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Teresa Wright and Don Spoto


RoyCronin
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I just finished Don Spoto's book on Teresa Wright "A Girl's Got to Breathe" and thought I would share a few findings while it is still fresh in my mind.  First, I do tend to read a lot of Hollywood memoirs and biographies, and was particularly drawn to this since, while I am very familiar with Teresa's major film work, I knew almost nothing about her life.  There are countless books about Joan, Bette, Liz, Marilyn, Lana, Ava, Rita, etc., but very little about Teresa Wright has been published.

 

Admittedly, this is not a rigorous academic work, as Spoto was a close, personal friend of Wright's, her husband and her children for many years.  As such, he had access to her anecdotes and stories for many years, along with her papers and letters.   He does have a tendency to immerse himself personally into the story, but I wasn't troubled by that given the nature of his relationship to his subject.

 

It was her stated desire to stay out of the press and that is very evident in the famous clause she had written into her Goldwyn contract, wherein she eschews the traditional glamor requirements studios required of most new actresses.  She wrote the requirements herself,  which lawyers drafted into the document (such as, Miss Wright will not be required to wear a bunny cap with long ears for Easter).  This stance ultimately became her undoing with Goldwyn (although they made amends many years later).

 

She had a particularly horrific early childhood, which she confided to only a few very close friends and family.  She always reminded me in poise and demeanor of Dorothy McGuire, so I was pleased to read that they maintained a long term friendship following Teresa's understudy of Dorothy in Our Town.  Teresa maintained close friendships with many of her coworkers and even with difficult costars (think Brando in The Men) she could still dispense compliments about their work.

 

I learned a great deal about her later career which focused on television (Hitchcock, of course) and more importantly the theatre (The Dark at the Top of the Stairs).  I was surprised to learn that she was approached to play the Bette Davis part in The Whales of August due to Davis' failing health.  Recalling the kindness Davis showed her during the filming of The Little Foxes, Wright declined and Davis, of course, rallied to complete the film.

 

Another tidbit was her being considered for the role of the grandmother in Warren Beatty's remake of Love Affair (ultmately played by Katharine Hepburn).  She faced the situation many actors of the Golden Age must have dealt with when, during a meeting with a young studio assistant, she was asked had she done much film work and could she list her credits?  While insulted, she maintained her dignity.

 

Overall, it was quite informative and enjoyable and I was particularly moved by the account of Teresa's final days as she was cared for by her daughter.

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It was published February 2016.  TCM has been promoting it on the home page for awhile.  Enjoy!

 

Thanks for telling us more about it. 

 

My favorite Teresa Wright performance is a bit outside the box. I think she's great in TRACK OF THE CAT, where she plays Robert Mitchum's spinster sister. Who else at their peak in Hollywood would take such an unglamorous role and make it compelling? Only she had the guts to do that, and I've always admired her choices on screen. She was a lead actress who played character parts.

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I just finished Don Spoto's book on Teresa Wright "A Girl's Got to Breathe" and thought I would share a few findings while it is still fresh in my mind.  

 

I was drawn to this thread, because I knew both Donald (slightly) and Teresa (better).  I had a college class with Spoto -- he was an excellent teacher and had a rigorous, academic take on horror films; and on the films of Alfred Hitchcock. I didn't know him apart from studying with him, though.

 

I did know Teresa. She was lovely, a very kind, deeply compassionate person. When I knew her, she was close to her ex-husband, the playwright Robert Anderson, whom I also liked very much.

 

I haven't read the book you mention -- didn't even know about it. But now I want to read it -- thanks!

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Swithin:  your description of Teresa Wright is exactly the impression of her I was left with after reading the book.  Donald discusses his academic work frequently in the book, as both Teresa and Robert Anderson participated in his classes at various times.  She seems like a delightful individual to have known personally, you were lucky to have known her, I'm sure!

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She faced the situation many actors of the Golden Age must have dealt with when, during a meeting with a young studio assistant, she was asked had she done much film work and could she list her credits? 

 

My favorite such story, apocryphal or not:

 

Fred Zinneman got stuck in a meeting with some barely-post-pubescent studio exec who apparently had just gotten out of the mail room that morning. The kid looks at his name on the appointment card and then says, "So Freddy, why don't you tell us what you've done."

 

Zinneman simply stared at him for a while, and then replied quietly, "You first."

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Just checking Amazon and noticed Scott O'Brien's book on Sylvia Sidney was published this spring also. Had heard nothing about it though knew he was writing it (he used to post here occasionally). Looking foward to reading that one as well!

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Just checking Amazon and noticed Scott O'Brien's book on Sylvia Sidney was published this spring also. Had heard nothing about it though knew he was writing it (he used to post here occasionally). Looking foward to reading that one as well!

 

Has Ms. Sidney ever been SOTM?  That would give TCM a good reason to show The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.

 

the-trail-of-the-lonesome-pine.jpg

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Has Ms. Sidney ever been SOTM?  That would give TCM a good reason to show The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.

 

the-trail-of-the-lonesome-pine.jpg

 

 

Nope!  Another star still waiting. They do show Lonesome Pine occasionally, but not very often. Most of her Paramount films have never been shown on TCM :(

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