stage career was marked by her continual growth and refinement as an actress. In 1951, she appeared in a remarkably successful London revival of Chekhov’s The Three Sisters, with a cast that included Sir Ralph Richardson and Celia Johnson both actors she would star with in The Astonished Heart the year before.
In 1951 she began to make appearances on television with 4 episodes of BBC Sunday-NIght theatre 1951-53.
She was cast as Ariel in ’The Tempest’, Stratford-upon-Avon, in 1952 with Sir Ralph Richardson in the role of Prospero.
In 1954, Leighton turned in a much-lauded performance on stage in the Terence Rattigan double bill, Separate Tables, playing Mrs. Shankland in The Window Table and Miss Railton-Bell in the second offering, Table Number Seven, two very different personas.
“Miss Leighton’s cold, regal, artful portrait of the worldly woman is brilliant enough by itself,” wrote Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times -“But it seems all the more remarkable when she comes on in the second play as the lifeless young woman with the tearful voice and the futile mannerisms.” The actress repeated her performance in New York in 1956, winning a Tony award for her effort.
The season at Stratford also impacted Leighton’s personal life. The actress began a lengthy and passionate affair with actor Laurence Harvey, which eventually resulted in her divorce from Max Reinhardt in 1955. She would marry Harvey in 1957.
Hermione Baddeley, a ‘blowzy, well-known and well-connected’ actress known for her boisterous personality and flamboyant acting style, was dumped by actor Laurence Harvey who was 23 years younger, so he could marry Margaret Leighton. Leighton and Harvey were married between 1957 to 1961.
She received a second Tony, as well as a Variety Award and a Newspaper Guild Page One Award, for her performance as Hannah Jelkes in Tennessee Williams’ The Night of the Iguana, which opened at New York’s Royale Theater in December 1961. It was Around this time, that Margaret Leighton’s marriage to Laurence Harvey was over, and in 1964 she wed actor Michael Wilding.
In 1949, Margaret Leighton had a supporting role as Milly in Alfred Hitchcock’s romantic crime drama “Under Capricorn,” where she met Michael Wilding, who would later become her third husband in 1964. In the film, Leighton plays the role of Milly, a Mrs. Danverseque housekeeper who lurks around the mansion carrying a large set of keys and treats the intoxicated Ingrid Bergman with contempt. ”Oh no, Mr. Flusky, I’m not good enough for you, I know that! I’m only good enough to work for you, and slave for you, and look after your drunkard wife!” Bergman’s defenseless Henrietta is reminiscent of Hitchcock’s other quivering heroine-in-peril from du Maurier’s Gothic classic, that of Joan Fontaine in Rebecca 1940, as she tries not to die of exposure from Margaret Leighton’s icy grip.
Michael Wilding travels to Australia to find his sweetheart Ingrid Bergman who is now married to Joseph Cotten only to find out she has become an alcoholic and harbors dark secrets.
She starred in The Elusive Pimpernel (1950) opposite her frequent co-star David Niven.
“In 1952, Leighton joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theater Company at Stratford-on-Avon for the season. She turned in a number of winning performances, including one as Lady Macbeth (Gruoch ). Kenneth Tynan described her in the famous sleepwalking scene as “gaunt, pasty, compulsive,” but also noted that “to cast a woman as attractive as Miss Leighton in the part is like casting a gazelle as Medusa.”
With her distinctive blend of refined eccentricity, she mesmerized audiences on both Broadway and London with a multitude of theatrical productions. Her notable performances included the roles of Celia Coplestone in “The Cocktail Party” (1950) and Orinthia in a revival of “The Apple Cart” (1953), showcasing her immense talent on stage.
In the crime drama Calling Bulldog Drummond in 1951, Margaret Leighton would play Scotland Yard inspector Sgt. Helen Smith seeks out Walter Pigeon’s help to infiltrate a vicious crime ring. Home at Seven was released in 1952.
In 1952, The Holy and the Ivy based on the play of the same name by the London-born dramatist Wynyard Browne also co-wrote the film adaptation, tells of a small family gathering at a Norfolk parsonage hosted by the Reverend Martin Gregory (Ralph Richardson) and his reclusive daughter Jenny (Celia Johnson). The film also features a supporting role by Denholm Elliot, but the film belongs to Margaret Leighton as the heartbroken sister, Margaret who has turned to drowning herself in alcohol.
In 1954, in the British crime thriller The Good Die Young directed by Lewis Gilbert and starring Gloria Grahame and future husband Laurence Harvey, Leighton appears as Harvey’s abused wife. The couple would later marry in 1957.
Also In 1954, Wendy Toye’s film noir The Teckman Mystery offered Leighton her first star billing, appearing as Helen Teckman she co-stars with John Justin as a biographer researching a test pilot’s death, falls for Leighton and uncovers a secret where people connected to the case begin to die. That same year she would be reunited with David Niven in Court Martial directed by Anthony Asquith.
She later achieved acclaim by winning a Tony award for Best Actress for her role as Mrs. Shankland in the Broadway premiere of Rattigan’s drama, “Separate Tables” (1956). “As a play, Separate Tables consisted of two separate vignettes set against the same English boarding house and served as an acting tour de force for Eric Portman and Margaret Leighton.” –Variety.
In 1957 she would be reunited with Ralph Richardson and in the same year she would star in The Holly and the Ivy, and the racy comedy The Passionate Stranger directed by Muriel Box
Her mentor from the Old Vic Theatre, Richardson was to become her frequent co-star on both stage and screen.
In 1957 Leighton made an appearance on the American television show Suspicion as Miss Perry in the episode The Sparkle of Diamonds.
And in 1958 she starred in Alfred Hitchcock Presents as Iris in the teleplay Tea Time with Marsha Hunt directed by Robert Stevens. The repartee between Leighton and Hunt as they verbally spar trading sarcasm and venomous defiances as they project their instinctual acting skill as if were a stage play.
Blanche Herbert (Hunt) extends an invitation to Iris Teleton (Leighton) for tea at an upscale restaurant. Blanche, having an affair with Oliver, Iris’ husband, tries to persuade Iris to divorce him, but Iris refuses. It is revealed that Iris had her own past affair, which Blanche is prepared to use against her. Unaware of Oliver’s true intentions, Iris is determined to keep him and his lover apart as a form of punishment. I could have watched them exchange blows for 2 hours.
Margaret Leighton would then be cast as the Southern aristocrat Caddy Compson in Martin Ritt’s adaptation of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury in 1959, starring Yul Brenner, Joanne Woodward, Stuart Whitman, Ethel Waters, and Jack Warden. The Sound and the Fury is a drama focusing on a family of Southern aristocrats who are trying to deal with the dissolution of their clan and the loss of its reputation, faith, fortunes, and respect.
On television she would appear on one episode of Playhouse 90 1959, The DuPont Show of the Month, and 2 episodes o ITV Play of the Month.
She later graced Broadway again, taking on the role of Beatrice in Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” in 1959.
In 1962, Leighton would then co-star with Peter Sellers in the comedy Waltz of the Toreadors directed by John Guillermin.
And In her return to Broadway in 1962, Margaret Leighton earned her second Tony award for her Best Actress performance as Hanna Jelkes (the role Deborah Kerr would portray in John Huston’s screen adaptation )in the original production of Tennessee Williams’ Night of the Iguana (1962).
