She first showed her flair on radio — as Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca among other vehicles — and then made a memorable transition to Hollywood with key roles in two of the finest movies ever made.
Agnes Moorehead was considered a premier character actress but she often transcended that limited description. And besides, she believed, the “character actor” can be an artist, “like a painter with a very large palette of colors from which to paint an interesting picture with dimension.”
Highly educated, religious and “old fashioned” in her personal moral values, Moorehead brought professional savvy, sophistication and sheer hard work to every character she painted. She is indeed a worthy subject of our Monday Quiz.
We are inspired today by an informative Moorehead interview in author Mike Steen’s Hollywood Speaks: An Oral History, published in 1974. For our quiz questions, just scroll down to Monday’s blog. Today we present our answers.
1) Answer: Moorehead is unforgettable as Charles Foster Kane’s mother in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane. And she really pulls out the stops as Aunt Fanny in the director’s second outing, 1942’s The Magnificent Ambersons, for which she nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar.
2) Answer: (b) 1943’s Journey Into Fear, an excellent foreign intriguer that co-stars Joseph Cotten, Dolores De Rio and Welles. Whatever Moorehead’s estimation, the picture is a must see. Most enjoyable.
3) Answer: b) False. Welles in many ways was Moorehead’s professional sponsor. The two met during their respective radio days. “I was with him 17 years,” she recalled. Welles was the one who brought Moorehead — she was a member of his Mercury players — to Hollywood. If a strange part came up, Welles would intone: “Give it to Agnes. She can play it.”
4) Answer: On Bewitched, Moorehead played the role of a agreeable witch, the mother of a younger witch, her daughter played by Elizabeth Montgomery. The role made Moorehead a household favorite.
5) Answer: (d) Debbie Reynolds. The perky musical comedy star and Moorehead developed an “extremely close relationship” dating back to 1962’s How The West Was Won. Reynolds played one of Moorehead’s two daughters. The other was played by Carroll Baker, who was agreeable enough but never really became Moorehead’s friend.
6) Answer: b) False. MGM boss Louis B. Mayer treated the studio’s output like a mother hen. “There was never a picture in which I performed that he didn’t come onto the set before we started the picture and congratulate everybody,” Moorehead recalled.
7) Answer: (d) Perry Mason.
8) Answer: (d) Laurence Olivier.
9) Answer: 1947’s Dark Passage.
10) Answer: 10) Answer: Dick Powell, Susan Hayward, John Wayne and Moorehead all died of of various forms of cancer believed to be connected to radiation exposure on the Saint George, Utah location of 1955’s The Conqueror. The town was near an above-ground atomic test blast site in the adjacent Nevada desert, heavily used during the Fifties. Wayne, Hayward and Moorehead were in the cast. Moorehead died in 1974 at 73 of uterine cancer. Powell, who died of cancer of the lymph glands in 1963, directed the movie.