Barbara Bel Geddes

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Barbara Bel Geddes

Bel Geddes in 1950s
Born(1922-10-31)October 31, 1922
New York City, New York
DiedAugust 8, 2005(2005-08-08) (aged 82)
Northeast Harbor, Maine
Cause of deathLung Cancer
OccupationActress
Years active1947-1990
Spouse(s)Carl Sawyer
(m.1944-1951; divorced)
Windsor Lewis
(m.1951-1972; his death)
ChildrenSusan Sawyer
Betsy Lewis
Website
http://www.barbarabelgeddes.com
 
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Barbara Bel Geddes

Bel Geddes in 1950s
Born(1922-10-31)October 31, 1922
New York City, New York
DiedAugust 8, 2005(2005-08-08) (aged 82)
Northeast Harbor, Maine
Cause of deathLung Cancer
OccupationActress
Years active1947-1990
Spouse(s)Carl Sawyer
(m.1944-1951; divorced)
Windsor Lewis
(m.1951-1972; his death)
ChildrenSusan Sawyer
Betsy Lewis
Website
http://www.barbarabelgeddes.com

Barbara Bel Geddes (October 31, 1922 – August 8, 2005[1]) was an American actress, artist and children's author. She was best known for her role in the television drama series Dallas as matriarch Miss Ellie. Bel Geddes also starred in the original Broadway production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in the role of Maggie. Her notable films included Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) and I Remember Mama (1948). She was the recipient of several acting awards and nominations throughout her career.

Contents

Personal life

Bel Geddes was born in New York City, the daughter of Helen Belle (née Schneider) and stage and industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes.[2] She married theatrical manager Carl Sawyer (aka Carl Schreuer) in 1944; they had one daughter, Susan. They divorced in 1951. Later that year, she married stage director Windsor Lewis with whom she had a daughter, Betsy. When Lewis became ill in 1967, Bel Geddes suspended her career to care for him until his death in 1972.

Career

Broadway

Bel Geddes as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1955

Bel Geddes came to prominence in the 1946 Broadway production of Deep Are The Roots. The performance garnered her the Clarence Derwent Award, and the Donaldson Award (forerunner of the Tony Awards) presented to her by Laurette Taylor, for "Outstanding Achievement in The Theatre". From 1951 to 1953, Bel Geddes played 924 performances of the Otto Preminger hit comedy The Moon Is Blue. In 1956, she created the role of Maggie "The Cat" in Elia Kazan's original Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and in 1961 created the title role in the Jean Kerr comedy Mary, Mary which became Broadway's longest-running show with over 1,500 performances. Both roles earned her Tony Award nominations. Other highlights include John Steinbeck's Burning Bright, Edward Albee's Everything in the Garden and Silent Night, Lonely Night with Henry Fonda.

In 1952, she received the prestigious "Woman of the Year" Award from Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Theatricals, America's oldest theater company; In 1993, having appeared in fifteen Broadway productions, she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame (located in the Gershwin Theatre in New York City), a distinction she shared with her father, stage and industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes.

Hollywood

Bel Geddes began her film career starring with Henry Fonda in The Long Night (1947), a remake of the 1939 French film Le Jour se lève. "I went out to California awfully young," she remarked. "I remember Lillian Hellman and Elia Kazan telling me, 'Don't go, learn your craft.' But I loved films." The following year, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the George Stevens classic film I Remember Mama.[3] She played Richard Widmark's wife Nancy in Kazan's 1950 film noir Panic in the Streets.[3] In 1958, Alfred Hitchcock cast her with James Stewart in Vertigo as the long-suffering bohemian, Midge. Bel Geddes also starred with Danny Kaye and Louis Armstrong in the screen musical The Five Pennies.

When a House Un-American Activities Committee investigation stalled her film career for a short time, Bel Geddes found new opportunity in television when Alfred Hitchcock cast her in four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Lamb to the Slaughter", in which she played a housewife who killed her husband by bludgeoning him to death with a frozen leg of lamb, cooking the murder weapon, and then serving it to the investigating police. She appeared in series such as Playhouse 90, CBS Playhouse, Dr. Kildare and Death Valley Days. In 1977, she starred in the highly-acclaimed production of the Thornton Wilder classic, Our Town with Hal Holbrook.

Dallas

In 1978, Bel Geddes was the first performer contracted to star in Dallas. The role of the family matriarch, Miss Ellie, brought her renewed international recognition. She appeared on the series from 1978 to 1990 (absent during the 1984–85 season) and remains the only cast member to win the Emmy Award (Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Drama Series) and the Golden Globe (List of Golden Globe Awards: Television, Best Actress, Drama).[3] In 1985 she also received Germany's Golden Camera Award.

