AGNES MOOREHEAD BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY:
Agnes Moorehead was born on December 06, 1900 in Massachusetts, to a family of Celtic ancestry. Her father was a Presbyterian minister, and Agnes later claimed that her first public performance was reciting ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ in her father’s church at the age of three.
She was interested in role-playing at a very early age, and was encouraged by her mother, a singer, who would ask her, “Who are you today, Agnes?” Her parents did not discourage her from becoming an actor, but her father did insist that she get a formal education, so after graduating from St. Louis’ Central High School in 1918 she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree, majoring in biology, from Muskingum College in Ohio. It was at college that she began appearing in stage plays. The family had moved from Massachusetts to Missouri, and relocated again to Wisconsin, where Agnes taught school for five years while she earned her master’s degree in English and public speaking. From there she went on to post-graduate studies at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where she graduated with honors in 1929.
When she could not find steady work as an actor at the beginning of her career, she worked in radio, and many times worked on several programs in a day. She met actress Helen Hayes, who encouraged her to try movies, but roles were still rare and so she continued in radio.
By 1937 Agnes Moorehead had met Orson Welles and was a member of his Mercury Theatre Group. She appeared in his radio production of “Julius Caesar” and also had a regular role in the radio serial “The Shadow”, and in his production “The War of the Worlds”.
When Welles moved to Hollywood and began working for RKO Studios, Agnes joined him and made her film debut playing Welles’ mother in “Citizen Kane” in 1941. Orson Welles also directed her in “Journey into Fear” in 1943 and “The Magnificent Ambersons” in 1942. Agnes Moorehead was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in “The Magnificent Ambersons”.
Having gained serious recognition, more parts were offered to Agnes Moorehead, and she had a role in “The Big Street” in 1942, with Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball. By the mid-1940’s she had joined MGM, with her contract including a clause allowing her to continue performing on radio. In 1943 and 1944 she was well known for her character of Mrs. Mullet on Mutual Radio’s “The Adventures of Leonidas Witherall”.
Whether the part was small or large, and whether the character was a matron, or mother, or secretary, or spinster, Moorehead played them well, earning her even more offers. She appeared in “Since You Went Away” (1944), “Dark Passage” (1947) and in 1951 in “Show Boat” when it was remade by MGM.
Due to her talent and distinctive style, Agnes was one of the most popular performers in radio dramas during the 1940’s and 1950’s, and appeared in more episodes than any other star on CBS’s “Suspense”.
One of her best known roles was of a woman who overhears a murder being plotted over the telephone who soon realizes she is to be the victim in “Sorry, Wrong Number” on Suspense. Because of her many appearances on the program, she earned the nickname “the first lady of Suspense”. Her performances inspired the writers of the CBS television show “The Twilight Zone” to write an episode specifically for her. The episode, titled “The Invaders”, was broadcast on January 27, 1961. There was no dialogue for her role, and the program was carried by her silent, but expressive performance.
Not content only to appear on radio and in films, she also continued to perform in Broadway productions like “Don Juan in Hell” in 1951-1952, and in “Lord Pengo” in 1962-1963, and on television as well.
She made guest appearances on “My Sister Eileen” on CBS in the 1960-61 season, in “Harrigan and Son” on ABC, starring Pat O’Brien, on “Channing” in 1963-64 for ABC, and on “Custer” in 1967, again on ABC.
1964 saw Agnes Moorehead appearing on the big screen in “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte” with Bette Davis, and on television on the sitcom “Bewitched” as Endora from 1964 to 1972 starring Elizabeth Montgomery. Although she was disenchanted with the writing and the part on “Bewitched”, it is the role for which she is perhaps most well remembered, and her contract did allow her time to pursue other projects.
She was a very religious person (Presbyterian), and in “What’s the Matter with Helen?” in 1971 (co-starring Debbie Reynolds) she played the role of an evangelist.
Agnes Moorehead continued to work up until the year she died, performing in two episodes of CBS Radio Mystery Theater in January of 1974.
Throughout her outstanding career, Agnes Moorehead won two Golden Globe Awards for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture: in 1944 for her role in “Mrs. Parkington”; and in 1964 for her role in “Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte”. She also received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Drama Series for her part in the February 10, 1967 episode of “The Wild, Wild West”, titled “The Night of the Vicious Valentine”. In 1994, she was posthumously inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
Agnes Robertson Moorehead died at the age of 73 on April 30, 1974 in Rochester, Minnesota.
1941 Citizen Kane
1942 The Magnificent Ambersons
1942 The Big Street
1943 Journey into Fear
1943 The Youngest Profession
1943 Government Girl
1944 Jane Eyre
1944 Since You Went Away
1944 Dragon Seed
1944 The Seventh Cross
1944 Mrs. Parkington
1944 Tomorrow, the World!
1945 Keep Your Powder Dry
1945 Her Highness and the Bellboy
1945 Our Vines Have Tender Grapes
1947 Dark Passage
1947 The Lost Moment
1948 Summer Holiday
1948 The Woman in White
1948 Station West
1948 Johnny Belinda
1949 The Stratton Story
1949 The Great Sinner
1949 Without Honor
1950 Black Jack
1951 Fourteen Hours
1951 Adventures of Captain Fabian
1951 Show Boat
1951 The Blue Veil
1952 The Blazing Forest
1953 The Story of Three Loves
1953 Scandal at Scourie
1953 Main Street to Broadway
1953 Those Redheads from Seattle
1954 Magnificent Obsession
1955 The Left Hand of God
1955 All That Heaven Allows
1956 The Conqueror
1956 Meet Me in Las Vegas
1956 The Swan
1956 The Revolt of Mamie Stover
1956 The Opposite Sex
1957 The True Story of Jesse James
1957 Jeanne Eagels
1957 Raintree County
1957 The Story of Mankind
1959 Night of the Quarter Moon
1959 The Bat
1961 Twenty Plus Two
1961 Bachelor in Paradise
1962 How the West Was Won
1963 Who's Minding the Store?
1964 Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte
1966 The Singing Nun
1971 What's the Matter with Helen?
1972 Dear Dead Delilah
1973 Charlotte's Web
1973 Frankenstein: The True Story
1957 Operation Raintree
1958 Screen Snapshots: Salute to Hollywood