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Birth:
27 Oct 1918 1
Death:
06 Mar 2005 1
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Full Name:
Teresa Wright 1
Birth:
27 Oct 1918 1
Death:
06 Mar 2005 1
Residence:
Last Residence: East Haven, CT 1
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Social Security:
Card Issued: Unknown Code (PE) 1

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Teresa Wright

Sweet and sensitive Teresa Wright made her Broadway debut as an understudy in Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" and, after touring in that play, attracted the attention of Samuel Goldwyn while playing the ingenue in the original Broadway production of "Life with Father". She made a sensational transition to screen acting, earning a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination for her film debut as the seemingly fragile Southern belle Alexandra Giddens who more than holds her own with her scheming mother Regina (Bette Davis) in William Wyler's "The Little Foxes" (1941), based on the Lillian Hellman play. Wright avoided the sophomore slump with Oscar nominations for her next two movies, winning as Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Greer Garson's daughter-in-law in Wyler's "Mrs. Miniver" while falling short in the Best Actress category as the wife of Lou Gehrig (Gary Cooper) in "Pride of the Yankees" (both 1942). Despite her formidable talent, she was just a little too plain to really flourish as a Hollywood starlet, though she beautifully captured the small-town adolescent who gradually comes to discover her beloved Uncle Charlie is a murderer in Alfred Hitchcock's "A Shadow of a Doubt" (1943) and reteamed with Wyler as the daughter of a returning veteran in the Oscar-winning "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946), her radiant smile lighting up the final scene with the seeming promise of good times ahead with Dana Andrews.

Wright starred opposite a debuting Marlon Brando in Fred Zinnemann's "The Men" (1950), her part and the picture recalling "The Best Years of Our Lives", but many of her subsequent roles were routine, her lack of glamour pushing her prematurely into matronly parts (e.g., as Jean Simmons' mother in George Cukor's "The Actress" 1953 at the age of 34). She retired from film in 1959 but continued acting for the small screen, picking up Emmy nominations as teacher Annie Sullivan in "The Miracle Worker" (CBS, 1957) and in the title role as the famed photographer in "The Margaret Bourke-White Story" (NBC, 1960). Wright made guest appearances on many series throughout the 60s (i.e., "Bonanza", "The Defenders", "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour") and, despite a return to features in 1969, has continued to act more frequently for TV than the big screen. Another Emmy nomination came her way for her guest spot on CBS' short-lived "Dolphin Cove" (1989), and she also turned up on two popular CBS series, "Murder, She Wrote" (in 1988) and "Picket Fences" (in 1996).

After more than a decade's absence from the stage, Wright returned first to regional theater in the early 50s in such vehicles as "The Country Wife" (Vancouver), "Bell, Book, and Candle" (Phoenix), "The Heiress" (Palm Springs) and "The Rainmaker" (La Jolla) before treading the Broadway boards again in William Inge's "Dark at the Top of the Stairs" (1957). She was back on the Great White Way in "I Never Sang for My Father" (1968), written by then-husband Robert Anderson, and in 1975 appeared in two Broadway revivals, Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman", as Linda Loman to George C Scott's Willy and Eugene O'Neill's "Ah, Wilderness!" as the stern aunt Lily. In the 80s, she triumphed once again as one of the sisters in the acclaimed revival of "Morning's at Seven" (1980-81) sharing a special Drama Desk Award with the ensemble that included Maureen O'Sullivan, Nancy Marchand and Gary Merrill.

During the same period, Wright appeared in occasional features. She was touching as the widow who comes alive on the dance floor in "Roseland" (1977) and was the contemporary secretary to an old actress in the cult romance "Somewhere in Time" (1980). In 1988. she and Ralph Bellamy lent their considerable talents to the roles of Diane Keaton's concerned grandparents taking sides in a custody battle in "The Good Mother". After nearly a decade away from the big screen, she delivered a fine turn as the flighty old landlady Miss Birdie in "John Grisham's 'The Rainmaker'" (1997), adapted and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, showing herself off as a fine senior citizen in the tradition of the late Lillian Gish, with whom Wright acted on Broadway in "I Never Sang for My Father".

