Favorite Actresses of the 1950’s ~ #9 ~ Thelma Ritter

13 Mar

Thelma Ritter first role in the classic 1947 film, Miracle on 34th Street was not even credited, although her work as a frustrated mother unable to find the toy that Kris Kringle promised her son. She was 45 at the time and although she had made a mark in theater she was on the verge of becoming a star.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz put her in his next film, A Letter to Three Wives. Again her part was not even credited, but Mankiewicz liked what Ritter could do and he cast her as the outspoken, brash maid to Bette Davis’ Margo Channing in All About Eve. She became a household name and also received her first of six Academy Award nominations for Supporting actress. Ritter never won an award, but she would become known as one of the greatest and best known supporting, charecter actresses ever put on film. She even co-hosted the awards show with Bob Hope in 1954.

I became a fan of Thelma the first time I ever saw All About Eve, and continued to seek her films. Each film she palyed with the same commitment and vigor of the first. Her honesty and truth came through with each role. In occasional non-comedic turns, she projected an unglamorous world-weariness, notably in Pickup on South Street (1953).
Some of her best-known roles included Bette Davis’s devoted maid in All About Eve (1950) as Gene Tierney’s maid – mother in law in The Mating Season (1951), James Stewart’s nurse in Rear Window (1954), and as Doris Day’s housekeeper in Pillow Talk (1959). Her turn in John Huston’s The Misfits (1961), where she played opposite Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, also garnered favorable reviews

Shortly after a 1968 performance on The Jerry Lewis Show, Ritter suffered a heart attack which eventually proved fatal. She was 9 days shy of her 67th birthday.

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