She only made a total of five films. All in the early 1950s. Her greatest fame came by portraying a crotchety maid on a successful TV series based on an iconic cartoon character. And yet Shirley Booth is regarded as one of the best actresses of the last century and is one of only a handful of women who was awarded The Tony, The Emmy and The Oscar.
Booth had already been working as an actress for over a decade before she made her Broadway debut in 1925 in Hell’s Bell’s opposite a newcomer, Humphrey Bogart. While he left for Hollywood in a few years she stayed on Broadway and plied her trade. Her first big hit was Three Men on a Horse which ran from 1935 to 1937. Then she originated the role of Liz Embrey opposite Katherine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story in 1939 and the following year originated the role of Ruth Sherwood in My Sister Eileen.
During the 1940s she thrilled radio audiences with her character of Miss Duffy on Duffy’s Tavern. She had married Ed Gardner, the show’s creator and writer, in 1929. When their marriage ended she left the program.
Booth won her first Tony in 1948 for her supporting role in Goodbye My Fancy, which starred Madeline Carroll. In the film version Joan Crawford played the lead and Eve Arden was her wise cracking secretary.
Booth’s second Tony was for Best Actress in Come Back Little Sheba and this time Hollywood lured her to recreate the role in the film. As Lola Delaney, the lonely wife of an alcoholic she won The Oscar and became the first person ever to win a Tony and an Oscar for the same role.
That same year she was named Best Actress by The New York Film Critics and the National Board of Review. AND she won the Golden Globe Award as well. In addition she was already back on Broadway and won ANOTHER Best Actress Tony for her performance in The Time of The Cuckoo.
She was one of the biggest stars on Broadway and successful in musicals as well as comedies and dramas. Her film career didn’t particularly interest her. She appeared in Main Street to Broadway as herself along with dozens of Broadway stars, and she made two melodramas for Paramount, About Mrs. Leslie and Hot Spell, which are forgettable.
But her final film for Paramount is a treat. She portrays Dolly Gallagher Levi in The Matchmaker and she’s a delight. After this one Booth returned to Broadway and TV and picked up two Emmys.