Larry Hagman, who played J.R. Ewing, told the Associated Press that "She was the rock of Dallas. She was just a really nice woman and a wonderful actress. She was kind of the glue that held the whole thing together." In a later interview for the website "Ultimate Dallas", Hagman said, "The reason I took the show, they said Barbara Bel Geddes is going to play your mother, and I said, 'Well, that's a touch of class, you know,' so of course I wanted to work with her."

In the early 1970s, Bel Geddes underwent a radical mastectomy, an experience she relived in the 1979–80 season of Dallas. The performance garnered her the Emmy Award. She was also honored by First Lady Betty Ford for helping to raise breast cancer awareness.

In March 1983, Bel Geddes underwent quadruple by-pass heart surgery and subsequently missed a third of the 1983–84 season. The following year, still contending with compromised health, she found it necessary to step down from the role and was replaced with actress Donna Reed for the 1984–85 season. However, with the rival show Dynasty finally surpassing Dallas in the ratings, the producers made efforts to stabilize the show's slow decline. With health improved, Bel Geddes was restored to the role of Miss Ellie in time for the 1985–86 season, where she remained through the series' penultimate season.

Life after Dallas

Bel Geddes retired from acting in 1990 and settled in her home in Northeast Harbor, Maine, where she continued to work as a fine artist. She was the author of two children's books, I Like to Be Me and So Do I, as well as the creator of a popular line of greeting cards. Looking back on her career, Bel Geddes told People: "They're always making me play well-bred ladies. I'm not very well bred, and I'm not much of a lady."

Death

On 8 August 2005, Bel Geddes died at her home in Northeast Harbor, Maine. She was 82.

Credits

Broadway

YearTitleRoleNotes
Feb 11, 1941 - May 10, 1941Out of the Frying PanDottie Coburn
Oct 27, 1942 - Nov 14, 1942Little DarlingCynthia Brown
Jan 13, 1943 - Jan 16, 1943Nine GirlsAlice
Mar 31, 1944 - May 6, 1944Mrs. January and Mr. XWilhelmina
Sep 26, 1945 - Nov 16, 1946Deep Are the RootsGenevra LangdonTheatre World Award
Oct 18, 1950 - Oct 28, 1950Burning BrightMordeen
Mar 8, 1951 - May 30, 1953The Moon Is BluePatty O'Neill
Nov 17, 1954 - Dec 4, 1954The Living RoomRose Pemberton
Mar 24, 1955 - Nov 17, 1956Cat on a Hot Tin RoofMaggieNominated — Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play
Nov 1, 1956 - Dec 22, 1956The Sleeping PrinceMary
Dec 3, 1959 - Mar 19, 1960Silent Night, Lonely NightKatherine
Mar 8, 1961 - Dec 12, 1964Mary, MaryMary McKellawayNominated — Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play
Nov 11, 1964 - Jan 7, 1967LuvEllen Manville
Nov 29, 1967 - Feb 10, 1968Everything in the GardenJenny
Feb 8, 1973 - Jun 30, 1973Finishing TouchesKaty Cooper

Film

YearShowRoleNotes
1947The Long NightJo Ann
1948I Remember MamaKatrinNominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Blood on the MoonAmy Lufton
1949CaughtLeonora Eames
1950Panic in the StreetsNancy Reed
1951Fourteen HoursVirginia Foster
1958VertigoMidge Wood
1959The Five PenniesWilla Stutsman
19605 Branded WomenMarja
1961By Love PossessedClarissa Winner
1971SummertreeRuth
The Todd KillingsMrs. Todd

Television

YearShowRoleNotes
1950Robert Montgomery PresentsRebecca de Winter2 episodes
Nash Airflyte TheatreMolly Morgan1 episode
1954The Campbell Playhouse1 episode
1957Schlitz Playhouse of StarsMarcia2 episodes
1957-1958Studio OneCharlotte Lamb2 episodes
1958Playhouse 90Sidney Cantrell1 episode
DecisionMarcia1 episode
The United States Steel HourLily Barton1 episode
1959RiverboatMissy1 episode
1960Dow Hour of Great Mysteries1 episode
1958-1960Alfred Hitchcock PresentsLucia Clay/Mary Maloney/Helen Brewster/Sybilla Meade4 episodes
1962Death Valley Days1 episode
1965Dr. KildareDr. Ruth Halliman1 episode
1968CBS PlayhouseDoris Gray1 episode
1969Journey to the UnknownInga Madison1 episode
Daniel BooneMolly Malone1 episode
1976Spencer's PilotsMaggie1 episode
1977Our TownMrs. Webb
1978-1990DallasMiss Ellie Ewing Farlow299 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (1980)
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama (1982)
Goldene Kamera for Best actress on television (1985)
Soap Opera Digest Awards for Outstanding Actress in a Mature Role in a Prime Time Soap Opera (1984)
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (1979, 1981)
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama (1980,1981)
Nominated — Soap Opera Digest Awards for Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role on a Prime Time Serial (1986, 1988)

References

Further reading

External links