Hand color tinted photo of Teresa Wright
Teresa Wright (October 27, 1918 – March 6, 2005) was an American actress.
She was born Muriel Teresa Wright in Harlem, New York City, the daughter of Martha (née Espy) and Arthur Wright, who was an insurance agent. She grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey. During her years at Columbia High School, she became seriously interested in acting and spent her summers working in Provincetown theater productions. Following her high school graduation in 1938, she returned to New York and was hired to understudy the role of Emily (played by Dorothy McGuire and later Martha Scott) in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. She took over the role when Martha Scott went to Hollywood to make the film version of the play.
In the fall of 1939, she appeared in the stage play Life with Father, playing the role of Mary Skinner for two years. It was there that she was discovered by a talent scout hired by Samuel Goldwyn to find a young actress for the role of Bette Davis’ daughter in the 1941 adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes. She was immediately signed to a five-year Hollywood contract but asserted her seriousness as an actress. Her contract was unique by Hollywood standards because it contained the following clause:
“ The aforementioned Teresa Wright shall not be required to pose for photographs in a bathing suit unless she is in the 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 a 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; assuming an athletic stance while pretending to hit something with a bow and arrow.”
Wright was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her screen debut in The Little Foxes (1941). The following year, she was nominated again, this time for Best Actress for The Pride of the Yankees, in which she played opposite Gary Cooper as the wife of Lou Gehrig; that same year, she won Best Supporting Actress as the daughter-in-law of Greer Garson’s character in Mrs. Miniver. No other actor has ever duplicated her feat of receiving an Oscar nomination for each of her first three films.
In 1943, Wright was loaned out by Goldwyn for the Universal film Shadow of a Doubt, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. She played an innocent young woman who discovers that her beloved uncle, played by Joseph Cotten, is a serial murderer. Other notable films include The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), an award-winning film about the adjustments of servicemen returning home after World War II, and The Men (1950), another story of war veterans, which starred Marlon Brando.
Wright rebelled against the studio system of the time. When Samuel Goldwyn fired her, citing her refusal to publicize the film Enchantment (1948), she expressed no regret about losing her $5,000 per week contract. She said, “The type of contract between players and producers is, I feel, antiquated in form and abstract in concept… We have no privacies which producers cannot invade, they trade us like cattle, boss us like children.” However, before a March 2006 screening of Enchantment on Turner Classic Movies, host Robert Osborne said that Wright did later have some regrets about leaving Goldwyn, since her salary per film went from $125,000 under Goldwyn to about $25,000 per film afterwards.
After 1959, she worked mainly in television and on the stage. She was nominated for Emmy Awards in 1957 for The Miracle Worker and in 1960 for The Margaret Bourke-White Story. She was in the 1975 Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman and the 1980 revival of Morning’s at Seven, for which she won a Drama Desk Award as a member of the Outstanding Ensemble Performance.
Her later movie appearances included a major role in Somewhere in Time (1980) and the role of Miss Birdie in John Grisham’s The Rainmaker (1997), directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for motion pictures at 1658 Vine Street and one for television at 6405 Hollywood Blvd.
Wright was married to writer Niven Busch from 1942 to 1952; they had two children. She married playwright Robert Anderson in 1959; they later divorced, but maintained a close relationship until the end of her life.
She died of a heart attack at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut at the age of 86.