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Beatrice Straight

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Beatrice Straight
Straight in Patterns (1956)
Beatrice Whitney Straight

(1914-08-02)August 2, 1914
DiedApril 7, 2001(2001-04-07) (aged 86)
Resting placeWilliam Henry Lee Memorial Cemetery
Years active1939–1991
(m. 1942; div. 1949)
(m. 1949; died 1990)
Parent(s)Willard Dickerman Straight
Dorothy Payne Whitney
RelativesWhitney W. Straight (brother)
Michael W. Straight (brother)

Beatrice Whitney Straight (August 2, 1914 – April 7, 2001) was an American theatre, film and television actress and a member of the prominent Whitney family. She was an Academy Award and Tony Award winner as well as an Emmy Award nominee.[1]

Straight made her Broadway debut in The Possessed (1939). Her other Broadway roles included Viola in Twelfth Night (1941), Catherine Sloper in The Heiress (1947) and Lady Macduff in Macbeth (1948). For her role as Elizabeth Proctor in the production of The Crucible (1953), she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. For the satirical film Network (1976), she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her performance is the shortest ever to win an Academy Award for acting, at five minutes and two seconds of screen time. She also received an Emmy Award nomination for the miniseries The Dain Curse (1978). Straight also appeared as Mother Christophe in The Nun's Story (1959) and Dr. Martha Lesh in Poltergeist (1982).

Early life


Beatrice Whitney Straight was born in Old Westbury, New York, the daughter of Dorothy Payne Whitney of the Whitney family, and Willard Dickerman Straight, an investment banker, diplomat, and career U.S. Army officer.[1] Her maternal grandfather was political leader and financier William Collins Whitney. In 1918, when Straight was four years old, her father died in France of influenza during the great epidemic while serving with the United States Army during World War I. Following her mother's remarriage to British agronomist Leonard K. Elmhirst in 1925, the family moved to Devon, England. It was there that Straight was educated at Dartington Hall and began acting in amateur theater productions. In the 1930s, she attended the Cornish School in Seattle where many of her teachers at Dartington Hall were from and to which both she and her mother became major benefactors.[2]



Straight returned to the United States and made her Broadway debut in the play The Possessed (1939). Most of her theater work was in the classics, including Twelfth Night (1941), Macbeth (1948) and The Crucible (1953), for which she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play.

From its inception, Straight was a member of the Actors Studio, attending the class conducted three times weekly by founding member Robert Lewis; her classmates included Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Jerome Robbins, Sidney Lumet, and about 20 others.[3]

Straight was active in the early days of television, appearing in anthology series such as Armstrong Circle Theatre, Hallmark Hall of Fame, Kraft Television Theatre, Studio One, Suspense, The United States Steel Hour, Playhouse 90 and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and dramatic series like Dr. Kildare, Ben Casey, The Defenders, Route 66, Mission: Impossible and St. Elsewhere. Further television performances include the role of Hippolyta in the Wonder Woman series, and Marion Hillyard, the icy, controlling mother of Stephen Collins in The Promise.

Straight worked infrequently in film and is perhaps remembered best for her role as a devastated wife confronting husband William Holden's infidelity in Network (1976). Despite her character only appearing briefly onscreen, Straight was highly praised for her performance, earning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.[4] Another widely seen film appearance was the role of the paranormal investigator Dr. Martha Lesh in the horror film Poltergeist (1982).

Personal life


On February 22, 1942, Straight married Louis Dolivet, Free French Leader, in Polk County, Iowa. At the time, Dolivet was a speaker at the National Farm Institute and Straight was in the middle of the midwest road show of Twelfth Night.[5] Her mother Dorothy Elmhirst and stepfather Leonard K. Elmhirst attended the wedding with her brother Michael Straight and his wife Belinda Crompton. Dolivet was in the French Air Force until June 1940 and was the co-editor of The Free World, a magazine published by the International Free World Association, of which he was secretary general. At the time of the wedding, her elder brother, Whitney Straight, had been missing since August 1941, when his plane was shot down on the French coast.[5]

Straight obtained a divorce from Dolivet in Reno, Nevada, on May 24, 1949. Together the couple had one child:[6]