In 1964, Leighton would co-star as Fonda’s wife in the powerful political drama The Best Man directed by Franklin J. Schaffner adapted from a story by Gore Vidal. It’s a story involving two front runners for their party’s presidential nomination, one principled and the other ruthless, vying for the former president’s endorsement. The film boasts an all-star cast including Henry Fonda, Cliff Robertson, Ann Sothern, Shelley Berman, Lee Tracy, Edie Adams, Gene Raymond, Kevin McCarthy, and Mahalia Jackson. Next came Tony Richardson’s black comedy The Loved One in 1965.
She appeared in the volatile 7 Women as Agatha Andrews in 1965. Directed by John Ford, 7 Women (1966) features a dynamic cast, Anne Bancroft, Margaret Leighton, and Betty Field. Mildred Dunnock, and Flora Robson. They play missionaries who are seized by ruthless Mongolian bandits. The standout performance in the film is Anne Bancroft as a wildly ‘progressive’ doctor.
As Agatha Andrews, must keep it together and she does, deals with the cavalier new doctor, there’s an outbreak of cholera, terrified members of her mission, a whiny pregnant Betty Field, and brutal Mongolian bandits like Mike Mazurki as the Tunga Khan. They are seized by Leighton develops a longing for Sue Lyon as the youngest of the group. 7 Woman was directed by John Ford with his last film, and features Mildred Dunnock, Flora Robson, Anna Lee, Betty Field, and a standout performance by Anne Bancroft as a wildly ‘progressive’ doctor.
On January 11, 1965, Margaret Leighton appeared in a very darkly nuanced performance as Nell Snyder a lonely put upon a daughter who chooses to raise her brother’s little girl Eva recently orphaned. Leighton is marvelous as the rigid joyless woman who seeks to find motherhood through a whimsical yet very strange child in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode Where the Woodbine Twineth.
Not only appearing in TV-movie versions of literary classics including Arms and the Man. ‘As You Like It’ and ‘The Confidential Clerk’, she would continue to revisit Broadway throughout the 1960s appearing in plays including, ‘Tchin-Tchin’, ‘The Chinese Prime Minister’, ‘Slapstick Tragedy’ and the much-lauded production of ‘The Little Foxes (1967).
She would first play Birdie ( a role that Patricia Collinge would originate the role bringing to life on the stage, adapting it to the screen and winning a nomination for Best Supporting Actress and winning an NBR Award in 1941). Leighton would eventually move into the role of Regina.
Margaret began to make her foray into American television making guest appearances on TV shows such as ‘Suspicion,’ ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents, ‘The Alfred Hitchcock Hour’, ‘Ben Casey, Playhouse 90′, Burke’s Law’, ‘The F.B.I.’, ‘The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.’ and ‘Judd for the Defense’, and was nominated for an Emmy in 1966 for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Drama for four episodes of Dr. Kildare.
Based on Oscar Wilde’s play ’An Ideal Husband Leighton stars in a 1969 film with Jeremy Brett,’ as the dazzling blackmailer Mrs. Cheveley, showcasing her well-known distinctive slightly-throaty voice in the role that is filled with cynicism and poison.
For her 1969 stage performance as Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra, Chichester Festival Theatre, 1969, she wore glorious Costumes designed by Carl Toms designed specifically for Leighton
Also in 1969, she appeared in Bryan Forbes’ theatrical screen adaptation of The Madwoman of Chaillot starring Katharine Hepburn.
Leighton also won an Emmy Award for a 1970 television version of ‘Hamlet and received an Oscar nomination and a BAFTA award for her role in The Go-Between in 1971 directed by Joseph Losey. She would become the only actress to ever receive an Oscar nomination in a movie directed by Losey.
Margaret Leighton received her sole Oscar nomination for her supporting role in “The Go-Between” (1971), directed by Joseph Losey with a screenplay by Harold Pinter. Leighton portrays Julie Christie’s conniving and social climbing mother, Mrs. Maudsley, the rigid matriarch of the aristocratic family. During the stifling heat one summer, as a young boy coming of age, he acts as the go-between for the blithe Julie Christie and the gruff Alan Bates. Leighton pushes back against the periphery of the film with grim determination as the preeminent force that must uphold the social order.
Leighton worked less frequently after she was diagnosed with MS In 1971.
In 1972, after Margaret Leighton and British actor Michael Wilding married they co-starred together in the period piece Lady Caroline Lamb, starring Sarah Miles.
Also in 1972, continuing to work, not letting her health slow her down, she had a standout appearance In the British drama – X, Y and Zee it’s an old, flamboyant film starring Elizabeth Taylor as Zee Blakely who is wild, possessive, and cunning and Robert (Michael Caine) who is melancholy, brutish and at times downright violent. Longing for a change he pursues the lovely Stella (Susannah York who he meets at a party given by a friend, the bird-like, arty, jet-setting, gold Lamé, pink fluffy-haired Gladys played to religious fervor by Leighton. She collects people and things for her ‘cocktail parties’ strewn with beautiful types, queens, artists, and anyone with a title attached to their name.
In 1972, she performed as Elena in Reunion in Vienna to rave reviews. The actress was named Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1974 and a year later performed in her last play, A Family and a Fortune, with Alec Guinness.
By this time, Leighton was confined to a wheelchair, but despite great pain, she remained working for the full run of the play.
In Jack Smight’s made-for-TV horror film Frankenstein: The True Story in 1973, Leighton had a supporting role as Francoise DuVal alongside acting great Agnes Moorehead and starring Leonard Whiting as Dr. Victor Frankenstiein, David McCallum as Dr. Henri Clerval and James Mason as Dr. John Olidori. Michael Wilding appears as Sir Richard Fanshawe and a young Jane Seymour as Agatha, and the aesthetically sensual Michael Sarrazin stars as The Creature.
In 1974, she also starred as Miss Havisham in the TV movie, Great Expectations directed by Joseph Hardy.
In 1975, Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky purveyors of entertaining horror offered up one of the popular trends of 1970s horror films, the portamento – Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror for instance. In From Beyond the Grave, we’re offered four different macabre tales, the best of which features Margaret Leighton as Mme. Orloff in the segment “The Elemental”.
Ian Carmichael thinks he has got one over on shop owner of curiosities and collectibles, with a purchase of a snuffbox, unaware that he has taken home a destructive disgusting little creature. He travels homeward on the train with this invisible elemental perched on his shoulder, which is only visible to children, animals, and mediums. During his train ride, he encounters Mme. Orloff, a medium who sees tells him about the elemental and gives him her card. Skeptical at first, Carmichael dismisses her claims. However that night it attacks his wife, leaving them both terrified. Carmichael calls Orloff to come and rid the house of the thing, and in a hilarious sequence, she performs a chaotic exorcism that leaves the house in shambles.
I am almost certain that Emma Thompson drew inspiration for her character Professor Sybill Trelawney in three Harry Potter films.
By 1975, she found it increasingly difficult to work but she continued to act giving an outrageous performance in Trial by Combat. Margaret Leighton’s last television appearance was in the first season of “Space: 1999,” where she portrayed Queen Arra in the episode titled “Collision Course.”
She appears as Ma Gore in A Dirty Knight’s Work in 1976. Kevin Connor’s film is a black comedy starring Barbara Hershey, John Mills, Donald Pleasence, and Peter Cushing. It tells the story of the “Knights of Avalon,” a group of British aristocrats, who take matters of justice into their own hands, challenging accused individuals to traditional combat rather than resorting to immediate execution. Peter Cushing as Sir Edward Gifford stumbles upon their secret society and becomes a target.