 

Teresa Wright, Stage and Film Star, Dies at 86

eresa Wright, the high-minded ingénue who marshaled intelligence and spunk to avoid being typecast as another 1940's "sweater girl" and became the only actor to be nominated for Academy Awards for her first three films, died on Sunday at Yale-New Haven Hospital. She was 86.

The cause was a heart attack, her daughter, Mary-Kelly Busch, said.

Miss Wright had many parts on Broadway and once performed at a White House dinner for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but her meteoric landing in Hollywood in 1941 is the stuff of legend.

After seeing her on Broadway, Samuel Goldwyn, the legendary producer, asked her to play the role of Bette Davis's daughter in "The Little Foxes" in 1941. Her performance in the film moved its director, William Wyler, to tell The New York Times that she was the most promising young actress he had ever directed.

She proved his point by being nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress for the picture. The next year, she was nominated for best actress for her next role, opposite Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig's wife in "The Pride of the Yankees," and won the Oscar for best supporting actress as the love interest of Greer Garson's war-bound son in "Mrs. Miniver."

Her work included a starring role in Wyler's "Best Years of Our Lives," winner of the best-picture Oscar in 1946; playing opposite Marlon Brando in his first movie, "The Men," in 1950; and creating the character of Charlie, the innocent but suspicious niece of a serial killer, in Alfred Hitchcock's harrowing "Shadow of a Doubt" in 1943.

After the 1950's, she drifted away from movies and worked on the stage in roles like Linda Loman opposite George C. Scott's Willy in a 1975 Broadway production of "Death of a Salesman." She was nominated for three Emmy Awards for her dramatic roles on television and in 1997 appeared in a cinematic adaptation of John Grisham's "Rainmaker."

For all her allure as the fetching "girl next door," Miss Wright fiercely fought not to be a glamour girl. She loathed pictures in bathing suits and interviews with fan magazines, and told Goldwyn as much. He assured her he was not of "the bathing suit school of Hollywood producers," according to The Times in 1942, and promised to promote her more ethereal talents.

"There would be no leg art, no whispered romances for the columnists, no orchid and ermine setting for her background," her contract stipulated, according to The Times.

But Miss Wright's disregard for Hollywood's demands eventually caused Goldwyn to terminate her contract, in 1948. In their highly publicized exchange, he said she was lax in publicizing her pictures. She said movies had become too brazenly commercial.

"I was going to be Joan of Arc," she said in an interview with The New York Post in 1969, "and all I proved was that I was an actress who would work for less money."

For her next picture, "The Men," instead of the $125,000 she had once commanded, she received $20,000, but her co-star was Marlon Brando.

Muriel Teresa Wright was born on Oct. 27, 1918, in Manhattan. She dropped her first named in her early 20's when she found another Muriel Wright was already registered with Actors' Equity.

Her parents separated soon after she was born, and her father, an insurance salesman, farmed her out to various relatives in New York and New Jersey. She did not start school until she was 8, and did not graduate from high school in Maplewood, N.J., until she was almost 20.

She was inspired to become an actress by seeing Helen Hayes in "Victoria Regina" on Broadway while still a student. She played leading parts in high school plays, but a teacher told her to stick with typing.

Another teacher helped her get a scholarship to the Wharf Theater in Provincetown, Mass., the summer of her junior year. That led to summer stock work, an understudy role on Broadway in "Our Town" and, in 1939, the part of Mary in "Life With Father," based on the memoirs of Clarence Day. After seeing it, Goldwyn went backstage to hire her.

Miss Wright was married for 10 years to Niven Busch, a screenwriter and novelist. She married the playwright Robert Anderson in 1959, and they divorced in the early 1970's. Ms. Busch, Miss Wright's daughter, said the two remained close.

In addition to her daughter, who lives in Clinton, Conn., Miss Wright is survived by her son, Niven Perence Busch of Indianapolis, and two grandchildren.

In 1998, Miss Wright was asked to throw the first pitch at a Yankees game in honor of the anniversary of Lou Gehrig's famous farewell speech to fans in 1939, the climax of "Pride of the Yankees." She said it was her first game. But after years of ignoring baseball, she then became a fervent fan herself, raptly following the Yankees on television and at their stadium.

"The whole thing is pure theater to me," she explained.

 

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