  • Willard Whitney Straight Dolivet (1945–1952)[7]

In 1948, while starring in the Broadway production of The Heiress,[8] an adaptation of Henry James's Washington Square, she met Peter Cookson. They married in 1949 and remained married until Cookson's death in 1990. Peter had two children from his previous marriage, Peter W. Cookson Jr. and Jane Coopland (née Cookson).[1] Together, Straight and Cookson had two children:[1]

  • Gary Cookson
  • Anthony "Tony" Cookson

In 1952, her 7-year-old son, Willard, from her first marriage, accidentally drowned in a pond on their farm in Armonk while playing in a small rowboat tied to the dock. The boy was found by Cookson.[7] The boy's father, Dolivet, who was living in Paris at the time, was refused a visa and, therefore, unable to fly to the United States to attend the funeral because of his alleged pro-communist activities, which he denied.[9]

Straight reportedly had Alzheimer's disease in her last years. In 2001, she died from pneumonia in Northridge, Los Angeles, at the age of 86.[1] Her interment was at William Henry Lee Memorial Cemetery in New Marlborough, Massachusetts.[citation needed]




[citation needed]
Title Year Role Notes
Phone Call from a Stranger 1952 Claire Fortness
Patterns 1956 Nancy Staples
The Silken Affair 1956 Theora
The Nun's Story 1959 Mother Christophe (Sanatorium)
The Young Lovers 1964 Mrs. Burns
The Garden Party 1973 Mrs. Sheridan
Network 1976 Louise Schumacher Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
The Promise 1979 Marion Hillyard
Bloodline 1979 Kate Erling
The Formula 1980 Kay Neeley
Endless Love 1981 Rose Axelrod
Poltergeist 1982 Dr. Lesh
Two of a Kind 1983 Ruth
Power 1986 Claire Hastings Nominated - Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress
Deceived 1991 Adrienne's Mother final film role


Title Date of Production Role Notes
The Possessed Oct. 24, 1939 - Nov. 4, 1939 Lisa
Twelfth Night Dec. 2, 1941 - Dec. 13, 1941 Viola
Land of Fame Sep. 21, 1943 - Sep. 25, 1943 Angela
The Wanhope Building Feb. 9, 1947 - Feb. 16, 1947 Felina
The Heiress Sep. 29, 1947 - Sep. 18, 1948 Catherine Sloper Replacement
Eastward in Eden Nov. 18, 1947 - Nov. 29, 1947 Emily Dickinson
Macbeth Mar. 31, 1948 - Apr. 24, 1948 Lady Macduff
The Innocents Feb. 1, 1950 - Jun. 3, 1950 Miss Giddens
The Grand Tour Dec. 10, 1951 - Dec. 15, 1951 Nell Valentine
The Crucible Jan. 22, 1953 - Jul. 11, 1953 Elizabeth Proctor 1953 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play
Everything in the Garden Nov. 29, 1967 - Feb. 10, 1968 Mrs. Toothe