In recognition of her contributions to the field of drama, Leighton was honored with the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1974 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Margaret Leighton died on January 13, 1976, at the age of 56, leaving behind a legacy of extraordinary work showcasing performances that are without parallel. Her unique charisma, and splendid, classical beauty made her a point of departure from the ordinary.
Candee, Marjorie Dent, ed. Current Biography. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1957.
Hartnoll, Phyllis, and Peter Found, eds. The Concise Oxford Companion to the Theater. Oxford and NY: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Morley, Sheridan. The Great Stage Stars. London: Angus and Robertson, 1986.
Barbara Morgan, Melrose, Massachusetts
Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia
Gary Brumbaugh- IMDb
JUANITA MOORE BIOGRAPHY:
“I went through a hell of a lot, you know? Being Black and all. And beautiful!” From an interview on TV at age 92
Born in 1914, in Los Angeles, California, Juanita Moore emerged as one of the most talented and influential African-American actresses of her time. With her magnetic presence, remarkable acting prowess, and unwavering dedication, she broke barriers in an industry plagued by racial inequality, leaving an indelible mark on the world of cinema.
Despite receiving an Oscar nomination for her exceptional performance in one of Hollywood’s most highly impactful melodramas, she struggled for recognition in an industry where roles were consigned to ‘native girls’, domestic labor, racial stereotypes, and the prevailing cultural narratives deeply rooted in generations of bigotry. Independent artists were obscured, used as props, and most often weren’t credited in their movies. Despite facing this, Moore exhibited unwavering determination and unyielding grace in all her roles this naked truth is resoundingly clear, Juanita Moore was cast in roles unworthy of her capacity to inspire and astonish us.
“I didn’t want to carry the trays anymore, and I knew that was the only kind of job I was going to get, but I didn’t want to do that.” – Moore says in an interview in the documentary Juanita Moore: A Star Without a Star directed by grandson Kirk Kelleykahn. it was his labor of love.
“It was horrible,” Kelleykahn said. “What it says about Hollywood is that they wouldn’t break the stereotype. You have an Oscar nomination and, ‘OK we’re just going to keep you as a maid.'”
Many of her initial roles were uncredited and fleeting cameos, then Juanita’s breakthrough came in 1959 when she was cast in the landmark film “Imitation of Life.”
However regardless of her high-profile role, she was still designated as 7th in the credits below her white costars, Juanita Moore was not even welcomed to the film’s premiere.
Her Oscar nomination was for her role in “Imitation of Life,” Sirk’s mother-daughter tear-jerker of 1959. Juanita Moore starred opposite Lana Turner, both widowed mothers raising daughters on their own. Moore plays Annie and Turner plays Lora. Two with diverging paths. Lora becomes a huge success on Broadway and Annie becomes her maid. Both daughters grow up together, and Annie’s daughter Sarah Jane is fair-skinned and makes her mind up to pass as white while she works as a bump and grind showgirl , which breaks Annie’s heart and ultimately her own.
Moore revealed in the documentary that she was initially apprehensive about taking on such a significant role but Annie came as an inspiration and as a tribute to her sisters, channeling their spirit, one who possessed a powerful maternal instinct. Five of her sisters worked as domestic help, though unlike Juanita they had college degrees.
Though the film is recognized as a defining moment in the history of film, it still advanced an ideology where Black women are equated with and were consigned to domestic labor in Hollywood.
Producer Ross Hunter insisted that Juanita Moore, with her ‘sweetness-and-light’ face, was perfect for Annie, yet the Imitation of Life star was stereotyped and undervalued by Hollywood but years later, she finally received the recognition she deserves. She was a woman of remarkable talent and integrity, ascending through the racism in 20th-century Hollywood, struggling through a duration of marginalization not only in real life but through the agency of cinematic storytelling. Though you wouldn’t know it by gazing into that smile that lit up like a solar flare.
Despite Moore’s undeniable talent and her training at the prestigious Actors’ Lab alongside icons like Marlon Brando Marilyn Monroe, and James Dean, the Universal executives initially showed reluctance in casting her for the film.
They were calling for more established names like Ethel Waters, Pearl Bailey, or Mahalia Jackson who delivered the movie’s rapturous finale, ignoring how much Moore would transform the role.
Producer Ross Hunter championed Juanita Moore, certain that she was fated to be Annie, and her performance and the relationship with her daughter (Susan Kohner) remain the single enduring impact of the film.
From a young age, Juanita displayed a natural inclination for the arts. Inspired by the vibrant world of theater and film, she set out to pursue her dreams of becoming an actress. In the 1930s, she began her showbiz journey as a chorus girl at the Cotton Club in Harlem, catering to an exclusively white audience, later performing at renowned venues such as the London Palladium and Moulin Rouge, following in the footsteps of the legendary Josephine Baker.
However, the road to success was far from easy. In an era characterized by racial segregation and limited opportunities for African-American performers, she faced numerous hurdles on her path to stardom.
Undeterred by the challenges she faced, Juanita began her acting career by joining the renowned Ebony Showcase Theatre in Los Angeles, a pioneering institution that provided a platform for black actors to showcase their talents. It was here that she honed her craft, building a solid foundation for the incredible journey that lay ahead, at the same time fighting for better opportunities for her Black peers in the industry as well.
Juanita Moore became a member of the Screen Actors Guild in 1937. Her first film role was as a nurse in the film “Pinky” in 1949. Pinky is directed by Elia Kazan and John Ford’s post-WWII, which is the “culmination of the trend toward black realism in the American cinema of the forties” (Christopher Jones). The film, like Imitation of Life, places Jeanne Craine in the role of a nurse Telling a story of a young nurse (white actress Jeanne Craine) who is a light-skinned black woman who has been passing for white, returning to her home in Mississippi after being raised and schooled in the North.
“Ethel Waters takes on the role of old laundress, Granny Dicey, grandmother of Pinky Johnson, n the film, often recognized as a groundbreaking classic examining race, Waters transformed what could have been a well-known (Mammy) caricature of Black women into a bold, fearless enigma, and was the second Black woman nominated for an Academy Award (Hattie McDaniel was the first” – from Joy Out of Fire Jillian Peprah-Frimpong
In the post-war years, Juanita Moore got involved with the Actor’s Lab which embraced diversity and was a more progressive theater group that inspired a whole new generation of actors. During the McCarthy era witch hunt, black artists weren’t immune to the raging paranoia. Moore didn’t escape the commentary on this element in her Hollywood career. When the movie Pinky featured her first speaking part, it was marked as Communist propaganda.
Imitation of Life tried to take on issues of race and identity, lacking the resolution to truly break ground considering Sarah Jane was played by a white actor, Susan Kohner.
“There was nothing fictional about Imitation of Life,” says Moore in her grandson’s documentary. “I live it every day.”
At the time in Hollywood, it pushed the boundaries of social commentary in mainstream cinema. Juanita delivered a powerhouse performance as Annie Johnson, a black housekeeper, earning critical acclaim and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, making her the fifth African-American to receive such an honor.
Co-star Susan Kohner who played her daughter Sarah Jane was also Oscar-nominated alongside Moore in the Best Supporting Actress category, but they both lost to Shelley Winters in The Diary of Anne Frank.
The first time the Oscars nominated a Black actress was in 1939 for Gone with the Wind, a movie that nearly swept every category at the 12th Academy Awards. Hattie McDaniel won the Best Supporting Actress award for her role as a house servant named Mammy in the romance epic.
