Beatrice Straight

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Beatrice Straight
Beatrice Straight.jpg
Born Beatrice Whitney Straight
(1914-08-02)August 2, 1914
Old Westbury, New York
Died April 7, 2001(2001-04-07) (aged 86)
Los Angeles, California
Occupation Actress
Years active 1939–1991
Spouse(s) Louis Dolivet (div. 1949)
Peter Cookson (1949-1990)

Beatrice Whitney Straight (August 2, 1914 – April 7, 2001) was an American theatre, film and television actress. She was an Academy Award and Tony Award winner.[1]

Straight made her Broadway debut in 1939 in The Possessed. 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 1953 production of The Crucible, she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. For the 1976 film Network, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She was on screen for five minutes and forty seconds, the shortest performance ever to win an Academy Award for acting. She also received an Emmy Award nomination for the 1978 miniseries The Dain Curse. Straight also appeared as Mother Christophe in The Nun's Story (1959) and Dr. Lesh in Poltergeist (1982).

Life and career[edit]

Born in Old Westbury, New York, Straight was 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. She was four years old when her father died in France of influenza during the great epidemic while serving with the US Army during World War I.

Following her mother's remarriage to British agronomist Leonard K. Elmhirst in 1925, the family moved to England. It was there that Straight was educated and began acting in amateur theater productions.

Returning to the United States, she made her Broadway debut in 1939 in the play The Possessed. Most of her theatre work was in the classics, including Twelfth Night (1941), Macbeth, 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.[2]

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). She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance which, at five minutes and forty seconds, remains the shortest ever to win an Oscar.[3] Her most widely seen film appearance after Network was the role of the paranormal investigator Dr. Martha Lesh in the 1982 horror film Poltergeist.

Personal life[edit]

Straight was married twice, first to Frenchman Louis Dolivet, a left-wing activist who became editor of United Nations World magazine and later a film producer. They divorced in 1949, and she immediately married film and Broadway actor/producer Peter Cookson, with whom she had two sons.


Straight reportedly suffered from Alzheimer's disease in her last years. She died from pneumonia in Northridge, Los Angeles at age eighty-six.[1] Her interment was at William Henry Lee Memorial Cemetery in New Marlborough, Massachusetts.


Films and roles
Title Year Role Notes
Phone Call from a Stranger 1952 Claire Fortness
Silken Affair, TheThe Silken Affair 1956 Theora
Patterns 1956 Nancy Staples
Nun's Story, TheThe Nun's Story 1959 Mother Christophe (Sanatorium)
Young Lovers, TheThe Young Lovers 1959 Mrs. Burns
Garden Party, TheThe Garden Party 1973
Network 1976 Louise Schumacher Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Bloodline 1979 Kate Erling
Promise, TheThe Promise 1979 Marion Hillyard
Formula, TheThe Formula 1980 Kay Neeley
Endless Love 1981 Rose Axelrod
Poltergeist 1982 Dr. Lesh
Two of a Kind 1983 Ruth
Chiller 1985 Marion Creighton
Robert Kennedy & His Times 1985 Rose Kennedy
Power 1986 Claire Hastings
Deceived 1991 Jack's Mother


  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents ("Special Delivery" episode; Season 5, Episode 10; 29Nov1959 and "The Cuckoo Clock" episode; Season 5, Episode 27; 17Apr1960)


  1. ^ a b c Mel Gussow (April 11, 2001). "Beatrice Straight, Versatile Star, Dies at 86". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-01-21. 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. ^ Robert Lewis (1996) [1984]. "Actors Studio, 1947". Slings and Arrows: Theater in My Life. New York: 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.  External link in |title= (help)
  3. ^ Tim Dirks (20 May 2008). "Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor". Retrieved 2008-05-21. 

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