[citation needed]
Title Year Role Notes
Somerset Maugham TV Theatre 1951
Lights Out 1951 Charlotte
Love of Life 1951 Vinnie Phillips
Cosmopolitan Theatre 1951
Love Story 1952 Elizabeth Barrett TV film
The Web 1952
The Magnificent Failure 1952 Louisa May Alcott TV film
Armstrong Circle Theatre 1952
Kraft Theatre 1952-1953
Love Story 1954
Suspense 1952-1954 Mrs. de Spain /
Claire Trent
Inner Sanctum 1954 Louise
Omnibus 1953-1954 Goneril
You Are There 1954-1955 Anne Boleyn
Danger 1955
Studio One in Hollywood 1951-1957 Pamela Baxter
The United States Steel Hour 1955-1958 Katherine Grant / Daisy Jackson
Playhouse 90 1958 Grace
Play of the Week 1959 Mlle. de St. Euverte
Alfred Hitchcock Presents 1959 Cynthia Fortnam Season 5 Episode 10: "Special Delivery"
Alfred Hitchcock Presents 1960 Ida Blythe Season 5 Episode 27: "The Cuckoo Clock"
Diagnosis: Unknown 1960 Rhoda Clarence
Dr. Kildare 1961 Pamela Rainey
Naked City 1962 Ann Johns
The Doctors and the Nurses 1962 Ruth Martin
The Eleventh Hour 1963 Veronica Filmore
Ben Casey 1963 Edith Bauer
Route 66 1961-1963 Elena De Amundo / Mother Teresa /
Kitty Chamberlain
The Defenders 1965 Mrs. Campbell
Mission: Impossible 1966 Dr. Martha Richards Zubrovnik Season 1, Episode 11
Felony Squad 1967 Victoria Cahill
Matt Lincoln 1970
The Borrowers 1973 Mrs. Crampfurl TV film
Beacon Hill 1975 Mrs. Hacker
The Andros Targets 1977 Mrs. Benderson
The World of Darkness 1977 Joanna Sanford TV film
Wonder Woman 1977 Hippolyta
Killer on Board 1977 Beatrice Richmond TV film
The Dain Curse 1978 Alice Dain Leggett miniseries, Emmy Award for Guest Actress in a Comedy (nomination)
King's Crossing 1982 Louisa Beauchamp
Faerie Tale Theatre 1984 Queen Veronica / Woman in Museum
Robert Kennedy and His Times 1985 Rose Kennedy miniseries
Chiller 1985 Marion Creighton TV film
Under Siege 1986 Margaret Sloan TV film
Jack and Mike 1988 Mike's mother
St. Elsewhere 1988 Marjorie Andrews
Run Til You Fall 1988 Margaret TV film
People Like Us 1990 Maisie Verdurin TV film


  1. ^ a b c d e Gussow, Mel (April 11, 2001). "Beatrice Straight, Versatile Star, Dies at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved January 21, 2015. Beatrice Straight, a graceful and versatile actress who won both an Oscar and a Tony Award, died on Saturday in North Ridge, Calif. She was 86 and lived in Beverly Hills, Calif., for most of the last 10 years. ...
  2. ^ Cornish, Nellie C. Miss Aunt Nellie: the Autobiography of Nellie C. Cornish. Seattle, University of Washington Press, 1964: pp 214-17.
  3. ^ Lewis, Robert (1996) [1984]. "Actors Studio, 1947". Slings and Arrows: Theater in My Life. New York City: Applause Books. p. 183. ISBN 1-55783-244-7. At the end of the summer, on Gadget's return from Hollywood, we settled the roster of actors for our two classes in what we called the Actors Studio - using the word 'studio' as we had when we named our workshop in the Group, the Group Theatre Studio... My group, meeting three times a week, consisted of Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Maureen Stapleton, Eli Wallach, Mildred Dunnock, Jerome Robbins, Herbert Berghof, Tom Ewell, John Forsythe, Anne Jackson, Sidney Lumet, Kevin McCarthy, Karl Malden, E.G. Marshall, Patricia Neal, Beatrice Straight, David Wayne, and - well, I don't want to drop names, so I'll stop there. In all, there were about fifty.
  4. ^ "Beatrice Straight performance length". Serving Cinema. Archived from the original on 2017-08-06. Retrieved 2016-10-09.
  5. ^ a b "BEATRICE W. STRAIGHT IS WED IN DES MOINES Sister of Lost R.A.F. Flier the Bride of Louis Dolivet, Editor". The New York Times. February 22, 1942. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  6. ^ "MRS. DOLIVET GETS DECREE As Beatrice Straight of the Stage, She Was Married in '42". The New York Times. May 25, 1949. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  7. ^ a b "ACTRESS' SON, 7, DROWNS Willard Dolivet Found in Pool on Westchester Farm". The New York Times. September 8, 1952. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  8. ^ Fluker, Kit. "Beatrice Straight papers 1922-1987 [bulk 1968-1986]". Archives of the New York Public Library. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  9. ^ "$110,000 IN BOYS ESTATE Mother Files Papers in Case of Dolivet Child Who Drowned". The New York Times. September 12, 1952. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  10. ^ "Beatrice Straight". ibdb.com. Retrieved 3 February 2016.