Teresa Wright bio: Oscar winner
Teresa Wright, best remembered as a Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner for the 1942 blockbuster Mrs. Miniver and as an Alfred Hitchcock heroine in Shadow of a Doubt, died of a heart attack at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut on March 6. Wright was 86.
Throughout her 66-year career, Teresa Wright appeared in 28 feature films, dozens of television series and made-for-TV movies, and numerous stage productions. On the big screen, she played opposite some of the biggest stars of the '40s and '50s, among them Bette Davis, Greer Garson, Gary Cooper, Robert Mitchum, Joseph Cotten, Ray Milland, Fredric March, David Niven, Myrna Loy, Marlon Brando, Spencer Tracy, and Jean Simmons.
Additionally, Wright remains the only performer to have been nominated for Academy Awards for her first three roles. Besides her Mrs. Miniver win for playing Greer Garson's doomed daughter-in-law, Wright was nominated as Best Supporting Actress for The Little Foxes (1941), starring Bette Davis, and as Best Actress for The Pride of the Yankees (1942), in which she played Gary Cooper's wife.
Teresa Wright onstage: Our Town and Life with Father
Born Muriel Teresa Wright to an insurance agent and his wife in New York City on October 27, 1918, she grew up in Maplewood, N.J., often under the care of relatives. While at Columbia High School, Wright displayed an interest in acting — she had reportedly become stage struck after watching Helen Hayes in Victoria Reginaon Broadway. Shortly after graduating in 1938, she decided to hone her acting skills at the prestigious Wharf Theater in Provincetown, Mass.
Following a stint in summer theater, Wright was hired as an understudy to future 20th Century Fox star Dorothy McGuire, who had replaced Hollywood-bound Martha Scott in Thornton Wilder's Broadway hit Our Town. Since there was already a stage performer registered as Muriel Wright, the aspiring actress began using her middle name, Teresa, as her first name.
After touring with Our Town, Teresa Wright was cast as the ingénue in one of Broadway's biggest hits ever, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse's production of Life with Father. (Her role was played by Elizabeth Taylor in Warner Bros.' 1947 film version). Impressed with Wright's performance and reviews, producer Samuel Goldwyn brought the 22-year-old actress to Hollywood to play another ingénue, the delicate but strong-willed Alexandra Giddens in William Wyler's masterful 1941 film adaptation of Lillian Hellman's dysfunctional family drama The Little Foxes.
Teresa Wright in Hollywood: The Little Foxes and Mrs. Miniver
Wyler elicited a remarkably effective performance from the film novice, later referring to Wright as the most promising actress he had ever directed. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences apparently agreed, for they nominated the newcomer for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, one of The Little Foxes' nine nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Bette Davis), and Best Screenplay (Lillian Hellman). Although it failed to win a single Oscar, The Little Foxes was a well-respected hit that helped to turn Teresa Wright into a certifiable star-in-the-making.
On loan to MGM, Teresa Wright had a featured role in another William Wyler production, Mrs. Miniver. Starring the popular team of Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, this well-produced but absurd paean to the British homefront became one of the biggest commercial hits of the '40s and the Best Picture Oscar winner of 1942. In the film, Wright plays a charming and sweet British aristocrat who (bravely) suffers a tragic end.
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Teresa Wright photo via Doctor Macro.