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In a career spanning six decades, Agnes Moorehead (1900-1974) was perhaps unique among 20th-century American actresses in making her name in four entertainment media-radio, theater, film and television-after age 40. Focusing on 25 of her most representative performances, this retrospective analyzes her work on radio serials like Mayor of the Town (1942-1949) and Suspense (1942-1962), her stage productions of Don Juan in Hell and Gigi, her television appearances on Bewitched and The Twilight Zone and her Emmy-winning appearance on The Wild Wild West. The author presents Moorehead's roles in the context of her personal life, discusses her relationship with directors, producers and other performers and provides little known facts about the productions.
Agnes Moorehead (1900-74) was unique among twentieth-century American actresses in making a major career for herself in all four entertainment media after the age of 40. As the title indicates, Agnes Moorehead on Radio, Stage and TV focuses on Moorehead's career in radio, on the stage, and in television. A representative selection of 25 of her most interesting and representative performances in these media are discussed in separate profiles ranging in length from 1,500 to 7,500 words, with the longest chapters devoted to Mayor of the Town, Suspense, Moorehead's one-woman show, Bewitched and Gigi. Naturally, the book also covers Moorehead's celebrated appearance on The Twilight Zone, both her productions of Don Juan in Hell, and her Emmy-winning appearance on The Wild Wild West. Many less well-known performances have never been analyzed in detail before. These include fascinating and entertaining portrayals on TV series such as Wagon Train, Adventures in Paradise, Rawhide and Burke's Law. The profiles are organized in chronological order. Thus, from The Shadow to Gigi, the book can be read as a continuous, chronological narrative of Moorehead's unfolding acting career through more than three decades; or the individual chapters may be read as self-contained accounts of individual shows and performances. Each profile concentrates on Moorehead's contribution to the show or episode. In addition to analyzing the nature and function of Moorehead's role and how she performs it, the author variously discusses the place of the performance in her career development as a whole; her relationship with directors, producers, and/or fellow actors: comparisons and contrasts with similar types of roles in the same or other media; and curious, little known facts about the production. Nissen also discusses salient events in Moorehead's personal life at the time.
Drawing on historical documents and newspaper reports, this book provides a fascinating portrait of a diverse group of character actresses who left their stamp on Hollywood from the early sound era through the 1960s. The lives of 35 actresses are explored in detail. Some are familiar: Margaret Hamilton starred in dozens of films before and after her signature role as the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz; Una Merkel nearly died when her mother committed suicide in 1945. Others are nearly forgotten: Maude Eburne owed her career to a spectacular fall on the Broadway stage in 1914; Greta Meyer, who played the quintessential German maid, came to Hollywood after years in New York's Yiddish theater-though she wasn't Jewish.
Drawing on historical documents and newspaper reports, this book provides a fascinating group portrait of a diverse group of character actresses who left their stamp on Hollywood from the early sound era through the 1960s. The lives of 40 actresses are explored in detail. Some are familiar: Margaret Hamilton starred in dozens of films before and after her signature role as the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz; Una Merkel nearly died when her mother committed suicide in 1945. Others are nearly forgotten: Maude Eburne owed her career to a spectacular fall on the Broadway stage in 1914; Greta Meyer, who played the quintessential German maid, came to Hollywood after years in New York's Yiddish theater-though she wasn't Jewish.
Before she achieved immortality on the long-running situation comedy Bewitched, Agnes Moorehead had established a distinguished career as a character actress. After her screen debut in Citizen Kane (1941), Moorehead became one of the most familiar female faces on the silver screen. For moviegoers of the 1940s and `50s, she was the quintessential character actress, earning four Academy Award nominations during a career that saw her gain the respect of her peers in all four major entertainment media: radio, film, theater, and television. In The Films of Agnes Moorehead, Axel Nissen looks at the actress's sixty-three feature films between 1941 and 1973. Each film is profiled here, with particular emphasis placed on the films that merit closer attention: Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, Mrs. Parkington, Dark Passage, All That Heaven Allows, The Left Hand of God, The Swan, Tempest, The Bat, and Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte. Arranged in chronological order, the discussion of these films highlights Moorehead's contribution to each feature. In addition to analyzing her performances, the author discusses the development of Moorehead's career as a whole, along with her relationship with various studios, directors, producers, and fellow actors. Based on extensive interviews with the actress's surviving friends and co-workers, as well as detailed archival research into primary sources, this book brings to light new information not just about Moorehead's work in film, but on her life and career in general. Though this book will certainly appeal to movie buffs, The Films of Agnes Moorehead will also be of interest to students and scholars of classic Hollywood films, including those interested in women and film, gender studies, and film history.
