Beautiful, versatile, and talented Agnes Moorehead was born on December 6, 1900 in Clinton, Massachusetts. From Citizen Kane in 1941 to a made for television movie, Rex Harrison Presents Stories of Love, in 1974 the classy (in every sense of the word) actress created a wonderful filmography.
A few of my own personal favorite Agnes Moorehead films and television shows include:
(Links go to the movies’ dvds on Amazon)
- Citizen Kane
- The Magnificent Ambersons
- Jane Eyre
- Dark Passage
- Show Boat
- The Bat
- The Stratton Story
- The True Story of Jesse James
- Charlotte’s Web (she made a perfect goose!)
I am working on watching her entire filmography and will (undoubtedly) come back here to edit the list as I am CERTAIN there will be more to add. My favorite Agnes Moorehead roles are Endora (Bewitched), Cornelia van Gorder (The Bat) and “Ma Stratton” in The Stratton Story. Unusual selections, I’m sure, given her wonderful body of work – but I have a few reasons for each choice.
Wonderful, larger than life dramas (on the big screen) were this lady’s specialty. She commanded dramatic scenes like she was born to do so. Yet… when the opportunity came along to portray a witch, of all things, in a television sitcom, she didn’t just NAIL COMEDY, she created a character that is a household name even today, all these years later.
While there are many sitcom characters, from the sixties and seventies and even earlier who are, also, household names, they are almost always main characters – as in the ones always front and center who, supposedly, carry the show.
Agnes Moorehead made such a huge impact that it’s felt today.
If you stop and think of other dramatic film actresses and imagine them in the role of Endora, you will quickly realize just how “impossible” this feat was. And yet…. she did it with style, pizzazz, and ever so much showmanship!
So, yes, even though her film roles are memorable, to say the least, her role as Endora will forever be one of my favorite Agnes Moorehead roles.
Ma Stratton (The Stratton Story)
Another favorite performance is her subtle, beautiful performance as James Stewart’s character’s mother in The Stratton Story. While her screen time in this film isn’t as much as some of her other wonderful roles, what time she is on the screen, she is mesmerizing. Her character is a woman who life has not been particularly kind to. From her demeanor, her surroundings, and the fact that she is the only parent left, you know that this is a woman who is uncommonly strong – not necessarily because she wants to be but she has had to be.
There is a quiet strength to her throughout the film that is palpable. Without giving anything away to those who have not seen this film, I’ll just say that several VERY emotional things happen to her son Monty (played by James Stewart). At no point does she take her reactions further than a woman of her character’s strength would allow. She also never tries to steal the
spotlight from her co-stars Stewart and June Allyson.
She stays within her character’s persona and it is absolutely breathtaking to watch because, due to the nature of the emotions (some positive, some negative), it would have been easy to play the scenes large. However, this would have been very unlike her character and, being the wonderful actress she was, she reigned it in.
Cornelia (The Bat)
If you watch a lot of Old Hollywood films, you realize that only a select few actresses were given the honor of carrying a film – of being front and center, so to speak. With The Bat, Agnes was given the chance to do this very thing and she was phenomenal.
The film is pretty “out there” but she never comes across as campy and never treats the role or film with anything but the utmost respect.
I think it’s a very entertaining film (co-starring the incomparable Vincent Price) and one of the reasons is the beautiful actress, herself.