Tuesday, March 08, 2005

So long, Charlie

To many filmgoers today, the name Teresa Wright probably doesn't mean much, and that's a shame. Wright, who died this week at age 86, was that rare actress whose career spanned a lifetime. She appeared in her first film, The Little Foxes, when she was in her early 20s; her last, The Rainmaker, was released when she was in her late 70s.

Even more remarkable, Wright remains the only actor ever nominated for an Academy Award for each of her first three film roles (The Little Foxes, Mrs. Miniver -- for which she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar -- and The Pride of the Yankees) -- a record that's likely to endure for quite some time. She's also one of only ten actors nominated for both leading and supporting roles in the same Academy year.

But the role for which I'll best remember Teresa Wright is the one that broke her Oscar nomination streak -- her fourth film, Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt -- in which she plays a young woman who is both the niece and namesake of a serial murderer. Wright's strong-willed Charlie Newton was another award-worthy performance opposite veteran Joseph Cotten. Shadow of a Doubt was Hitchcock's favorite of his films, and, after Psycho, it's my favorite too. (That it was filmed in and around the area I now call home doesn't hurt, either.) Wright makes Hitchcock's smartest and most capable heroine, and is (not coincidentally, I believe) one of his few non-blondes.

Known for her strong personality off-camera -- she once stood up to the mighty Samuel Goldwyn, and lost her studio contract for doing so -- Teresa Wright was truly one of Hollywood's great talents.

(This article is cross-posted to my film/television blog at DVD Verdict.)

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