Teresa Wright, High-Minded Star of Stage and Film, Is Dead at 86

Obituaries   Teresa Wright, High-Minded Star of Stage and Film, Is Dead at 86
Teresa Wright, the intelligent, sensitive and independent actress who etched a series of piercing performances in Hollywood films during and about the World War II period, died March 6 at Yale-New Haven hospital. She was 86. The cause was a heart attack.

Ms. Wright, born in New York City, was serious-minded about her chosen profession from the start. Apprenticed at the Wharf Theatre in Provincetown, MA, she understudied Martha Scott as Emily Webb in the original 1938 Broadway production of Thornton Wilder's Our Town. She was only 19 at the time. She followed this by originating a role in the long-running Lindsay and Crouse Broadway comedy Life With Father.

When Hollywood came to call soon after, in the form of producer Samuel Goldwyn, Ms. Wright quickly made her mark, winning Academy Award nominations for her first three films: 1941's "The Little Foxes" (in which she played Bette Davis' daughter) and 1942's "The Pride of the Yankees" (as Lou Gehrig's wife) and "Mrs. Miniver." She won the prize for the latter flick, a melodramatic, but highly popular Greer Garson vehicle, about the bravery of English women in the face of the coming conflict. Wright played the plucky young woman who marries the son of Garson's Mrs. Miniver.

Because of the success of "Mrs. Miniver," Ms. Wright's screen persona remained connected in the public's mind with the war effort. That association was strengthened by her typically thoughtful performance in "The Best Years of Our Lives," the 1946 William Wyler film about veterans making a tough adjustment to civilian life. She played the daughter of one soldier, played by Frederic March, and the love of another, Dana Andrews.

Nearly all of Ms. Wright's most memorable cinematic roles came during the war period. Another standout was Hitchcock's suspenseful "Shadow of a Doubt" (1942), in which she played the doubting niece of Joseph Cotten's seemingly normal Uncle Charlie, whom she suspects of serial murder. Later roles included "Pursued" opposite Robert Mitchum (1947), "The Men" (1950) with Marlon Brando and "The Restless Years" (1958).

Throughout her Hollywood years, she eschewed the film community life of glamour, parties and publicity. She reportedly hated sitting for interviews and refused to pose for cheesecake photo shoots. According to the New York Times, this attitude eventually caused Goldwyn to end their relationship in 1948. The producer complained that the actress did not sufficiently participate in the publicizing of her films. She would appear in few memorable movies (and get paid much less money) after the close of the '40s. "The type of contract between players and producers is, I feel, antiquated in form and abstract in concept," she said at the time. "We have no privacies which producers cannot invade, they trade us like cattle, boss us like children."

She returned to Broadway in 1957, playing Cora Flood in William Inge's The Dark at the Top of the Stairs. The show ran for 468 performances. A decade later, in 1968, she took a part in I Never Sang for My Father by Robert Anderson (to whom she was married for a time). She was Linda Loman opposite George C. Scott's Willy in the 1975 Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. That same year, she played Lily Miller in O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! at Circle in the Square.

She had a late-career triumph, playing the feisty Cora Swanson in the surprise hit 1980 revival of Paul Osborn's Morning's at Seven. The once-forgotten comedy played 564 performances in its Broadway reincarnation, cementing the title's reputation as an American classic.

Her final Broadway turn teamed her once again with Osborn and George C. Scott. On Borrowed Time, about a cranky Grandpa who briefly cheats death, was revived at Circle in the Square in 1991. Teresa Wright was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1999.

She was married to screenwriter Niven Busch (who wrote the Wright films "The Capture" and "Pursued") from 1942 to 1952. He penned the sex-drenched western "Duel in the Sun" for her. However, when she became pregnant, the role of the sensuous half-breed Pearl Chevez went to Jennifer Jones instead. She and Anderson wed in 1959 and divorced in the early '70s. She is survived by her daughter, Mary-Kelly Busch, and son, Niven Perence Busch.

Today’s Most Popular News: