Monday, December 6, 2010

Agnes Moorehead, 1900-1974


Agnes Moorehead ministering to Eleanor Parker in Caged (1950)

TCM is spending today marking the 90th birthday of jazz legend Dave Brubeck, which means they don't have any time to give to venerable character actress and four time Oscar nominee Agnes Moorehead, who was born on this day in 1900. Moorhead, like quite a few people, made her movie d├ębut in Citizen Kane (young Charles Kane's mother at the beginning), having been a part of Orson Welles' Mercury Radio Theater in the years before 1941. Once she got into movies, she worked seemingly non-stop, making a good two dozen movies in the 1940s, and a similar number in the 1950s, by which time she also started doing television work. People today would probably remember Moorehead best for that television work, specifically as Endora, the mother to Elizabeth Montgomery's Samantha, on the long-running sitcom Bewitched.

However, Moorehead's movie work shouldn't go unnoticed. Since she shows up in so many movies, it's only natural that I've recommended quite a bit of her work in the past, even without giving her a substantial mention. Such is the case with Caged, where she is the prison warden. Or, I could point out Fourteen Hours, where Moorehead is the mother of Richard Baseheart. Another motherly character, albeit a much different one, is in Our Vines Have Tender Grapes. One motherly role for which Moorehead got an Oscar nomination is as the mother to Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda.

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