The second Black actress to be nominated for an Oscar was Ethel Waters for 1949’s Pinky, and the first Black actress nominated for Best Actress happened for Dorothy Dandridge, with her 1954 titular role in Carmen Jones.
Following her role in “Imitation of Life,” Juanita became an influential figure in Hollywood, paving the way for future generations of Black actors. With her dignified presence, she challenged stereotypes and demanded recognition for the talent and humanity of black performers.
During what Moore refers to as “the fighting days,” she confronted the adversities of an industry that was hostile to Black artists and narratives. Amid Hollywood’s Red Scare, Moore and other Black actors were required to daily sign declarations disavowing communism. Nonetheless, in the 1950s, she made notable appearances in films like “Affair in Trinidad” (1952) and “The Girl Can’t Help It” (1956) before securing a role in the Sirk film.
Throughout her career, Juanita graced both the stage and screen with her remarkable talent. She appeared in notable productions such as “Porgy and Bess” and “The Amen Corner” on Broadway, showcasing her versatility and captivating audiences with her ability to breathe life into complex characters.
Beyond her artistic accomplishments, Juanita was deeply committed to civil rights activism, advocating for racial equality. Her tireless efforts and unwavering commitment to social change made her an icon not only in the entertainment industry but also in the fight for justice and equality.
Her contributions to the world of acting and her unyielding dedication to social justice have left an indelible mark on the fabric of American culture. Her name remains synonymous with talent, grace, and the unwavering pursuit of equality.
Juanita Moore passed away on January 1, 2014, at the age of 99. Juanita’s extraordinary journey will forever be etched in the annals of cinematic history, a testament to her pioneering spirit and enduring legacy.
She began her foray into television in Climax! An episode in 1956 titled Night Shriek began an active career thereafter.
Throughout the 1960s, Moore actively pursued television work, including multiple appearances on “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” and briefly ventured into Blaxploitation films of the 1970s. Concurrently, she also engaged in theater productions such as the inaugural London staging of “A Raisin in the Sun.”
Notably, Moore played a pivotal role in supporting James Baldwin’s writing career by facilitating financial aid from her old theater school friend Brando, which led to the creation of “The Amen Corner,” a play in which she found a reemergence on stage, performing in the production. The theater had always been a space for marginalized performers to explore more complex roles. And these opportunities allowed her to break free from limited roles that merely involved “serving and weeping for others.”
“Under the guidance of Edmund Cambridge, she was an integral member of the Cambridge Players, who looked to bring more compelling depictions of black lives to the stage. In a broader industry enamored with marketability, profit, and accolades, these stories will never draw as much attention, but it feels like this stage in Moore’s career was probably the most rewarding. It placed her opposite some marvelous talents like Helen Martin and Esther Rolle in stories they truly believed in.” – Tynan Yanaga Film Inquiry
Moore’s first movie role was as an uncredited ‘dancer’ in the comedy/musical So This is Africa in 1933 starring Robert Woolsey and Raquel Torres as Tarzana. Then in 1934, she was an uncredited ‘Black Dancer in Duke Ellington’s Ebony Rhapsody’. In Murder at the Vanities. From 1934-1940 she appeared as either a dancer, slave girl, or a patron in Cleopatra 1934, in James Whale’s Show Boat 1936 starring Irene Dunne, Double Deal 1939, and Broken Strings in 1940. In 1941 she appeared as a ‘freed slave girl’ in Belle Starr. In 1942 she was cast in the blink of an eye part as a dancer in the ‘sharp as a tack’ number in the comedy musical Star Spangled Rhythm.
In 1943 she appeared in Vincente Minnelli and Busby Berkeley’s fantasy comedy Cabin in the Sky as a nightclub patron and churchgoer. The film stars Ethel Waters. Lena Horne and Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson. Then came A Song is Born in 1948, directed by Howard Hawks, with a screenplay by Billy Wilder, featuring Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey. Juanita Moore is uncredited as a ‘woman at the Chocolate Club’. She went on to play an uncredited nurse in Douglas Sirk’s Pinky.
She was cast in various uncredited roles, including a ‘native woman, in Tarzan’s Peril, a maid in No Questions Asked, and a woman looking at the spaceship in Robert Wise’s The Day the Earth Stood Still. There were 2 more uncredited roles in 1952, in Lydia Bailey and Skirts Ahoy! Then in 1952, she played Dominique in Affair in Trinidad Vincent Sherman’s film noir starring Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford.
1953 began her foray into television with an episode of Ramar of the Jungle playing Teesa and an episode of Schlitz Playhouse cast as a maid in Fresh Start.
Back on the big screen in the film noirs- crime drama Witness to Murder starring Barbara Stanwyck she is uncredited as a ‘Negress.’ In 1955’s exploitation noir dram Women’s Prison written by Crane Wilbur, she plays Polyclinic ‘Polly’ Jones, in a supportive role alongside Ida Lupino, Jan Sterling, Audrey Totter, and Cleo Moore. We first meet Polly, one of the prisoners, on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor singing “Swing low sweet Chariot”
Ida Lupino: The Iron Maiden of Prison Noir: Part One ‘Women’s Prison’ (1955)
In Stanley Kramer’s Not As a Stranger in 1955, Moore plays Mrs. Clara Bassett – in an uncredited role alongside Frank Sinatra, Olive de Havilland, Robert Mitchum, and Gloria Grahame. The next year she appeared as nurse Shirley Lorraine in another film noir Ransom! Starring Glenn Ford as the wealthy parent whose son is abducted. Also in 1956, Moore got to play a powder room attendant in the musical comedy The Opposite Sex.
She appeared on television once again in an episode of Climax! Still, in 1956 she played Hilda in the Jayne Mansfield vehicle The Girl Can’t Help It.
In 1957 she was cast as a ‘tribal woman’ in Richard Brooks’ drama Something of Value starring Rock Hudson, Dana Wynter, and Wendy Hiller. In British Colonial Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising, Peter and Kimani, who grew up together, find themselves on opposite sides. The film c-stars an outstanding cast of African American actors, including William Marshall as the ‘intellectual in a suit’, Ivan Dixon, Ken Renard, and Sidney Poitier as Kimani Wa Karanja.
She appeared in several more films in 1957, including Band of Angels, The Helen Morgan Story, playing Miss Randall in The Green-Eyed Blonde starring a sadly underrated actress Susan Oliver.
Then 1959 delivered Juanita Moore to her standout role in Imitation of Life. After that, she appeared on an episode of The DuPont Show with June Allyson, and Tammy Tell Me True in 1961.
Juanita Moore began her engagement with Alfred Hitchcock Presents as Cleo in the episode Bang You’re Dead in 1961, another television episode on Cain’s Hundred and then she was cast as Mama in Edward Dmytryk’s Walk on the Wild Side in 1962.
Edward Dmytryk’s Walk on the Wild Side (1962) At the Doll House; “When people are kind to each other why do they have to find a dirty word for it”
In 1963 she played Mrs. Holmby in the episode Which Man Will Die? For the television series The Eleventh Hour. Moore was busy on television that year appearing on several shows including Going My Way, Wagon Train, 77 Sunset Strip, Breaking Point, and an episode of Ben Casey as Hettie.
She followed up with the major motion picture A Child is Waiting that same year playing an uncredited part as Julius’ Mother. After an episode of Mr. Novak, she reappeared in 3 episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Playing Mrs. McFarland, a role that positioned Moore in a more empowering role as a woman who owned her own business with her husband. She appeared in the Season 2 episode The Gentleman Caller and for this feature in the haunting Where the Woodbine Twineth in the role of Suse.
