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Agnes Moorehead

Filmography

1941      

Citizen Kane

 

1942      

Journey into Fear

The Magnificent Ambersons

The Big Street

 

1943      

The Youngest Profession

Government Girl

Jane Eyre

 

1944      

Since You Went Away

Dragon Seed

The Seventh Cross

Mrs. Parkington

Tomorrow, the World

 

1945      

Keep Your Powder Dry

Our Vines Have Tender Grapes

Her Highness and the Bellboy

 

1947      

Dark Passage

The Lost Moment

 

1948      

Summer Holiday

The Woman in White

Station West

Johnny Belinda

 

1949      

The Stratton Story

The Great Sinner

Without Honor

 

1950      

Caged

Captain Blackjack

 

1951      

Fourteen Hours

Adventures of Captain Fabian

Show Boat

The Blue Veil

 

1952      

The Blazing Forest

 

1953      

The Story of Three Loves

Scandal at Scourie

Main Street to Broadway

Those Redheads From Seattle

 

1954      

Magnificent Obsession

 

1955      

Untamed

The Left Hand of God

All That Heaven Allows

 

1956      

The Conqueror

Meet Me in Las Vegas

The Swan

The Revolt of Mamie Stover

Pardners

The Opposite Sex

 

1957      

The True Story of Jesse James

Jeanne Eagels

Raintree County

The Story of Mankind

 

1958      

The Tempest

 

1959      

Night of the Quarter Moon

The Bat

 

1960      

Pollyanna

 

1961      

Twenty Plus Two

Bachelor in Paradise

 

1962      

Jessica

Poor Mr. Campbell

How the West Was Won

 

1963      

Who’s Minding the Store?

 

1964      

Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte

 

1966      

The Singing Nun

 

1969      

The Ballad of Andy Crocker

 

1971      

What’s the Matter with Helen?

 

1972      

Dear Dead Delilah

 

1973      

Charlotte’s Web

Awards

Agnes Moorehead was nominated for four Best Actress in a Supporting Role Academy Awards:

It’s an unavoidable truth. Fear of life closes off more opportunities for us than fear of death ever does. ~ Agnes Moorehead

Agnes Moorehead: Learn more about her, review her filmography and more

Actress, Biographies

Agnes Robertson Moorehead was born on December 6, 1900 in Clinton, Massachusetts, the daughter of former singer Mildred (née McCauley; 1883–1990) and Presbyterian clergyman John Henderson Moorehead (1869–1938).

She recalled that she made her first public performance at the age of three, when she recited The Lord’s Prayer in her father’s church. The family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and her ambition to become an actress grew “very strong”. Her mother indulged her active imagination, often asking, “Who are you today, Agnes?” while Moorehead and her sister would often engage in mimicry, often coming to the dinner table and imitating parishioners. Moorehead noted and was encouraged by her father’s amused reactions. She joined the chorus of the St. Louis Municipal Opera Company, known as “The Muny”.

Moorehead always said that she graduated from High School in 1918. Although her father did not discourage her acting ambitions, he insisted that she obtain a formal education. Moorehead earned a bachelor’s degree in 1923, majoring in biology at Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio. While there, she also appeared in college stage plays. She later received an honorary doctorate in literature from Muskingum and served for a year on its board of trustees. When her family moved to Reedsburg, Wisconsin, she taught public school for five years in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin, while she also earned a master’s degree in English and public speaking at the University of Wisconsin (now University of Wisconsin–Madison). She then pursued postgraduate studies at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, from which she graduated with honors in 1929.

Moorehead’s early career was unsteady, and although she was able to find stage work, she was often unemployed. She later recalled going four days without food, and said that it had taught her “the value of a dollar”. She found work in radio and was soon in demand, often working on several programs in a single day. She believed that it offered her excellent training and allowed her to develop her voice to create a variety of characterizations. Moorehead met actress Helen Hayes, who encouraged her to enter films, but her first attempts were met with failure. When she was rejected as not being “the right type”, Moorehead returned to radio.

Moorehead met Orson Welles, and by 1937 she was one of his principal Mercury Players, along with Joseph Cotten. She performed in his The Mercury Theatre on the Air radio adaptations, and had a regular role opposite Welles in the serial The Shadow as Margo Lane. In 1939, Welles moved the Mercury Theatre to Hollywood, where he started working for RKO Pictures. Several of his radio performers joined him, and Moorehead made her film debut as the mother of his own character, Charles Foster Kane, in Citizen Kane (1941), which is considered one of the best films ever made. Moorehead was featured in Welles’s second film, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), and received the New York Film Critics Award and an Academy Award nomination for her performance. She also appeared in Journey Into Fear (1943), a Mercury film production.

Moorehead received positive reviews for her performance in Mrs. Parkington as well as the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and an Academy Award nomination. Moorehead played another strong role in The Big Street (1942) with Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball, and then appeared in two films that failed to find an audience, Government Girl (1943) with Olivia de Havilland and The Youngest Profession (1944) with adolescent Virginia Weidler.

By the mid-1940s, Moorehead became a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract player, negotiating a $6,000-a-week contract with the provision to perform also on radio, an unusual clause at the time.

Throughout her career, Moorehead skillfully portrayed puritanical matrons, neurotic spinsters, possessive mothers, and comical secretaries. She played Parthy Hawks, wife of Cap’n Andy and mother of Magnolia, in MGM’s hit 1951 remake of Show Boat. She also was in Dark Passage and Since You Went Away. Moorehead was in Broadway productions of Don Juan in Hell in 1951–1952, and Lord Pengo in 1962–1963.

In the 1950s, Moorehead continued to work in films and appeared on stage across the country. Her roles included a national tour of Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell, co-starring Charles Boyer, Charles Laughton, and Cedric Hardwicke, and the pre-Broadway engagements of the new musical The Pink Jungle. She appeared as the hypochondriac Mrs. Snow in Disney’s hit film Pollyanna (1960). She starred with Bette Davis, Olivia De Havilland, Mary Astor, and Joseph Cotten in Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) as the maid Velma, a role for which she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award.

In 1964, Moorehead accepted the role of Endora, Samantha’s (Elizabeth Montgomery) mortal-loathing, quick-witted witch mother in the situation comedy Bewitched. She later commented that she had not expected it to succeed and that she ultimately felt trapped by its success. However, she had negotiated to appear in only eight of every 12 episodes made, therefore allowing her sufficient time to pursue other projects. The role brought her a level of recognition that she had not received before as Bewitched was in the top 10 programs for the first few years it aired.

Moorehead received six Emmy Award nominations, but was quick to remind interviewers that she had enjoyed a long and distinguished career. Despite her ambivalence, she remained with Bewitched until its run ended in 1972.

In 1930, Moorehead married actor John Griffith Lee; they divorced in 1952. Moorehead and Lee adopted an orphan named Sean in 1949, but it remains unclear whether the adoption was legal. Moorehead raised Sean until he ran away from home. She married actor Robert Gist in 1954, and they divorced in 1958.

Moorehead died of uterine cancer on April 30, 1974 in Rochester, Minnesota, aged 73. Her sole immediate survivor was her mother Mildred, who died in 1990, aged 106. Moorehead is interred at Dayton Memorial Park in Dayton, Ohio.

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PREORDER Agnes Moorehead on Radio, Stage and Television
I Love the Illusion: The Life and Career of Agnes Moorehead