Colleen Rose Dewhurst (June 3, 1924 – August 22, 1991) was a Canadian-American actress known most for theatre roles, and for a while as "the Queen of off-Broadway." In her autobiography, Dewhurst wrote: "I had moved so quickly from one off-Broadway production to the next that I was known, at one point, as the 'Queen of off-Broadway'. This title was not due to my brilliance but rather because most of the plays I was in closed after a run of anywhere from one night to two weeks. I would then move immediately into another." She was a renowned interpreter of the works of Eugene O'Neill on the stage, and her career also encompassed film, early dramas on live television, and Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival. One of her last roles was playing Marilla Cuthbert in the Kevin Sullivan television adaptations of the Anne of Green Gables series and her reprisal of the role in the subsequent TV series Road to Avonlea (marketed as Avonlea in the US).
Colleen Dewhurst was born June 3, 1924 in Montreal, Quebec to housewife Frances Marie (née Woods) and Ferdinand Augustus "Fred" Dewhurst. She had no siblings. Fred Dewhurst was the owner of a chain of confectionery stores, and wife Frances' father had been a celebrated athlete in Canada where he had played football with the Ottawa Rough Riders". The family became naturalized as U.S. citizens before 1940. Colleen's mother was a Christian Scientist, a faith Colleen also embraced.
The Dewhursts moved to Massachusetts in 1928 or 1929, staying in Boston, Dorchester, Auburndale, and West Newton. Later they moved to New York City, and then to Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. She attended Whitefish Bay High School for her first two years of high school, moved to Shorewood High School for her junior year, and finally graduated from Riverside High School in Milwaukee in 1942. Around this time, her parents separated. Dewhurst went on to attend Milwaukee-Downer College for two years before moving to New York City to pursue an acting career.
One of Dewhurst's most significant stage roles was in the 1974 Broadway revival of O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten as Josie Hogan, for which she won a Tony Award. She previously won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in 1961 for All the Way Home. She later played Katharina in a 1956 production of Taming of the Shrew for Joseph Papp. She (as recounted in her posthumous obituary in collaboration with Tom Viola) wrote:
With Brooks Atkinson's blessing, our world changed overnight. Suddenly in our audience of neighbors in T-shirts and jeans appeared men in white shirts, jackets and ties, and ladies in summer dresses. We were in a hit that would have a positive effect on my career, as well as Joe's, but I missed the shouting.
She played Shakespeare's Cleopatra and Lady Macbeth for Papp and, years later, Gertrude in a production of Hamlet at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. Dewhurst and George C. Scott met while working together in 1958, in Children of Darkness, while they were both married to other people.
She appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Hour in Night Fever in 1965 and with Ingrid Bergman in More Stately Mansions on Broadway in 1967. José Quintero directed her in O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night and Mourning Becomes Electra. She appeared in Edward Albee's adaptation of Carson McCullers' Ballad of the Sad Cafe, and as Martha in a Broadway revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, opposite Ben Gazzara which Albee directed.
She appeared in 1962 as Joanne Novak in the episode "I Don't Belong in a White-Painted House" in NBC's medical drama, The Eleventh Hour, starring Wendell Corey and Jack Ging. Dewhurst appeared opposite her then-husband, Scott, in a 1971 television adaptation of Arthur Miller's The Price, on Hallmark Hall of Fame, an anthology series, and there is another television recording of them together when she played Elizabeth Proctor to his unfaithful John in Miller's The Crucible (with Tuesday Weld. In 1977, Woody Allen cast her in his film Annie Hall as Annie's mother.
In 1972, she played a madam, Mrs. Kate Collingwood, in The Cowboys (1972), which starred John Wayne. In 1985, she played the role of Marilla Cuthbert in Kevin Sullivan's adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's novel Anne of Green Gables, and reprised the role in 1987's Anne of Avonlea (also known as Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel), and in several episodes of Kevin Sullivan's Road to Avonlea. Dewhurst died before the character of Marilla could be written out and her final scenes were picked up off the editing-room floor and pieced together for her death scene. During 1989 and 1990, she appeared in a supporting role on the television series Murphy Brown playing the feisty mother of Candice Bergen's title character; this role earned her two Emmy Awards, the second being awarded posthumously. Dewhurst won a total of two Tony Awards and four Emmy Awards for her stage and television work.
She was president of the Actors' Equity Association from 1985 until her death from cervical cancer in 1991.
Personal life and final years
Dewhurst was married to James Vickery from 1947 to 1960. She married and divorced George C. Scott twice. They had two sons, Alexander Scott and actor Campbell Scott; she co-starred with Campbell in Dying Young (1991), one of her last performances. During the last years of her life, she lived on a farm in South Salem, New York, with her partner, Ken Marsolais. They also had a summer home on Prince Edward Island, Canada.
