A Girl's Got To Breathe: The Life of Teresa Wright (Hollywood Legends Series)
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The actress Teresa Wright (1918–2005) lived a rich, complex, magnificent life against the backdrop of golden age Hollywood, Broadway and television. There was no indication, from her astonishingly difficult―indeed, horrifying―childhood, of the success that would follow, nor of the universal acclaim and admiration that accompanied her everywhere. Her two marriages―to the writers Niven Busch (The Postman Always Rings Twice; Duel in the Sun) and Robert Anderson (Tea and Sympathy; I Never Sang for My Father)―provide a good deal of the drama, warmth, poignancy and heartbreak of her life story.
“I never wanted to be a star,” she told the noted biographer Donald Spoto at dinner in 1978. “I wanted only to be an actress.” She began acting on the stage in summer stock and repertory at the age of eighteen. When Thornton Wilder and Jed Harris saw her in an ingénue role, she was chosen to understudy the part of Emily in the original production of Our Town (1938), which she then played in touring productions. Samuel Goldwyn saw her first starring role on Broadway―in the historic production of Life with Father―and at once he offered her a long contract.
She was the only actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for her first three pictures (The Little Foxes; The Pride of the Yankees; and Mrs. Miniver), and she won for the third film. Movie fans and scholars to this day admire her performance in the classics Shadow of a Doubt and The Best Years of Our Lives. The circumstances of her tenure at Goldwyn, and the drama of her breaking that contract, forever changed the treatment of stars.
Wright’s family and heirs appointed Spoto as her authorized biographer and offered him exclusive access to her letters and papers. Major supporting players in this story include Robert Anderson, Alfred Hitchcock, William Wyler, Karl Malden, Elia Kazan, Jean Simmons, Dorothy McGuire, Bette Davis, George Cukor, Marlon Brando, George C. Scott, the artist Al Hirschfeld, Stella Adler, and more.
actress Oscar in 1931. “I just adored Helen Hayes when I was a kid. She was my idol when I was in school.” Just five feet tall, Hayes was equally adept at tragedy, romance and comedy: she portrayed passionate, grief-stricken and angry women without inflated emotion and roles of high humor without mannerisms. By 1935, she was a famous American exponent of James M. Barrie (Dear Brutus and What Every Woman Knows), Oliver Goldsmith (She Stoops to Conquer) and George Bernard Shaw (Caesar and
wrote to Goldwyn, “Teresa said she would not be able to return [to 86 1944–1948 work] until approximately another six months go by, which would be towards the latter part of May 1948. She is tired, does not feel well and just couldn’t return to work any sooner.” This time, there was no suspension. As he cheerfully told Abe Lastfogel (who was representing her once again), Goldwyn was preparing a sublime motion picture for her and several other contracted players—David Niven, Farley Granger and
had access to penicillin from March 1945. S Daily, the atrocities of World War II continued. As the movie business was celebrating itself that evening in March 1943, more than 1,000 French Jews were being deported to Maidanek, where only three people survived, and 34,000 Dutch Jews were shipped to Mauthausen and to Auschwitz (where Dr. Josef Mengele performed atrocious tortures, his “medical experiments” on doomed victims). Very few lived to see the end of the war. In the Ukraine, 23,000 Jews
building new foundations. I’ve built them alone. 1957–1959 141 I long for the solace and protection and the special delight that the marriage relationship can have above all others, but I would never dream of just settling for marriage for its own sake—it would have to be something I would reach for and rise to with the strongest desire and hope and faith, and the two of us are very short on hope and faith in that direction. She concluded wisely: “None of us has a right to expect any more
terrible memories is a part of the process of healing, but is it ever possible to banish forever the effects of such dark clouds as these that hung over her entire lifetime? The underlying sadness in Teresa’s life, the source of her poor selfimage and lifelong lack of healthy self-esteem, were caused by a mother who never said goodbye, never returned, never wrote her a letter. Martha had not died—there was no final event to overcome. She simply withdrew from young Muriel’s life, leaving an