Continuing the exploration which began in Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties (McFarland, 2006), this companion volume analyzes the contributions of female supporting players in the films of Hollywood's Golden Age. The twenty-five actresses profiled herein range from the easily recognizable (Marie Dressler, Ethel Waters) to the long forgotten (Esther Howard, Evelyn Varden), and from the prolific (Clara Blandick, Mary Forbes) to the one-work wonders (Jane Cowl, Queenie Vassar). Overall, this survey focuses upon the typical roles available to character actresses in classic Hollywood films. Each profile captures the essence of the individual performer's on-screen persona, unique talents and popular appeal--with special emphasis on the single definitive performance of the actress's motion picture career (who, for example, could ever forget Josephine Hull in Harvey?). The appendix offers a list of The Top 100 Performances by Character Actresses in Hollywood, 1930-1960.
Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, Mammy in Gone with the Wind, Auntie Em in The Wizard of Oz --all were unforgettable characters who played an integral part in some of Hollywood's most memorable productions. For over three decades, from the 1930s to the 1950s, character actresses who brought such roles to life were one of Hollywood's great but little acknowledged assets. Often lured from Broadway yet billed fifth or sixth (if at all), these talented ladies received little acclaim for their roles in film industry productions. Still, what they lacked in promotion and perhaps adulation they made up for in longevity. While a screen star's career was generally limited by age and physical appearance, character actresses often worked well into their seventies, eighties or even nineties. Signed to contracts by major studios just like the stars they supported on screen, character actresses made hundreds of films over their careers. From the early days of sound film through the end of the studio era, this volume documents in detail the lives and careers of two score of Hollywood's most talented character actresses. It presents information regarding birth, death, film credits and prizes and analyzes each player's unique talents, signature roles and overall career development. Forty individual profiles are provided from a representative range of backgrounds, character types and career experiences. These include actresses such as Marjorie Main, Agnes Moorehead, Thelma Ritter, Fay Bainter, Beulah Bondi, Lucile Watson, Sara Allgood, Lee Patrick and Jessie Ralph, among others. A fascinating tour through Hollywood's big studio era and the lives of its characters.
A biography that charts the boom and bust of America's first celebrity author, once Mark Twain's chief rival in American literature In this first scholarly biography of Bret Harte in nearly seventy years, Axel Nissen sets out to reevaluate the life and literary career of the legendary chronicler of the California gold rush. After his sensational breakthrough in the late 1860s, Harte came to symbolize the self-made literary man. He was a Midas of the pen and a literary prince of the Gilded Age. With The Luck of Roaring Camp, Tennessee's Partner, and The Outcasts of Poker Flat he reinvented the American short story and laid the foundations for the Western. In the age of mass-circulation newspapers he became America's first worldwide celebrity author. His stories were reprinted all over the globe, and his sayings and doings were reported in the press. His handsome face adorned newspaper columns, and his image was sold as an over-the-counter souvenir. Based on extensive new sources, Nissen's biography gives a vivid account of Harte's tumultuous life from his birth in Albany, N.Y., in 1836 until his death in a sleepy English village in 1902. Exploring mysterious and previously unresearched areas, Nissen shines a bright light into the many dark corners of the life of this enigmatic nineteenth-century icon. Harte was the best-paid author of his day, but financial insolvency forced him into exile in Europe as a diplomat. For twenty years he lived in London, where he was the darling of the English aristocracy but remained apart from his wife and children. Nissen focuses on Harte's love-hate relationship with Mark Twain and examines the homoerotic element in his life and work. He also offers a satisfying account of why Harte became so famous in his own time and why in ours he has suffered a decline. Harte aroused strong and conflicting feelings in those who knew him. William Dean Howells felt he was a blithe spirit who burned his candle at both ends. Mark Twain thought him the most contemptible, poor little soulless blatherskite that exists on the planet today. Henry Adams considered Harte one of the most brilliant men of his time. To a reviewer of an early biography he was a fugitive from home. To the bigot aware of Harte's mixed ethnic heritage he was a Hebrew. To the average dresser he was a fop. To the pious he was a purveyor of moral filth. To the reader of this innovative biography Harte comes alive both as a fascinating figure and an author ripe for revival. Axel Nissen is an associate professor of American literature at the University of Oslo. In 1997 his doctoral thesis was awarded H.M. the King of Norway's Gold Medal.
Continuing the exploration which began in Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties (McFarland, 2006), this companion volume analyzes the contributions of female supporting players in the films of Hollywood's Golden Age. The twenty-five actresses profiled herein range from the easily recognizable (Marie Dressler, Ethel Waters) to the long forgotten (Esther Howard, Evelyn Varden), and from the prolific (Clara Blandick, Mary Forbes) to the "e;one-work wonders"e; (Jane Cowl, Queenie Vassar). Each profile captures the essence of the individual performer's on-screen persona, unique talents and popular appeal-with special emphasis on a single definitive performance of the actress's motion picture career (who, for example, could ever forget Josephine Hull in Harvey?). The appendix offers a list of "e;The 100 Top Performances by Character Actresses in Hollywood, 1930-1960."e;