Dewhurst's Christian Science beliefs led to her refusal to countenance any kind of surgical treatment. Maureen Stapleton wrote about Dewhurst:
Colleen looked like a warrior, so people assumed she was the earth mother. But in real life Colleen was not to be let out without a keeper. She couldn't stop herself from taking care of people, which she then did with more care than she took care of herself. Her generosity of spirit was overwhelming and her smile so dazzling that you couldn't pull the f_-kng reins in on her even if you desperately wanted to and knew damn well that somebody should.
Dewhurst died of cervical cancer, age 67, at her South Salem home in 1991. She was cremated and her ashes were given to family and friends; no public service was planned. In addition to her sons, she was survived by two grandchildren.
Over the course of her 45-year career, Dewhurst won the 1974 Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre, two Tony Awards, two Obie Awards and two Gemini Awards. In 1989, she won the Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for her role in Hitting Home. Of her 13 Emmy Award nominations, she won four. She was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981.
- 1986: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Miniseries or a Movie — Between Two Women
- 1989: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress – Comedy Series — Murphy Brown
- 1989: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Miniseries or a Movie — Those She Left Behind
- 1991: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress – Comedy Series — Murphy Brown
- 1961: Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play – All the Way Home
- 1974: Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play — A Moon for the Misbegotten
- This television-related list is incomplete; you can help by.
- 1962: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by an Actress – Focus
- 1968: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Drama – The Crucible
- 1971: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – The Price
- 1976: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama or Comedy Special – A Moon For the Misbegotten
- 1979: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie – Silent Victory: The Kitty O'Neil Story
- 1981: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie – Between Two Women
- 1990: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Miniseries or a Movie — Lantern Hill
- 1990: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress – Drama Series — Road to Avonlea
- 1991: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress – Drama Series — Road to Avonlea
- 1962: Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play — Great Day In the Morning
- 1964: Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play — The Ballad of the Sad Cafe
- 1968: Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play — More Stately Mansions
- 1972: Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play — All Over
- 1973: Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play — Mourning Becomes Electra
- 1977: Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play — Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Films and television films
|1959||The Nun's Story||"Archangel Gabriel" (Sanatorium)|
|1960||Man on a String||Helen Benson|
|1961||The Foxes||television film|
|1966||A Fine Madness||Dr. Vera Kropotkin|
|1966||The Big Valley||Annie Morton|
|1967||The Crucible||Elizabeth Proctor||television film (adaptation of the play The Crucible)|
|1971||The Last Run||Monique|
|1973||Legend in Granite||Marie Lombardi||television film|
|1974||Parker Addison, Philosopher||Hostess||television film|
|The Music School||Hostess||television film|
|The Story of Jacob and Joseph||Rebekah||television film|
|1975||A Moon for the Misbegotten||Josie Hogan||television film (adaptation of the play A Moon for the Misbegotten)|
|1977||Annie Hall||Mrs. Hall|
|1978||The Third Walker||Kate Maclean|
|Ice Castles||Beulah Smith|
|1979||Silent Victory: The Kitty O'Neil Story||Mrs. O'Neil||television film|
|When a Stranger Calls||Tracy Fuller|
|And Baby Makes Six||Anna Kramer||television film|
|Mary and Joseph: A Story of Faith||Elizabeth||television film|
|1980||Death Penalty||Elaine Lipton||television film|
|Escape||Lily Levinson||television film|
|Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones||Mrs. Myrtle Kennedy||television miniseries|
|The Women's Room||Val||television film (based on the book The Women's Room)|
|A Perfect Match||Meg Larson||television film|
|Baby Comes Home||Anna Kramer||television film|
|Final Assignment||Dr. Valentine Ulanova|
|1981||A Few Days in Weasel Creek||Aunt Cora||television film|
|1982||Split Cherry Tree||Mother|
|Between Two Brothers||television film|
|1983||Sometimes I Wonder||Grandma||television film|
|The Dead Zone||Henrietta Dodd|
|1984||You Can't Take It with You||Grand Duchess Olga Katrina||television film (adaptation of the play You Can't Take It with You)|
