Yesterday we highlighted a one-time leading man who wasn’t typical. Now let’s look at an actress who was definitely a leading lady, but who didn’t fit the mold.
She had lots of company but somehow our Quiz subject Dorothy McGuire (pictured above with Gregory Peck) stood out.
Picture a room occupied by of the likes of Jane Wyatt, Jean Peters, Kim Stanley, Laraine Day, Eve Marie Saint, along with McGuire.
All lookers, certainly. Sometimes even mini sex pots (see Saint in North By Northwest opposite Cary Grant). Yet, all convey senses of responsibility and intelligence more pronounced than their crisp good looks. While not exuding girl-next-door allure, they somehow allow their demeanor of responsibility to obscure their star glamour.
Perhaps McGuire’s most successful title is the period studio item — big box office in 1954 but tough to sit through today — Three Coins in the Fountain, in which McGuire is joined by Maggie McNamara and Jean Peters in making wishes at Rome’s Fountain of Trevi. (The movie’s title song is one of Frank Sinatra’s more inane recordings.) McGuire portrays a level-headed older secretary to Clifton Webb.
In Daryl Zanuck’s 1947 drama Gentleman’s Agreement, Dorothy is cast as a school teacher who comes up with the idea of having journalist Peck pass himself off as Jewish to unearth anti-Semitism in America. For her performance she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar.
Born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1916, Dorothy always said she took her lengthy Hollywood career (55 credits) less seriously than she should have. Still she performed in a number of notable films — Elia Kazan’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in 1945, a year later in The Spiral Staircase and 1959’s A Summer Place — before plunging into multiple late-in-career tv roles, which kept her busy until 1990. She died of heart failure in 2001.
It was producer David O. Selznick who brought McGuire to Hollywood, declaring her a “born actress.” She excelled in strong, maternal roles. She was often complemented for the “sincerity, practicality and dignity” of her performances. She was that kind of actress.