BARBARA BEL GEDDES Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Barbara Bel Geddes                                                                 
Born: 31 October 1922 New York, New York, United States                                 
Died: 8 August 2005 Northeast Harbor, Maine, United States                               
Barbara Bel Geddes (October 31, 1922, in New York City – August 8, 2005, in           
Northeast Harbor, Maine) was an Oscar-nominated American actress, best known for         
her role on the hit CBS drama, Dallas, as matriarch Eleanor "Miss Ellie" Ewing.         
She has collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock and starred in the classic Vertigo.           
Bel Geddes began her career as a stage actress at the age of eighteen, going on         
to star in fifteen major Broadway productions. Her most notable stage                   
performances included the role of Maggie "The Cat" in Elia Kazan's original             
production of Tennessee Williams Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway in 1956, and         
the title role in the long-running Jean Kerr comedy Mary, Mary in 1961, both of         
which earned her Tony Award nominations. Other highlights include "The Moon Is           
Blue," John Steinbeck's "Burning Bright" Edward Albee's "Everything In The               
Garden" and "Silent Night, Lonely Night" with Henry Fonda.                               
In 1946, Bel Geddes was awarded the Clarence Derwent Award, and the Donaldson           
Award for "Outstanding Achievement in The Theatre" for her performance in "Deep         
Are The Roots". In 1952, she received the prestigious "Woman of the Year" Award         
from Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Theatricals, America's oldest theater           
company; In 1993, she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame (located       
in the Gershwin Theatre in New York City), a distinction she shares with her             
father, stage and industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes.                                 
Her film career began opposite Henry Fonda in 1947's The Long Night. She was             
nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for I Remember Mama (1948).   
A House Unamerican Activities Committee investigation stalled her film career           
for a short time. She found new opportunity in television when Alfred Hitchcock         
cast her in four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Lamb to the           
Slaughter," the seminal episode in which she plays a housewife who kills her             
husband by bludgeoning him to death with a frozen leg of lamb, cooking the               
murder weapon and serving it to the investigating police; Mr. Hitchcock cast her         
again with James Stewart in his classic film Vertigo (1958). Bel Geddes also             
starred with Danny Kaye and jazz great Louis Armstrong in the screen musical The         
Five Pennies.                                                                           
In 1978, Barbara was the first performer signed to star in the CBS prime time           
soap opera, Dallas. The role of family matriarch, Miss Ellie Ewing, would bring         
her international recognition among modern-day audiences. She appeared on the           
series from 1978 to 1990 and remains the only cast member to win the Emmy Award,         
(Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress - Drama Series) as well as           
the Golden Globe Award (List of Golden Globe Awards: Television, Best Actress,           
Drama). "She was the rock of Dallas," Larry Hagman, who played J.R. Ewing, told         
the Associated Press. "She was just a really nice woman and a wonderful actress.         
She was kind of the glue that held the whole thing together."                           
In the early 1970s, Bel Geddes had undergone a radical mastectomy, an experience         
she relived in the 1979-80 season of Dallas, which was the storyline that earned         
her the Emmy Award.                                                                     
In March 1983, Bel Geddes underwent quadruple by-pass heart surgery and                 
subsequently missed a third of the 1983-84 season of Dallas, her character being         
temporarily written out of the show. The following year, she decided to step             
down from the role altogether. Rather than kill the character off, the producers         
decided to replace Bel Geddes with veteran actress Donna Reed for the 1984-85           
season. However, with rival show Dynasty finally overcoming Dallas in the               
ratings for the 1984-85 season, and with the departure of Patrick Duffy that             
year, producers made efforts to stabilize the show's slow decline and reached an         
agreement with Bel Geddes that returned her to Dallas in time for the 1985-86           
Barbara Bel Geddes retired from acting in 1990 to her home in Northeast Harbor,         
Maine, where she continued to work as a fine artist. She was the author of two           
children's books, I Like to Be Me and So Do I, as well as the creator of a               
popular line of greeting cards. Looking back on her career, Bel Geddes told             
People magazine: "They're always making me play well-bred ladies. I'm not very           
well bred, and I'm not much of a lady."