"The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of" ... Bogart, Shakespeare, The Maltese Falcon, Those Great Movies

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Teresa Wright -- Quietly Unforgettable

Teresa Wright

When I was a teenager, I wanted to be Rita Hayworth or Vivien Leigh.  The sheer beauty of these women was intoxicating, and at that age I thought that was the be all and the end all for a woman.  When I got a little older, I came to realize that even great beauty just wouldn't do.  I began to notice other qualities of women I admired, particularly my mother.  I became acquainted with the movies of Teresa Wright, and ever since then have felt that if I were not myself, I would like to be her.  It wasn't just her looks or talent -- she was certainly lovely and a wonderful actress.  She was not glamorous and did not want to be.  Teresa's prime movie career was set in a time I have always loved.  She was in her 20's during the 1940's.  I had always felt I would been better suited there than in my own time.  The 40's, even though stricken by war, seemed a wonderful time to be a young woman living in a medium-sized town where decent people lived ordinary lives (eg. Shadow of a Doubt); where modesty, love, and the importance of fidelity were desirable virtues (eg. The Best Years of Our Lives); where love of country and responsibility for it were commonplace (eg. Mrs. Miniver). The most famous movies in which Teresa appeared, added to the three already mentioned, were The Little Foxes and Pride of the Yankees.  These films spanned the years of 1941 to 1946.  

Teresa and Dame May Whitty in Mrs. Miniver

Lest I be dismissed as a rose-colored glasses type, I certainly know that those years, the towns portrayed, the stories themselves also held behind closed doors the fear, unhappiness and difficulties with life as in any era.  In fact, each of the five movies has Teresa starting out as an innocent girl, only to be forced to deal with disappointment, sorrow and sometimes just plain evil -- a  beloved, yet murderous, Uncle Charlie in Shadow; post-war mental and social damage, divorce and physical disability in Best Years; the effect of war on an ordinary English family, and death that comes as never expected in Mrs. Miniver; greed and evil in a young girl's mother and uncles in Foxes; and deep sorrow for a wife with her husband's illness in Pride.

Teresa in The Best Years of Our Lives

Teresa's movie career began to decline after 1946, although she made several, none of which ever reached the the level of importance of the first five.  Teresa then became a prolific actress on television, with a few occasional movies, and worked until she was 78 years old.  She died in 2005.

So why do I feel so akin to a decade that ended before I was born?  I like what I've seen and heard about the cultural attitudes, the social aspect of relationships and other heavy issues.  But right now, I'm thinking about the fabulous big band music, the way that men dressed in suits and fedoras, and the women's clothes that looked like ball gowns compared to the way we appear in public these days.  One of the fun things about Teresa for me is her clothes.  In every movie she is dressed in beautiful, simple day wear, tailored just to her.  You can imagine yourself in clothes like that, as opposed to period costumes or mink-laden outfits for the rich.  Teresa always looked great, cool and womanly.  I liked her hair too.

Teresa and Greer Garson in Mrs. Miniver

Teresa and detective in Shadow of a Doubt

Teresa,  Joseph Cotton and a cop in Shadow of a Doubt

It's hard to believe that Teresa Wright could fall under the category of forgotten stars, but I bet not many people other than us have any idea who she is.  That's such a shame.  She made important, great movies, and neither she nor they should be forgotten.


  1. A lovely actress, one of my favorites. You're right, she should not be forgotten. Swell post.

  2. Hi Becky! Funny you should mention Theresa's outfits. She wears a air of shoes in Shadow of a Doubt that look just perfect on her. I never fail to notice them no matter how many times I see that movie. Theresa Wright had a sort of all American beauty to her, not exotic or glamorous - the sort of beauty that makes you think - hey, if I had the right stylist I could look like that, too. I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine about the good old days vs. now and we came to the conclusion that any era in which you are young are good times, if only in retrospect. Lovely post, my friend.

  3. The first time I saw 'The Actress,' I was surprised that Teresa Wright was playing Jean Simmons' mom because I had this perpetual image of her as being so much younger. Seemed like she always played someone's daughter or sweetheart during her peak years. I'd say 'Shadow' was her best movie.

  4. Teresa was a star in that one point of her career, and a talented working actress for the rest of it. It must have been so frustrating how Hollywood treated aging actresses. In 1947s "Pursued" Teresa played Robert Mitchum's sweetheart. Seven brief years later in 1954s "Track of the Cat" she was cast as Mitchum's spinster sister!

  5. Great choice and tribute, Becky! I've an affinity to the 1940s as well so particularly loved your thoughtful mention of the fact you are as well - and why. I've always thought of Teresa Wright as (purposely) not particularly glamorous, but the one all the young men would have had a crush on. There's something so real about her and it comes across in her performances.


  6. This is a wonderful tribute to one of my favourite 1940s actresses. I admire Teresa Wright for all the reasons you mentioned. I agree with Citizen Screen (above), who said there was something real about her. She certainly deserves to be more well known. :)

  7. Great review. I like how she grows on you with every film you watch. I wasn't a big fan the first time I saw her; she seemed a bit too earnest to me. But by the time I'd seen Shadow of a Doubt, I'd completely changed my mind. Leah

  8. Nice choice Becky, I'm a big fan of Teresa Wright too, and the films she's in.I must say I'm drawn to the movies and stories of the 40s,film noir and war stories, etc. It's the last part of the decade I was born in, and its often the darkness of the decade of the time, and knowing that this was the case for my parents, that attracts me.Anyway, great choice for the blogathon.

  9. Fun post on a lovely woman! I'll keep an eye out for her. Thanks!

  10. She stole all the scenes she was in Mrs Miniver! A talented and very, very beautiful woman.
    I was surprised to see her name in the credits for one of her final films: The Rainmaker, with a very young Matt Damon :)

  11. Thanks for a great review of a wonderful actress! I agree it is a shame she is not better remembered. I actually only last month began watching her films and was wondering how I didn't really know her before. I guess she can be easy to overlook (I didn't really remember her from Mrs. Miniver initially), but when I came to really watch her in her films, I was suddenly riveted. It was Shadow of a Doubt when I really came to appreciate her. :)

  12. A delightful choice, Becky. My favorite of her films is an obvious choice, but the fact remains that she is quite excellent in SHADOW OF A DOUBT.

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  14. Teresa Wright was such a fine actress, so intelligent and understated, and I'm so glad you chose to focus on her for this blogathon. A talent like hers - so remarkable in Mrs. Miniver, Shadow of a Doubt and The Best Years of Our Lives - should never be forgotten.

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