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"In the Spotlight"

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the Spotlight: MILDRED DUNNOCK

 

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The petite, talented character actress was born Mildred Dorothy Dunnock on January 25, 1901 in Baltimore, Maryland.

After graduating from Western High School in 1918, she enrolled at Goucher College, where she joined Agora, the college's dramatic society.

 

When a college counselor suggested she study for a master's degree in theater, her father was less than enthusiastic. Dunnock's relatives were cool to her desire for a career in the theater and did their best to discourage her, hoping she would get married and become a homemaker.

 

After graduating from Goucher, she taught at Friends School while performing in shows.

Dunnock left Baltimore and earned a master's degree in theater at Columbia, and made her Broadway debut in 1932, while teaching at Brearley, a private girls' school in New York City.

 

Turning to Broadway full time during the 1940s, Dunnock played roles in "Foolish Notion" with Tallulah Bankhead, "Lute Song" with Mary Martin and "The Corn Is Green" with Ethel Barrymore,

and won praise for her performance as a Welsh school teacher. The 1945 film version marked her screen debut opposite Bette Davis.

In 1947 Dunnock co-starred in "Kiss of Death" in a shocking scene with the late Richard Widmark.

Widmark as psychotic Tommy Udo, an ex-convict, exacts revenge on Ma Rizzo, played by Dunnock, whose son is an underworld informant, by ripping a cord from a lamp, tying her with it into her wheelchair and sending the chair bouncing down the stairs.

 

During the 1940s Dunnock performed mostly on stage, in such dramas as "Another Part of the Forest" and "Death of a Salesman". She reprised her Salesman role as Linda Loman in the 1951 film version earning an Oscar nomination. She originated the role of Big Mama in Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", although she lost the movie role to Judith Anderson.

 

Her films include, "Viva Zapata!" (Golden Globe nominee best support), "Bad for Each Other" with Lizabeth Scott, Hitchcock's "The Trouble with Harry", "Love Me Tender" as Elvis' mom, "Baby Doll" earning another Oscar nomination, "Peyton Place" as teacher Elsie Thornton (Golden Globe nominee best support), "The Nun's Story", "BUtterfield 8", and "Sweet Bird of Youth" as Aunt Nonnie whose last line in the film is a dilly.

Also in "Behold a Pale Horse", John Ford's "7 Women", "What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice", etc.

 

In addition to her successful career as a character actress in film and theater, Dunnock appeared frequently in numerous TV series in guest roles, and later in her career, several made-for-television movies, including a remake of "Death of a Salesman" in which she played Linda Loman for the third time, earning an Emmy Award nomination.

 

Her final film was "The Pick-up Artist" in 1987, which starred Robert Downey, Jr. and Molly Ringwald.

 

Dunnock was married to bank executive Keith Urmy from 1933 until her death, and had two daughters Linda and Mary.

 

The petite powerhouse died in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, of natural causes at the age of 90 on July 5, 1991. .

 

"She was small and slight with a thin, mobile mouth, and she excelled at playing the parts of mothers and eccentric ladies of various kinds," The New York Times wrote at her death in 1991. "Her admirers praised her power to move audiences by making them care for the characters she portrayed."

 

Quoted: "I like to play parts that are not like myself," she said. "I'm not the least bit exciting. I'm an ordinary person in an ordinary life, but in my imagination there's no stopping me."

 

Dunnock has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to motion pictures.

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Dunnock made her screen debut as Miss Ronberry in "The Corn Is Green" (1945)

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Dunnock pushed to her death by Richard Widmark in "Kiss of Death" (1947)

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Dunnock on stage with Lee J. Cobb, Arthur Kennedy & Cameron Mitchell

in "Death of a Salesman" (1949)

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Dunnock earned an Oscar nomination for her role as Linda Loman (1951)

 

New York Times:

As the long-suffering wife, Mildred Dunnock is simply superb, as she was on the stage. Her portrayal of a woman who bears the agony of seeing her sons and husband turn out failures supports the one pretension of this drama to genuine tragedy.

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Hi Mongo, Thank you for spotlighting this fine characther actress actress. With all the fine performances that Mildred gave along with her Oscar niminations, I do not understand why she was not asked to repeat the role of Big Mama in "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof". Burl Ives was able to repeat his role as Big Daddy., and in my opinion Mildred would have made a better Big Mama.

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Cashette, I tend to agree with you. The petite Dunnock up against Burl Ives as Big Daddy would have been a hoot.

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Dunnock (center) with Marjorie Rambeau & director Irving Rapper

on the set of "Bad for Each Other" (1953)

 

Message was edited by: mongo

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Oscar nominee Dunnock as Aunt Rose Comfort with Carroll Baker as "Baby Doll" (1956)

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Mongo, I would like to see the movie "Bad for Each Other" not only for Mildred`s performance, but it also stars Charlton Heston. He plays a doctor in a Pa. miningtown. Have you ever seen this film?

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Mongo, I think you accidentally placed one of your photos of Ms. Dunnock in the "Classic Movie Overplay" thread.

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cashette, I don't recall seeing the film "Bad for Each Other". I'd like to though.

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scsu, thanks for letting me know about my posting error. I appreciate it.

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Neville Brand, Debra Paget & Dunnock as Elvis' ma in "Love Me Tender" (1956)

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Hi Mongo, I just finished watching the wonderful interview with Gene Wilder by Alec Baldwin. Mr. Wilder said that he saw "Death Of A Salesman" on Broadway when he was 16. Fifteen years later Gene had the opportunity to act with Lee J. Cobb and Mildred in the televised version of the play. He spoke very highly of Ms. Dunnock.

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Hi, Joe! If I posted too many photos for your taste, just let me know and I'll remove some.

 

Mildred Dunnock in Kiss of Death

 

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Mildred Dunnock as "Aunt Muriel" in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "None Are So Blind."

 

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Mildred Dunnock as "Louise Tiffany" in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "The West Warlock Time Capsule."

 

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Mildred Dunnock as "Mrs. Wiggs" in The Trouble with Harry

 

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Mildred Dunnock at "Aunt Nonnie" in Sweet Bird of Youth

 

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Mildred Dunnock as "Aunt Rose Comfort" in Baby Doll

 

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Frank, as always the caps are top notch. Perhaps you can limit the selection to two each per film without captions. I appreciate your contribution to the thread.

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Golden Globe nominee Dunnock played teacher Elsie Thornton in the potboiler

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Dunnock as Aunt Nonnie with Ed Begley & Shirley Knight in "Sweet Bird of Youth"

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Dunnock (center) with Eddie Albert & Anne Bancroft in John Ford's "7 Women" (1966)

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Geraldine Page giving Dunnock a deadly hand in "What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice?"

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