Best known for her Oscar nominated role in All About Eve and her Oscar winning role in The Razor’s Edge.
20 Mule Team
The Great Profile
The Pied Piper
The North Star
The Fighting Sullivans
The Eve of St. Mark
Sunday Dinner for a Soldier
Guest in the House
The Purple Heart
A Royal Scandal
Angel on My Shoulder
Blaze of Noon
Mother Wore Tights
The Walls of Jericho
The Luck of the Irish
You’re My Everything
A Ticket to Tomahawk
Follow the Sun
The Outcasts of Poker Flat
O Henry’s Full House
My Wife’s Best Friend
The Blue Gardenia
The Come On
Three Violent People
Chase a Crooked Shadow
Summer of the Seventeenth Doll
Mix Me a Person
Walk on the Wild Side
The Family Jewels
Seven Vengeful Women
The Busy Body
The Late Liz
Jane Austen in Manhattan
Acting is not what I do. It’s what I am. It’s my permanent, built-in cathedral. ~ Anne Baxter
Anne Baxter was born May 7, 1923 in Michigan City, Indiana, to Catherine Dorothy (née Wright; 1894–1979)—whose father was the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright—and Kenneth Stuart Baxter (1893–1977), an executive with the Seagrams Distillery Company. When Baxter was five, she appeared in a school play and, as her family had moved to New York when she was six years old, Baxter continued to act. She was raised in Westchester County, New York and attended Brearley. At age 10, Baxter attended a Broadway play starring Helen Hayes, and was so impressed that she declared to her family that she wanted to become an actress. By the age of 13, she had appeared on Broadway in Seen but Not Heard. During this period, Baxter learned her acting craft as a student of the famed teacher Maria Ouspenskaya. In 1939 she was cast as Katherine Hepburn’s little sister in the play The Philadelphia Story, but Hepburn did not like Baxter’s acting style and she was replaced during the show’s pre-Broadway run. Rather than giving up, she turned to Hollywood.
At 16, Baxter screen-tested for the role of Mrs. DeWinter in Rebecca, losing to Joan Fontaine because director Alfred Hitchcock deemed Baxter too young for the role, but she soon secured a seven-year contract with 20th Century Fox. In 1940, she was loaned out to MGM for her first film, 20 Mule Team, in which she was billed fourth after Wallace Beery, Leo Carrillo, and Marjorie Rambeau. She worked with John Barrymore in her next film, The Great Profile (1940), and appeared as the ingénue in the Jack Benny vehicle Charley’s Aunt (1941). She received star billing in Swamp Water (1941) and The Pied Piper (1942), which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Baxter was loaned out to RKO to appear in director Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). She was Tyrone Power’s leading lady in her first Technicolor film, Crash Dive (1943). In 1943, she played a French maid in a North African hotel (with a credible French accent) in Billy Wilder’s Five Graves to Cairo, a Paramount production. She became a popular star in World War II dramas and received top billing in The North Star (1943), The Sullivans (1944), The Eve of St. Mark (1944), and Sunday Dinner for a Soldier (1944), co-starring her future husband, John Hodiak. Baxter later recalled, “I was getting almost as much mail as Betty Grable. I was our boys’ idealized girl next door.”
She was loaned out to United Artists for the leading role in the film noir Guest in the House (1944), and appeared in A Royal Scandal (1945), with Tallulah Bankhead and Charles Coburn; Smoky (1946), with Fred MacMurray; Angel on My Shoulder (1946), with Paul Muni and Claude Rains.
Baxter co-starred with Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney in 1946’s The Razor’s Edge, for which she won both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress. Baxter later recounted that The Razor’s Edge contained her only great performance, a hospital scene where the character, Sophie, “loses her husband, child and everything else.” She said she relived the death of her brother, who had died at age three.
She was loaned out to Paramount for a top-billed role opposite William Holden in Blaze of Noon (1947) and to MGM for a supporting role as Clark Gable‘s wife in Homecoming (1948). Back at 20th Century Fox, she played a wide variety of roles: a lawyer in love with Cornel Wilde in The Walls of Jericho (1948); Tyrone Power’s Irish romantic interest in The Luck of the Irish (1948); a tomboy in Yellow Sky (1948), with Gregory Peck and Richard Widmark; a 1920s flapper in You’re My Everything (1949), with Dan Dailey; and another tomboy in A Ticket to Tomahawk (1950), again with Dailey.
In 1950, Baxter was chosen to co-star in All About Eve, largely because of a resemblance to Claudette Colbert, who was originally set to star but dropped out and was replaced by Bette Davis. The original idea was to have Baxter’s character gradually come to mirror Colbert’s over the course of the film. Baxter received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for the title role of Eve Harrington. She said she modeled the role on a bitchy understudy she had for her debut performance in the Broadway play Seen But Not Heard at the age of thirteen and who had threatened to “finish her off.”
Her next Fox film, Follow the Sun (1951), co-starred Glenn Ford as champion golfer Ben Hogan; Baxter played Hogan’s wife, Valerie. She was top-billed in the western The Outcasts of Poker Flat (1950), with Dale Robertson, and was part of an ensemble cast in O. Henry’s Full House (1952), her last project for Fox. The comedy My Wife’s Best Friend, with MacDonald Carey, was her second and last Fox film released in 1952. Baxter left 20th Century Fox in 1953.
