Martha Scott, Original Emily in Our Town, Dead at 88

Obituaries   Martha Scott, Original Emily in Our Town, Dead at 88
Martha Scott, the sweet and wholesome actress who played Emily Webb in the Broadway premiere of Thornton Wilder's classic Our Town, died May 28 in Los Angeles, the New York Times reported. She was 88.

Ms. Scott was the second actress to be cast as Emily, who is, in many ways, the central character in Wilder's drama. The first actress was fired by producer-director Jed Harris for not fully capturing the character's shift in the last act, when Emily dies and takes her place among the other deceased, yet conscious former citizens of the mythical Grover's Corners.

Harris auditioned her just before the New Haven opening of the show, on the recommendation of several friends. He looked at her face briefly and told Ms. Scott she had the part. She was 23 at the time. The then-daring play, which depicts all of life though the microcosm of a stage-managed small New Hampshire town, opened on Broadway in February 1938 to admiring reviews.

Ms. Scott played Emily in the 1940 film version as well, winning an Oscar nomination.

Prior to her splash in Our Town, the Jamesport, Missouri, native studied acting at the University of Michigan and acted in Shakespeare at the Chicago World's Fair.

She got another chance to act in Wilder in a short-lived 1975 Broadway staging of The Skin of Our Teeth, in which she played Mrs. Antrobus opposite Alfred Drake and Elizabeth Ashley under Jose Quintero's direction. Her Broadway appearances were frequent, though not many of the plays lasted more than a few weeks. Among her credits were Foreigners (1939), The Willow and I (1942), with a young Gregory Peck, Soldier's Wife (1944), It Takes Two (1947), directed by George Abbott, The Number (1951), also staged by Abbott, The Male Animal (1952), The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker (1953), opposite Burgess Meredith, Cloud 7 (1958), A Distant Bell (1960), The Tumbler (1960), a flop with Rosemary Harris, Charlton Heston and Donald Moffat, directed by Laurence Olivier, and The 49th Cousin (1960).

She also replaced Irene Dailey as the emotionally distant wife in the long-running The Subject Was Roses. Her last Broadway appearance was in the 1999 National Actors Theatre revival of The Crucible, where she appeared with her old Subject Was Roses co-star, Martin Sheen.

Her films include "The Ten Commandments" and "Ben-Hur."

She is survived by a son and two daughters.

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