Who was Colleen Dewhurst?
Colleen Dewhurst, also known as the ‘Queen of Off-Broadway’, was a Canadian-American actress who charmed the audience with her astounding performances on stage. She was also a well-known screen actress who won several awards. Throughout her career, she bagged two Tony Awards and four Emmy Awards. She was playwright Eugene O'Neill's favourite muse who cast her in many of his projects, which went on to become very popular among the audience and critics. Some of her most successful plays with O’Neill were ‘A Moon for the Misbegotten’, ‘Long Day's Journey into Night’ and ‘Mourning Becomes Electra’. Working with her husband George C. Scott also brought out some of her best performances. During the latter part of her life, she became the president of the ‘Actors’ Equity Association’, which was established to preserve the rights and welfare of professional actors. Her younger son Campbell Scott followed into her footsteps and became an actor. He worked with his mother a few times before she passed away.
Childhood & Early Life
Colleen Rose Dewhurst was born on June 3, 1924 in Montreal, Quebec. She was the only child of her parents, Frances Marie and Ferdinand Augustus Dewhurst aka ‘Fred’. Her mother was a homemaker, while her father Fred Dewhurst was a professional hockey player. He also owned a chain of confectionery stores.
The Dewhurst family relocated to Massachusetts sometime between 1928 and 1929 and moved around several states before finally settling down in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. They were granted US citizenships around 1940.
Dewhurst attended Whitefish Bay High School for two years before completing her junior year at Shorewood High School. She eventually graduated from Riverside High School, Milwaukee in 1942. She enrolled in Milwaukee-Downer College for two years before leaving for New York to become an actress.
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Colleen Dewhurst ventured into acting with Broadway. She made her stage debut with a minor part in the play ‘Desire Under the Elms’ in 1952.
At the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1956, she played minor roles in multiple plays, such as ‘Camille’, ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and ‘The Eagle Has Two Heads’. She earned her first ‘Obie Award’ for her performances in these plays.
In 1957, Dewhurst was seen in the dual role of Lady Macbeth and Mrs. Squeamish in the play ‘The Country Wife’.
Her impeccable portrayal of Amelia Evans in the 1960’s play ‘All the Way Home’ won her a Tony Award. She was then seen in the productions of ‘Great Day in the Morning’ in 1962, ‘The Ballad of the Sad Café’ in 1963 and ‘Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ in 1976.
She is most remembered for playing the role of Josie Hogan in the Broadway adaptation of ‘A Moon for the Misbegotten’ in 1974. Her performance won her a Tony award.
She tried her hands at direction with the play ‘Ned & Jack’. However, it fared very poorly and did not have another show after opening on November 8, 1981.
As far as movies are concerned, Dewhurst was seen in the 1959 film ‘The Nun's Story’. Over the next three decades, she played minor roles in several movies, such as ‘Man on a String’, ‘A Fine Madness’, ‘The Cowboys’, ‘The Dead Zone’, ‘Termini Station’ and ‘Dying Young’.
Her television performances were more appreciated than her movie roles. She became a popular face on TV after playing the role of Candice Bergen's mother Avery Brown on the hit TV show ‘Murphy Brown’. Her performance won her two Emmy awards, one of them was awarded posthumously.
Her excellent performances in the mini-movies ‘Between Two Women’ (1986) and ‘Those She Left Behind’ (1989) earned her another pair of ‘Primetime Emmy’ awards.
In one of her last performances, Dewhurst was seen as Marilla Cuthbert in the 1985 television series ‘Anne of Green Gables’, which was based on Lucy Maud Montgomery's novel. She reprised her role in its sequel titled ‘Anne of Avonlea’ in 1987. In the next instalment ‘Road to Avonlea’, she appeared in a few episodes, but could not complete the show as she passed away before its conclusion.
Family & Personal Life
In 1947, Colleen Dewhurst married James Vickery who she had met while studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. However, the couple separated in 1959.
She married George C. Scott after he divorced his second wife Patricia Reed in 1960. Dewhurst and Scott parted ways in 1965, only to be married again two years later. They divorced once again in 1972. They had two sons together, Alexander Robert Scott and Campbell Scott.
Both her sons had careers in the entertainment industry. Alexander became a theatrical manager and writer, while Campbell went on to become an actor and shared screen space with his mother in the 1991 movie ‘Dying Young’. The mother-son duo also performed together in two Broadway shows ‘Long Day's Journey Into Night’ and ‘Ah, Wilderness!’.
On 22 August 1991, Dewhurst died at the age of 67 years after battling cervical cancer and refusing surgery due to her Christian beliefs.