She was still busy taking roles in popular television series during the 1960s, The Farmer’s Daughter, Slattery’s People, Dragnet, The Outsider, and The Bold Ones.
In 1966 she played the nun Sister Mary in The Singing Nun and a nurse in Rosie! In 1968.
She would continue to be busy throughout the 70s appearing in Mannix, Ironside, Adam-12, and in 2 episodes of Marcus Welby, M.D.
In 1971 she played Viney in Gordon Douglas’ comedy/western The Skin Game starring James Garner, Louis Gossett Jr., and Edward Asner. In 1857, con man Quincy Drew and his black friend Jason O’Rourke swindle slave owners into buying Jason, who’s a free man, and later share the profits when Jason escapes captivity.
Cinema was changing in the 1970s and Juanita Moore found herself in the emerging Blaxploitation movement for instance Uptight and The Mack which had its own thread that depicted stereotypes…
The term was coined in August 1972 by Junius Griffin, the president of the Beverly Hills–Hollywood NAACP branch. He claimed the genre was “proliferating offenses” to the black community in its perpetuation of stereotypes often involved in crime. The genre does rank among the first after the race films in the 1940s and 1960s in which black characters and communities are the protagonists and subjects of film and television, rather than sidekicks, antagonists, or victims of brutality. (Tre’vel Anderson: A look back at blaxploitation era through 2018 eyes)
You might remember her playing the mother of the pimp Goldie in the 1973 blaxploitation classic The Mack 1973. She followed that up with her role as Hattie Fox in director Clyde Houston’s (production mgr. Sweet Sweetback’s Badaassss Song 1971) Fox Style starring Chuck Daniel. In 1974 she appeared in Gordon Parks Jr.’s Thomasine & Bushrod starring Vonetta McGee and Max Julien, and she starred in The Get-Man aka The Zebra Killer.
And in 1974/75 three exploitation horror films called, cast as Miranda ‘Momma’ Potter in Abby an Exorcist knock-off Deliver Us from Evil where she plays Mrs. Trindal.
In the 1980s she appeared in Paternity starring Bert Reynolds, in the erotic thriller Two Moon Junction in 1988, as Kenny’s Grandmother in the Bruce Willis film The Kid in 2000, and her last two appearances would be on episodes of ER and Judging Amy.
Juanita Moore passed away in 2013 after nearly a century of living bold, the sphere of her work was relatively glossed over by the Hollywood dynasty.
“Her legacy was she persevered,” her grandson, Kirk Kelleykahn said. “She kept going. She never stopped… I’m glad that she will be getting one, and I’m glad that we did persevere with the film, Kelleykahn said. “But I think it should’ve been much sooner.”
He calls the movie he made about her “A Star Without A Star,” because the folks in charge refused to give her a posthumous star until his documentary pressured them to include his grandmother.
The obstacles Kelleykahn faced getting her this honor mirrored her own fight in the 1950s.
The documentary with its significant presence on the festival circuit reshaped Moore’s posthumous legacy with its campaign to secure Moore’s recognition with a star. At age 99, she applied for inclusion on the Walk of Fame in 1998 and has been posthumously nominated every year since 2019. Out of the approximately 3,000 stars, only 5% belong to black talent.
in June 2020, the Walk of Fame Selection Panel of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced that Juanita Moore, a revolutionary Black actor appearing in roles from the 1930s through the early 2000s, was finally honored with a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Juanita Moore had such a meaningful career, her beautiful smile was evidence that she attained a sense of contentment in her later years. And though her recognition is much deserved, who needs a star to tell you that you are one.
“I’m thankful for Imitation of Life,” she says in the documentary. “I’m happy that I made it. And happy that I made it through.”
Eva-“Is it dark where daddy is?”-Nell ” I hope not… I don’t know.” -Eva “Numa knows… Mingo says it’s brighter than day!… they have bumble bees there too.”-Nell- “Who’s Mingo honey?”-Eva- “My best friend!”
‘He is gone where the woodbine twineth,
With the vine on the ivied wall,
‘Neath the shade of the weeping willow,
Where its long drooping branches fall
Remember then the soldier,
Ones noble and so brave,
And cast thy little token
A flowret on his grave’
-from “Gone Where the Woodbine Twineth” by Septimus Winner, 1870
“Where the Woodbine Twines” is a lesser-known folk saying that refers to a mysterious place where you go to but nobody will know where you went.
The episode was adapted from a David Grubb short story that was published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in February 1964 and later included in the collection “YOU NEVER BELIEVE ME.” Grubb is renowned for his notable work, “THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER,” which was famously adapted into a film by Charles Laughton.
Where the Woodbine Twineth is perhaps one of the few Alfred Hitchcock series that mirrored its competitor and it would have fit nicely into Boris Karloff’s Anthology show Thriller. Both series featured crime-oriented stories, but Thriller was definitely more horror/fantasy-driven.
It is one of the Hitchcock series’ most supernatural tales that breaks the mold of the crime/suspense drama. Along with The Sign of Satan, The Monkey’s Paw, and The Magic Shop by H.G. Wells. It’s an episode that has stayed with me since the first time I experienced it.
A Southern Gothic tale of the uncanny & the supernatural, the eerie childlike rhyme drifts into the story of a little girl with one foot in the netherworld, effectively creepy yet magical… with a haunting quality that lingers… It’s definitely a meditation on childhood purgatory.
Where the Woodbine Twineth was directed by Alf Kjellin with John F. Warren’s stark and darkly ethereal camerawork creates a vision of a childhood journey of the supernatural. Where the Woodbine Twineth is every bit a horror story.
The teleplay is by James Bridges and Manly Wade Wellman adapted from a short story by Davis Grubb who wrote Night of the Hunter 1955, The Cheyenne Social Club, and a few short stories for Rod Serling’s Night Gallery 1971. The episode also includes a captivating score by Bernard Herrmann. Bernard Herrmann’s score sounds like a Gothic fairytale with his dramatic strings that flutter quite mysterious and very sentimental of his work with Hitchcock
Margaret Leighton is mesmerizing as Aunt Nell whom she portrays with the most exquisite essence of repression, bitterness, and envy of Eva’s free spirit. A sad lonely woman who missed out on her own life. Instead, belonging to her obligation to the family and a sense of duty to them.
Leighton looks like a B&W photograph of American Gothic.
Aunt Nell finds herself ill-equipped to fulfill the role of a caregiver to a spirited and unrestrained child who is also grieving the loss of her father, causing her to gradually unravel under the weight of the responsibility. As tensions escalate, the conflict between Nell and Eva reaches a palpable intensity, with Nell challenging and opposing Eva at every possible turn and Eva outraged at Nell’s insensitivity toward her beloved friends.
Hovering over the house in a constant state of pressure is the conflict over control and Nell does not heed the warning that if she makes her friend Numa go away, Eva will have to trade places with her and go dwell “Where the Woodbine Twineth.”
Where the Woodbine Twineth takes place near the river and Captain King comes from New Orleans by steamboat and docks near Cresap’s Landing. This is the same location that Davis Grubb’s used in his novel Night of the Hunter.
Eileen Baral plays little Eva Snyder who has become an orphan and goes to live with her father’s sister, Aunt Nell. Nell who was considered an ’old maid’ doesn’t approve of Eva’s imaginary playmates or her exploring her imagination at all.