In 1953, Baxter contracted a two-picture deal for Warner Brothers. Her first was opposite Montgomery Clift in Alfred Hitchcock’s I Confess; the second was the Fritz Lang whodunit The Blue Gardenia, in which she played a woman accused of murder.
In June 1954, Baxter won the coveted part of the Egyptian princess and queen Nefretiri, one of her most memorable roles, opposite Charlton Heston as Moses in Cecil B. DeMille’s award-winning The Ten Commandments. Her scenes were shot on Paramount’s sound stages in 1955, and she attended the film’s New York and Los Angeles premieres in November 1956. Despite criticisms of her interpretation of Nefretiri, DeMille and The Hollywood Reporter both thought her performance was “very good,”
She worked regularly in television in the 1960s. She appeared as one of the What’s My Line? “Mystery Guests” on the popular Sunday night CBS-TV gameshow. She also starred as guest villain “Zelda The Great” in episodes 9 and 10 of the Batman series. She appeared as another villain, “Olga, Queen of the Cossacks”, opposite Vincent Price’s “Egghead” in three episodes of the show’s third season. She also played an old flame of Raymond Burr on his crime series Ironside.
Baxter returned to Broadway during the 1970s in Applause, the musical version of All About Eve, but this time in the “Margo Channing” role played by Bette Davis in the film (succeeding Lauren Bacall, who won a Tony Award in the role).
In the 1970s, Baxter was a frequent guest and guest host on The Mike Douglas Show, since Baxter and its star Mike Douglas were friends. She portrayed a murderous film star on an episode of Columbo, called “Requiem for a Falling Star”. In this episode, she portrayed a fading movie star called Nora Chandler, perhaps in homage to the fading star Margo Channing (Bette Davis) of All About Eve, in which Baxter also starred. In 1971, she also had a role in Fools’ Parade, as an aging prostitute who helps characters played by Jimmy Stewart, Strother Martin, and Kurt Russell escape from the villain, played by George Kennedy, before an act of betrayal seals her fate. In 1983, Baxter starred in the television series Hotel, replacing Bette Davis after Davis became ill.
Baxter married actor John Hodiak on July 7, 1946, at her parents’ home in Burlingame, California. They had one daughter, Katrina, born in 1951. Baxter and Hodiak divorced in 1953. At the time, she said they were “basically incompatible,” but in her book she blamed herself for the separation. “I had loved John as much,” she wrote. “But we’d eventually congealed in the longest winter in the world. Daily estrangement. Things unsaid. Even a fight would have warmed us. To my shame, I’d picked one at last in order to unfreeze the word ‘divorce.'” Hodiak died in 1955.
In the mid-1950s, after her divorce from Hodiak, Baxter began a relationship with her publicist, Russell Birdwell, who took control of her career and directed her in The Come On (1956). The couple formed Baxter-Birdwell Productions to make films on a 10-year plan; Baxter would star in the films and Birdwell would work behind the camera. Princeton University Library has a collection of 175 letters by Baxter to Birdwell.
In 1960, Baxter married her second husband, Randolph Galt. Galt was the American owner of a neighboring cattle station near Sydney, Australia, where she was filming Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. She left Hollywood with Katrina to live with him on a remote 14973 hectare (37,000 acre) cattle station he bought 290 km (180 miles) north of Sydney called Giro (pronounced Ghee-ro). During this time, they had two daughters, Melissa (b. 1962) and Maginel (b. 1963). After the birth of Maginel, back in California, Galt unexpectedly announced that they were moving to a 4452 hectare (11,000 acre) ranch south of Grants, New Mexico. They then moved to Hawaii (his home state) before settling back in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California. Baxter and Galt were divorced in 1969. In 1976, Baxter recounted her courtship with Galt (whom she called “Ran”) and their experiences at Giro in a well-received book called Intermission. Melissa Galt became an interior designer and then a business coach, speaker and seminar provider. Maginel became a cloistered Roman Catholic nun, reportedly living in Rome, Italy.
Baxter married again, in 1977 to David Klee, a prominent stockbroker. It was a brief marriage; Klee died unexpectedly from illness. The newlywed couple had purchased a sprawling property in Easton, Connecticut, which they extensively remodeled; however, Klee did not live to see the renovations completed. Although she maintained a residence in West Hollywood, Baxter considered her Connecticut home to be her primary residence. Baxter was passionate about music and was an active benefactor of the Connecticut Early Music Society.
Baxter was a longtime friend of celebrated costume designer Edith Head, whom she first met on the set of Five Graves to Cairo. Head appeared with Baxter in a cameo role in “Requiem for a Falling Star”, a 1973 Columbo episode. Upon Head’s death in 1981, Melissa Galt, who was also a goddaughter of Head, was bequeathed Head’s jewelry collection.
Baxter suffered a stroke on December 4, 1985, while hailing a taxi on Madison Avenue in New York City. Baxter remained on life support for eight days in New York’s Lenox Hill hospital, until family members agreed that brain function had ceased. She died on December 12, aged 62. Baxter is buried on the estate of Frank Lloyd Wright at Lloyd Jones Cemetery in Spring Green, Wisconsin. She was survived by her three daughters.
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