|The Glitter Dome||Lorna Dillman||television film|
|1985||Anne of Green Gables||Marilla Cuthbert||television film|
|1986||Between Two Women||Barbara Petherton||television film|
|Johnny Bull||Marie Kovacs||television film|
|As Is||Hospice Worker||television film|
|The Boy Who Could Fly||Mrs. Sherman|
|Sword of Gideon||Golda Meir||television film|
|1987||Hitting Home||Judge||television film|
|Bigfoot||Gladys Samco||television film|
|Anne of Avonlea (also known as Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel)||Marilla Cuthbert||television film|
|1989||Those She Left Behind||Margaret Page||television film|
|Termini Station||Molly Dushane|
|1990||The Exorcist III||Pazuzu (voice)||uncredited|
|Woman in the Wind|
|Lantern Hill||Elizabeth||television film|
|1991||Dying Young||Estelle Whittier|
|Bed & Breakfast||Ruth|
2000 Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story as Marilla Cuthbert in flashback 2008 Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning as Marilla Cuthbert in non spoken flashback
Television work (excluding television films)
|1957||Studio One||teleplay: First Prize for Murder|
|1958||Kraft Television Theatre||teleplay: Presumption of Innocence|
|Decoy||Taffy||one episode: "Deadly Corridor"|
|The DuPont Show of the Month||teleplay The Count of Monte Cristo|
|1959||Aldonza/Dulcinea||teleplay: I, Don Quixote|
|Play of the Week||Mordeen Saul / Woman||teleplays: Burning Bright; Medea|
|The United States Steel Hour||Vera Brandon||teleplay: The Hours Before Dawn|
|1961||Play of the Week||teleplays" No Exit; The Indifferent Lover|
|Ben Casey||Phyllis Anders||one episode: "I Remember a Lemon Tree"|
|1962||The Eleventh Hour||Joanne Novak||one episode: "I Don't Belong in a White-Painted House"|
|The Virginian||Celia Ames||one episode: "The Executioners"|
|The Nurses||Grace Milo||one episode: "Fly, Shadow"|
|1963||The United States Steel Hour||Francie Broderick||teleplay: Night Run to the West|
|The DuPont Show of the Month||Karen Holt||teleplay: Something to Hide|
|1964||East Side/West Side||Shirley||one episode: "Nothing but the Half Truth"|
|1965||Dr. Kildare||Eleanor Markham||one episode: "All Brides Should Be Beautiful"|
|The Alfred Hitchcock Hour||Nurse Ellen Hatch||one episode: "Night Fever"|
|1966||The F.B.I.||Amy Doucette||one episode: "The Baby Sitter"|
|The Big Valley||Annie Morton||one episode: "A Day of Terror"|
|1971||ITV Saturday Night Theatre||Mrs. Franz||teleplay: The Price|
|Hallmark Hall of Fame|
|1972||Molly Joyce||teleplay: The Hands of Cormac Joyce|
|1973||Wide World Mystery||Margery Landing||one episode: "A Prowler in the Heart"|
|1979||Studs Lonigan||Mary Lonigan||miniseries|
|1982||Quincy, M.E.||Dr. Barbara Ludow||one episode: "For Love of Joshua"|
|The Blue and the Gray||Maggie Geyser||miniseries|
|1983||Great Performances||Red Queen||teleplay: Alice in Wonderland|
|1984||Finder of Lost Loves||Rachel Green||one episode: "Echoes"|
|The Love Boat||Maud||one episode: "My Mother, My Chaperone/The Present/The Death and Life of Sir Alfred Demerest/Welcome Aboard: Part 1 and Part 2"|
|1988||The Twilight Zone||Alley Parker||one episode: "There Was an Old Woman"|
|1989||Moonlighting||Betty Russell||one episode: "Take My Wife, for Example"|
|1989–1990||Murphy Brown||Avery Brown Sr.||three episodes: |
-"Brown Like Me: Part 1 and Part II" (1989)
-"Mama Said" (1989)
-"Bob & Murphy & Ted & Avery (1990)
|1990- 1992||Road to Avonlea||Marilla Cuthbert||four episodes: |
- "Of Corsets and Secrets and True, True Love"
-"The Materializing of Duncan McTavish"
-"The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham's" and "Old Friends New Wounds (Marrila's Death)"
|1952||Desire Under the Elms||Neighbor|
|1956||Tamburlaine the Great||Virgin of Memphis / Turkish Concubine|
|1957–1958||The Country Wife||Mrs. Squeamish|
|1960–1961||All the Way Home||Mary Follet|
|1962||Great Day in the Morning||Phoebe Flaherty|
|1963–1964||The Ballad of the Sad Cafe||Miss Amelia Evans|
|1967–1968||More Stately Mansions||Sara|
|1970||The Good Woman of Setzuan||Shen Te|
|1971||All Over||The Mistress|
|1972||Mourning Becomes Electra||Christine Mannon|
|1973–1974||A Moon for the Misbegotten||Josie Hogan|
|1976||Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?||Martha|
|1977–1978||An Almost Perfect Person||Irene Porter|
|1982||The Queen and the Rebels||Argia|
|1983–1984||You Can't Take It with You||Olga|
|1988||Long Day's Journey into Night||Mary Cavan Tyrone|
|Ah, Wilderness!||Essie Miller|
|1989–1990||Love Letters||Melissa Gardner|
- Dewhurst, Colleen; Viola, Tom (1997). Colleen Dewhurst — Her Autobiography. Scribner. ISBN 978-0-684-80701-0.
- Susan Ware (editor), Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary Completing the Twentieth Century, Volume 5, pages 174–175 (Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press, 2004). ISBN 9780674014886
- Dewhurst, Colleen; Viola, Tom (1997). Colleen Dewhurst — Her Autobiography. Scribner; ISBN 978-0-684-80701-0
- The New York Times, March 3, 1981 - 26 Elected to the Theater Hall of Fame