John F. Warren who did over 33 episodes of the series as well as Torn Curtain in 1966, camera work captures the atmospherics of the story, which broaches on the macabre dealings of childhood imagination as Eva lives amidst fey creatures who befriend her as she is a unique and solitary child – who bridges the gap between this world and the nether region between life, death, and the realms you cannot see with the naked eye.
Nell is also unable to understand that Eva is trying to make sense of her parent’s deaths and that her life has changed drastically. She tragically drives little Eva away with the misplaced voice within that told her it was better to discipline Eva than to nurture her.
In the end, Nell’s worst fears are realized, as the child she wanted to love disappears from her life forever and she is left with the knowledge that she drove the little girl away.
She just can’t embrace Eva’s wild folk tales, like being careful not to vacuum under the Davenport because that’s where her friends live and they’ll be frightened away.
When Eva comes to live with her aunt Nell and her elderly grandfather, riverboat Captain King (Carl Benton Reid) Nell’s father, Nell just can’t break through to Eva. She stands outside Eva’s joy encircled by fantastical visions. Eva reaches out to all worlds while Nell closes herself off even from the everyday world.
Nell rigidly lacks any understanding of her recently orphaned niece who talks with fey people whom Eva believes are real and visit her at night.
Nell – “You know perfectly well there’s no one in this parlor but you!” Eva –“They live under the Davenport.”
Nell stays in the old house and decides to look after Eva out of a sense of duty, but becomes obsessed with controlling her, in a small way trying to crush her spirit, always looking to catch her in lies. Not maliciously, but in effect she has no sense of how to communicate with Eva who is really just a baby.
Drawing upon her own childhood experiences, Nell perceives her harsh upbringing as her sole reference for dealing with Eva. But this leads to her inability to connect with the child, expecting her to be a serious grown-up when she is just a very bright little girl.
To balance out the constant struggle between the suffering Nell and the precocious Eva is the calming and level-headed presence of the marvelous Juanita Moore as the loving Suse, who embraces Eva’s imagination and is more like a mother figure to the little girl than Nell can possibly manifest from inside her walled up heart. Like a dreary cloud over Nell’s head, she seems bewildered by compassion and mothering, having had no experiences of her own, having only known her father’s strict upbringing.
Suse – a lovely portrayal by Juanita Moore whose smile has been referred to as having a ‘sweetness and light face’ involves her in the household chores and baking, though at one point Suse becomes a little wary when Eva shares the strange news that Numa (Lila Perry)
the exquisite black doll the Captain brought home to Eva during one of his rare trips home, was orchestrated by her ethereal friends Mr. Peppercorn and Mingo, to cheer up Eva after her aunt Nell chased them away from the house. Eerily, the doll is almost the same size as six years old Eva.
Suse’s husband Jesse is played by Joel Fluellen (who appeared in Imitation of Life 1959 which starred Juanita Moore- it was his only appearance in the Hitchcock series). And the haunting Numa is played by Lila Perry.
It is Juanita Moore’s character of Suse who is the key maternal nurturing figure in the piece. The only time she begins to sense something is wrong is when Eva talks about the doll game and she and Numa switch places.
Eva to Suse “They don’t like Aunt Nell they always hide when they see her coming I keep telling them that she’s really very nice down inside. And that they mustn’t be afraid of her.”
Ultimately Nell will come face to face with the mystical world where the woodbine twineth opens its way in.
The show begins with Eva dressed in a little black dress at her father’s funeral. Afterward, she arrives at her new home, to be taken care of by her aunt Nell. Her father is now buried in the same grove alongside her mother.
Suse- “Poor baby.”
“I’m awfully sorry Mr. King.”
“He’s not coming back is he Aunt Nell? Even If I pretend he’ll never come back. Look at all the bumble bees out in the garden. Do bumble bees die?”
“What is going to become of me?”
“Is it dark where Daddy is?”
Nell “What is it, Eva?” “It’s just that I’m expecting someone and I thought I saw them.”
Nell takes her upstairs to her bedroom telling her that it was her father’s bedroom. From the beginning, we discover how conceptual Eva is when she asks about her father’s death…
Eva-“What is going to become of me am I going to die?”
Nell –“Not for a long time you’re gonna live here with me and we’re gonna have a very nice life.”
Eva-“Is it dark where daddy is?”-Nell ” I hope not… I don’t know.” -Eva “Numa knows… Mingo says it’s brighter than day!… they have bumble bees there too.”-Nell- “Who’s Mingo honey?”-Eva- “A friend of Mine. My best friend!”
At this time we hear of her imaginary friend Mingo, which already throws the uptight Nell off guard who is struck with a faint bit of worry for Eva.
In a scene in the parlor, Nell’s father suggests that Eva could always come live with the mother’s people, but Nell intends to raise Eva herself. She hasn’t had much love, having to care for everyone else, like her ailing mother. While her brother had all the chances to make a life for himself. This is the one scene where Nell becomes a sympathetic character.
Captain King “Are you absolutely sure you want to keep Eva here? I can’t take her with me in the morning and leave her with her mother’s people.”
Nell “She’s Amos’ child I know he’d a wanted me to take care of her.”
Captain King “Big job taking care of a six-year-old. Things aren’t gonna be as quiet around here.”
Nell “I’m aware of that I’m even looking forward to it. It’s been too quiet around here for a long time.”
Captain King “You’re not doing this out of a sense of duty are you?”
Nell “I don’t know I never thought about it like that It would make no difference if it was. Well, I suppose we do a lot of things out of a sense of duty.”
Captain King “I never asked you to stay here and take care of this house. I never kept you here for one minute.”
Nell “I never said you did But someone had to stay with mom until she died Amos was so busy and going to school and getting married. I’m sorry Father I haven’t been able to cry about Amos yet.”
“We do a lot of things out of duty.”
“You could come with me to New Orleans on my boat.” “No, I want to stay here with Aunt Nell.”
Though Eva tries to understand death, she is afraid of the dark and asks Nell if she would come and stay with her until she falls asleep. Leighton is so agile at shifting from austere and in control to a woman clumsy and naive. She has no experience comforting a child. Eva tells Nell that she wants her to meet Mingo, a little creature who can live in a birdcage and rides a fox like a horse.
After a small exchange between the two in bed, it’s clear to Eva that Nell does not believe her and is skeptical of Mingo, just as her father was before he died.
When Nell wakes up later that night she finds Eva curled up in the closet, playing hide and seek with Mingo. Angry, Nell insists she gets back into bed and admonishes her for talking back. Unwilling to deny her truth, Eva says that Mingo saw her parents dancing together down on the ground.
Mingo came. We’re playing hide and seek.
”I don’t like you I was having fun.” ‘‘You mustn’t talk back at me. My mama would wash my mouth out with soap if I talked back at her like that.” ” You’re not my mommy.”
“Mingo saw her. Mingo said her eyes were open. She saw Mommy and Daddy dancing together down in the ground.”
”You mustn’t make up things like that.”
”It’s not made up. What Mingo says is so.”
Nell is consumed by her wish for Eva to make herself useful and through her narrow perspective as an adult, she feeds her weighty volumes like The Pilgrim’s Progress, rather than allowing her to indulge in conversations and frolicking with Mingo, Mr. Peppercorn, and Sam.
From the first night in the house, Eva suspects that Aunt Nell doesn’t believe anything she says.
Eva lightly interrogates Nell asking if she believes her about her friends.
And though Eva has the wonder and spirit of a child, she is quite astute as she tells Nell, ‘I knew you didn’t believe me.” after Nell gives her a politely evasive response to her question.
