R.I.P. Teresa Wright

I just heard the sad news that Teresa Wright, wonderful Academy-award winning actress, has passed away at the age of 86. Here she is in Mrs. Miniver – the film for which she won her Oscar:

She, while along with being a very talented actress, represented a kind of anti-glamour (despite the fact that she is obviously very beautiful) – something that people really responded to. She always seemed like a real person. I mean, look at her face in that photo. She looks real, human, not made up to the point of garish oblivion. The frou-frou starlet thing held no interest for her. Not only did it hold no interest for her, but she really felt like she couldn’t go that route. It wouldn’t be right for her. Not that she judged those it WAS right for (the Marilyn Monroes of the world)… but she knew it wasn’t right for her.

From that article, comes a quote from Miss Wright:

“I’m just not the glamour type. Glamour girls are born, not made. And the real ones can be glamorous even if they don’t wear magnificent clothes. I’ll bet Lana Turner would look glamorous in anything.”

What I like about Teresa Wright is that she seemed to have one of the most necessary qualities for any long career: self-knowledge. And it shows up in her performances. She’s a great example of that – other actresses (or actors) may get talked into doing things they feel isn’t right for them, may get big heads from flattery (“Of course you’re as beautiful as Lana Turner!!”, etc.), and because of all this – make grave judgments in error, in terms of how their image is managed, or what projects they appear in. Teresa Wright was usually well cast, and a lot of that has to do with her self-knowledge. She knew what she could do, and what she shouldn’t attempt.

She refused to do cheesecake publicity shots, and refused to be dressed up in bikinis or bathing suits, saying, “I argued that I didn’t have any of the attributes to pose for cheesecake. I said I would have to make good on my acting ability, which was the only attribute I could offer.”

Perhaps not the ONLY attribute. Her loveliness is pretty much indisputable. It was just that being beautiful didn’t interest her. What did interest her was acting.

Here’s an obituary, with lots of good information about Wright.

In Scott Berg’s biography of Sam Goldwyn (which I have on, ahem, Bookcase # 4) – Teresa Wright is a major character. Not just because of her involvement with the mega-hit Best Years of Our Lives, but because Goldwyn fired her in 1948, for many reasons, but mainly because she was too independent-minded, and too recalcitrant for him. She had a mind of her own. Goldwyn hated women (especially actresses) with minds of their own. She left that contract with no regrets, and still went on acting. She was still acting way up into the late 1990s. Amazing.

Even though her name may not be that well known … and in a way, sadly, she is one of the many many forgotten geniuses of the artform … I know people who still count her as one of their favorite actresses ever. I know people who still cherish her work, who still look to her as one of the best.

Teresa Wright: rest in peace.

Maybe I should rent Best Years of Our Lives this weekend. Have a wee tribute.

The second I heard the news, I thought of Mitch. He’s mentioned his admiration for her before here on this blog.. Go read his tribute to Teresa here.

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12 Responses to R.I.P. Teresa Wright

  1. Stevie says:

    Oh, she was so wonderful. Shadow of a Doubt was just shown on AMC and I watched it again. She’s fabulous in it. (So was Joseph Cotton.)

  2. red says:

    Stevie … I knew I could count on you to show up and say something kind about her. :)

    Shadow of a Doubt as well … of course!

  3. DBW says:

    She was great in The Men, which may be Brando’s first film. If not his first, it is one of his first.

  4. Alex says:


    Yes! Rent “Best Years”, but really, really re-watch “Mrs. Miniver”. Wright’s performance equals Garson’s. It’s understated, sweet, and filled with pathos. It’s a miracle of a movie, and most times forgotten by just about everyone.

    Wright had a remarkable career, and a huge one on Broadway. Sad she’s gone, but what a life!

  5. RIP Teresa Wright

    Teresa Wright is dead at age 86. “Teresa who?” Take a seat….

  6. mitch says:

    Miniver is one of my favorites, ever; I think I listed it among my favorite WWII movies on your site a few weeks ago, Red. As is “TBYOOL”, of course; that’s one of those movies I can never see enough.

    And Teresa Wright is one of my all-time favorites, anyway. She’s like an American Ingrid Bergman, I think.

  7. Stevie says:

    Oh Sheila, imagine making your film debut opposite Bette Davis in The Little Foxes! That was a notoriously difficult set. William Wyler wanted Davis to be toned down, just ooze evil subtly instead of being her usual high-strung self. Evidently Davis saw it differently. To think that Teresa Wright not only held her own in her film debut while the titans clashed around her, but earned an Academy Award nomination for best performance by an actress in a supporting role! Hats off to a sweet, talented and crisply modern actor – Teresa Wright.

  8. peteb says:

    Here’s another marvellous obituary of Teresa Wright – with lots of info – including the clause that she insisted was written into the contract with Samuel Goldwyn

    “shall not be required to pose for photographs in a bathing suit unless she is in water. Neither may she be photographed running on the beach with her hair flying in the wind. Nor may she pose in any of the following situations: in shorts; playing with a cocker spaniel; digging in a garden; whipping up a meal; attired in firecrackers and holding skyrockets for the fourth of July; looking insinuatingly at the turkey for Thanksgiving; wearing a bunny cap with long ears for Easter; twinkling on prop snow in a skiing outfit while a fan blows her scarf”

    and from Shadow of a Doubt

    “Oh, I don’t know. I guess I don’t like to be an average girl in an average family.”

    I have added several of the movies mentioned to The List.

  9. red says:

    That clause is absolute genius, peteb.

    This woman was no dummy.

  10. peteb says:

    It is a magnificent clause, Sheila..

    “Nor may she pose.. looking insinuatingly at the turkey for Thanksgiving”

    heh heh

  11. red says:

    That was my favorite line too. HA!

  12. peteb says:

    Heh heh.. it has more impact by being held back from the end of the clause..

    and I should also say that, although it’s not on the linked page, the print version of that obituary is accompanied by a quarter-page colour photograph of Wright, with the caption – “Wright.. ‘You can’t relax when she’s on the screen – she’s reaching out, grabbing you, pelting you with her tender frailty'”

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