‘’Mingo Brought her whole family with her cause her house caught on fire. They didn’t save a thing, not even a pair of shoes.
Mr. Peppercorn is her father. He has a beard very much like Grandpa used to wear on his chin. Mr. Peppercorn is red .”
They all live here under the Davenport.
“Give it to me, because I know how to keep from hitting them.” Suse laughs.
“It’s nice to see Eva helping.”
“They don’t like Aunt Nell.”
“Is Aunt Nell an Old Maid? Is it when you’re snippy?”
That next day, while Eva is helping Suse around the house, she tells her about her magical friends. And unlike Aunt Nell, Suse just flows along with a bright smile, not a worry about the child at all, delighted by Eva’s wonderful sense of storytelling.
She asks Suse marvelous questions with clever insight like “Is Nell an Old Maid and if that means she’s tired.”
And if love makes you not tired? She loves her little friends so there must be some truth in what people say.
Nell overhears Eva asking Suse if she’s an old maid ‘’Is Aunt Nell an Old maid? When they’re snippy does loving someone make you not snippy Suse?”
It is clear that Nell will begin to feel a bit jealous of their relationship, like an outsider.
“Does loving someone make you snippy Suse?” “Some folks say it does.”
”I love Mingo.”
“They are real. They live under the Davenport. They’re little.”” They aren’t real!”
”You did it. You’re an awful old snippy old maid.”
”I’ll rinse your mouth out with soap so hard it’ll make your head swim!”
Later on, Nell hears Eva whispering softly to someone in the parlor. She grows frustrated with Eva’s insistence that she was playing with her imaginary friends.
Aunt Nell is a solitary woman who fears and is threatened by Eva’s imagination, joy, faith, and freedom.
“Well then show them to me.” ‘
”No, they don’t like you.”
Well, that’s too bad ’cause I want to see them!” ” There aren’t there.” They are there!”
Why can’t I see them… because they aren’t there!”
“But they are real!” ”No, they’re not!
‘‘They’re gone.” “They’re gone because they weren’t there.”
You did it. You did it, you made them go away!”
Of course, Nell at one point loses her patience and violently thrusts an umbrella underneath the Davenport to show Eva that there is no one there. She winds up breaking poor Sam’s leg.
Eva is furious and accuses Nell of making her friends go away and won’t ever return.
If we first question whether Eva has an outstanding imagination, there is the intrusion of the supernatural subtext within the story of a child’s journey through loss and the ill-fated result of Nell’s repression. The evidence of the supernatural comes when Eva takes the doll Numa under her blankets and we suddenly see the outline and the voices of two little girls playing joyfully.
Later on, there’s a wonderful scene that illustrates Eva’s loving relationship with Suse that takes place In the smokehouse where Eva is hiding in the shadows of the loft. When Suse comes looking for her, Eva begins to whisper to her in a spooky voice, like a ghostly cartoon owl. Suse greets her with genuine affection. She has come to tell her that her grandfather has returned.
Suse “Your Aunt Nells’ been lookin’ high and low for you.
You missed going down on the dock and seeing your grandpa coming in on the boat Don’t you wanna go?” Eva “Yes.” Suse “Well why didn’t you answer and make your whereabouts known.” Eva “I couldn’t.” Suse “Why not?”
Eva “Cause Mr Peppercorn came and I couldn’t be rude to Mr. Peppercorn. He came back on a butterfly for just one minute to tell me something.”
Suse “You better come on and get out from there before you break your neck. Come on. Uh, My goodness just look just look at them hands ooh and that face and you smell like a piece of smoked meat.”
Eva “I was pretending I was a string of peppers.”
Suse laughs “Oh yes, well we’re just gonna have to throw you in the tub and clean you up before they get back. What are you grinning about young lady?”
Eva “I promised not to tell.” Eva spins and sings a silly song.
Suse “You better stop that you’re gonna make yourself dizzy now come on come on come on.”
When Captain King arrives home, Nell fills him in on Eva.
Nell “I’ve been almost out of my mind all summer long It just doesn’t stop. There’s a whole community of them living under the Davenport They all rode frogs.”
Captain King laughs
Nell “It’s not too funny.”
Captain King “She’s just a baby Nell.”
Nell “I know but it’s all she talks about. All she thinks about. She never lifts a finger around the house. When I was her age I made myself very useful well now you know I did.” Captain King ‘Yes you did.”
Nell “Mama would a taken a switch to me if I acted the way she acts.”
Captain “You’re not sorry you took her in are you Nell?” Nell “She’s Amos’ child.”
Captain “You’re not answering my question.” Nell “No I’m not sorry. But I intend to do something about it. A child must learn to live with the reality of the world. Sounds like something you said to me once upon a time doesn’t it.”
Captain “Sounds familiar.” Nell “Well I’d be grateful if you’d brush up on that particular lecture. It was pretty effective as I remember.”
Captain “I’ll go get her.” Nell “You might also tell her I’m not a snippy old maid and impossible ogre.”
Captain King is not affected by his delightful little granddaughter’s fantasy life. To him, she’s just a little girl and her musings are harmless and she is a happy child. She shines. So what if Eva lives in a world of ideation inhabited by characters named Mingo, Sam, and Mr. Peppercorn, imaginary or not. When Eva gets a wonderful Creole doll from her grandfather she intuitively calls her Numa.
Eva has been expecting her new friend Numa because Mr. Peppercorn predicted she would come. Numa becomes Eva’s companion and at one time, Nell thinks she hears two different voices coming from Eva’s room when Eva plays with the doll Numa, but suspects that it must be one of the local girls.
She grows to dislike and mistrusts her aunt Nell and both develop a power of the will.
Nell just believes Eva to be willful and lazy and blames things that go wrong on her imaginary friends like Mr. Peppercorn and Mingo…
Eva’s freedom is something she’s never known and resents Eva’s innocence and playfulness, the ability to feel true joy. Nell becomes more incensed and threatened by Eva’s disregard for authority and blames it on her indulgence with her imaginary playmates.
Suse and Eva love spending time together in the kitchen – frosting a cake, and making supper, with Eva free to ask and say freely what she is thinking. She talks to Suse about Numa, “the old Negro woman says that if Aunt Nell ever makes her go away she’ll take me with her . . . where the woodbine twineth.” And she foreshadows her fate. She also tells Suse that sometimes she and Numa change places.
“I’ll put her to work Miss Nell. I’ll see that she sweeps the porch and helps me with the pie crusts.”
”Aunt Nell doesn’t like Numa any more than she likes Mr. Peppercorn.
Numa says if she ever makes her go away like the others she’ll take me with her.
”And where would that be?” Suse asks.
”Where the woodbine twineth.”
”How far from Crepsas landing is it?”
”I don’t know but someplace far away.”
Eva tells Suse all about the games they play.
“Sometimes Numa gets tired of being a doll.”
”Oh, she does?”
HMm Really tired of playing doll So I play doll and she puts me in the box and plays with me
Suse seems a bit concerned for the first time listening to Eva’s stories. ‘‘She puts you in that box… and you’re the doll?”
‘‘I hate you!’
”Don’t you talk to me that way.” “Shut up!”
Later on, after Nell returns home, she once again hears two separate voices while Eva plays outside with Numa.
Nell is certain she sees Eva playing outside with another little girl, Eva just tells her, “You never believe me.”
In retaliation, in order to discipline her, she takes the doll away as punishment, ignoring the warning of Numa’s threat. Eva finally says what she’s been feeling, “I hate you!” as she tries to take a bite out of Nell’s shoulder. But Nell tells her to ‘shut up! Grabbing her, and bringing her inside the house while she looks at Suse.
Nell puts the Numa doll on top of the player piano out of reach from Eva. And in an eerie sequence that follows, the player piano mysteriously springs to life by itself, with Numa propped up inside her box on top. Nell becomes shaken and calls Jessie to come and fix it while Eva is sent up to her room without supper.
Once again Eva is exiled, separated from her friend Numa. This decision of Nells will come back to haunt her.
Eva looks up at Numa, as if she is speaking to her.
Nell asks Suse if she’s being too unreasonably strict with Eva but decides she has done the right thing.
Suse takes supper up to Eva’s room but afterward, Eva sneaks into the locked parlor. Suse hears the piano playing once again.
At this point, we are closer to understanding that Numa is of the supernatural world and possesses the uncanny ability to exert control over inanimate objects and come to life herself.
When Nell returns home, she discovers Numa is missing from her her place on top of the player piano. Aunt Nell hears two little girls singing out in the woods.
“life is hard-but–Where the woodbine twineth it’s summertime all the time…it’s apples and peaches and you can play anything you want to play anytime you want to play it. The Jax are the stars and the ball is the sun and the moon. There are candy canes and everybody has a doll.”
Nell wanders into a clearing and sees two girls, Eva, and a little black girl – Numa – playing together. The scene is shot in a way to disorient us. When Nell gets closer and comes face to face with Numa, she finds only her, leaning over the doll box.
Nell chases her away but when she looks inside the box she sees not the black doll Numa, but rather a white doll that closely resembles Eva, like a porcelain reproduction.
In an unsettling moment, the night air – dark and veiled by a mysterious pall, Nell desperately trying to find Eva hears two girls playing together – they are dancing.
The climax is a very jarring moment as I’ve said earlier. belongs straight out of Karloff’s anthology series, as the little girls dancing in circles holding hands singing “Where the woodbine twineth, where the woodbine twineth, where the woodbine twineth, where the woodbine twineth….”
A cyclical chant that leaves you feeling like you’ve got an ethereal wire twisting in the brain.
”So you’re the child who’s been sneaking up here playing with Eva… scat!”
Numa tries to speak but she is mute.”You go on home where you belong.”
Nell begins whipping Numa with a switch. Numa looks back at her and then runs off.
‘‘Eva now don’t you hide from me if you know what’s good for you you’ll come to me right now.”
There is no music at the end, for a few moments there’s only the crickets and quiet then Herrmann brings his string mania back in…
Horrified Nell realizes that Eva was telling the truth and that she has lost her little niece forever Where the Woodbine Twineth…
When Numa looks back in a flash, before running further into the woods like a sprite, Nell has the revelation that the doll looks just like Eva and she collapses into a state of shock and screams, running off with the box trying to catch up with Numa. Begging her to come back, she drops the box. Warren’s camerawork focuses on Eva as the doll while Nell holding it close to herself cries – for her lost chance at motherhood.
The episode ends with a melancholy and unearthly close-up of the doll’s face.
Echoing the cautionary essence of “be careful what you wish for,” the story unfolds, bearing a striking resemblance to the very theme in Peter Shaffer’s play Equus, in Dr. Dysart’s meddling with Alan’s delusions, though he was emotionally disturbed, while Eva’s wonder is open and enchanting- both live with minds full of ideas – with Alan’s religious mania or Eva’s fantastical folklore. Once the lid is ripped off the dream, the illusion, what remains might not augur well.
The phrase “where the woodbine twineth” had usage during the late 19th century. Its interpretation varied across different works: Winner’s poem linked it to death, Twain’s narrative suggested obsolescence, and Davis Grubb employed it in his short story “You Never Believe Me” published in 1964 in an issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and they reprinted as Where the Woodbine Twineth in his collection, titled “Twelve Tales of Suspense and the Supernatural, also published in 1964.
Davis Grubb also wrote the story that was adapted for “Return of Verge Likens.” These were the only two episodes of the Hitchcock show to feature his work.
It likely served as the source for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour producers, featuring Grubb’s story “Where the Woodbine Twineth” along with “Return of Verge Likens,” his other contribution to the TV series. The story revolves around Nell and her five-year-old niece, Eva, whose parents are dead. Nell expresses concern over Eva’s penchant for playing with imaginary friends like Mr. Peppercorn while reading her solemn serious literature.
When Nell chases Numa off it there’s a twinge of the child wanting to say something but either fearful or incapable of speaking.
Immersed in the realm of childhood, Numa exists in a state where communication with adults seems impossible. Grubb’s story articulates this as Numa possessing “a grief for which it had no tongue,” representing the sorrow arising from Eva’s separation from the world of the living due to Nell’s actions. It signifies Numa’s inability to express its emotions and longing for the connection and presence of Eva.
Captain King, Nell’s father, and Eva’s grandfather is portrayed by Carl Benton Reid. Reid began his career on Broadway in 1929 and later transitioned to films in 1941, followed by television in 1949. After appearing in three episodes of “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” including “The Jar” and “Run for Doom,” he retired from the screen in 1966. Reid also made appearances on the TV show “Thriller episode The Innocent Bystanders in 1962.
Eva, the little girl, is portrayed by Eileen Baral (1955- ), who convincingly plays a younger character in the TV show. Baral was nine years old during filming, although the character’s age is five in the story and six in the show. She had a brief career from 1964 to 1972, primarily working in television. Notably, Baral appeared in 11 episodes of “Nanny and the Professor” (1970-71) and the film “Mirage” (1965).
Loving Southern Gothic ghost stories as I do, Where the Woodbine Twineth still holds a fascination for me, not least of which is Leighton’s performance and Warren’s atmospheric camera work.
But it needs to be said: there are racist aspects of the Numa doll that looks like a doll wearing ‘black face’. There’s also the reference that Eva makes to Suse about getting it from ‘an old negro woman’ alluding to it having its origins in voodoo.
Numa is a supernatural being who lives between worlds. This makes her participate with an identity of otherization which turns the black child into a chimera.
There’s also the comment about Eva not playing with children who live by the river, and her obvious uncomfortability with Numa’s blackness.
“After viewing this episode, I wondered whether Numa was on the market in or around 1965 or if she was a mere set doll. After viewing the episode, taking and examining the still shots, I believe Numa was a flirty-eyed white doll painted black/brown Interestingly, the dress and hairstyle of Lila Perry are quite similar to that of Patti Playpal dolls.” – Debbie Began Garrett
This is your EverLovin’ Joey sayin’ don’t get lost where the woodbine twineth, cause I’ll be right back!
Coming next: Parts 4 & 5 of the series! featuring:
Gena Rowlands & Nancy Kelly in The Lonely Hours, Laraine Day in Death and the Joyful Woman, Doris Lloyd in The Dark Pool, Diana Dors in Run for Doom, Anne Baxter in A Nice Touch, Katharine Ross in The Diving Wall, Mildred Dunnock in Beyond the Sea of Death, Gloria Swanson in Behind the Locked Door, Lillian Gish in Body in the Barn, Ann Sothern in Water’s Edge, Teresa Wright in Lonely Place, Jeanette Nolan in Triumph, Lillia Scala in One of the Family, Louise Latham & Dana Wynter in An Unlocked Window, Vera Miles in Death Scene, Sally Kellerman in Thous Unravished Bride, Geraldine Fitzgerald & Fay Bainter in Power of Attorney and Colleen Dewhurst in Night Fever.
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