Cathy O'Donnell

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Cathy O'Donnell
Cathy O'Donnell 1959.JPG
O'Donnell in 1959
Born Ann Steely
(1923-07-06)July 6, 1923
Siluria, Alabama, US
Died April 11, 1970(1970-04-11) (aged 46)
Los Angeles, California, US
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Alma mater Oklahoma City University
Occupation Actress
Years active 1945–1964
Spouse(s) Robert Wyler (1948–70; her death)

Cathy O'Donnell (July 6, 1923 – April 11, 1970) was an American actress, best remembered for her roles in films-noir.

Early life[edit]

She was born Ann Steely in Siluria in Shelby County in central Alabama. She attended Oklahoma City University and studied drama at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts before beginning her career on stage, followed by motion pictures.


While under contract with Samuel Goldwyn, O'Donnell made her début in an uncredited role as a nightclub extra in Wonder Man (1945). Her first major role in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), playing Wilma Cameron, the high-school sweetheart of double amputatee Homer Parrish, played by real-life World War II veteran/amputee Harold Russell.

She was loaned out to RKO for one of her most memorable films, They Live by Night (1949) starring with Farley Granger, widely considered a classic of the noir genre and on the Guardian's list of the top ten noir films. The film was directed by Nicholas Ray. The two actors later re-teamed for another film, Side Street (1950).

Later O'Donnell starred in The Miniver Story (also 1950), as Judy Miniver and also had a supporting role in Detective Story (1951). She appeared as Barbara Waggoman, the love interest of James Stewart's character in the western The Man from Laramie (1955). Her final film role was the title character's sister Tirzah in William Wyler's 1959 Academy Award winning Best Picture Ben-Hur (1959).

In the 1960s, she appeared in TV shows, appearing on shows such as Perry Mason, The Rebel and Man Without a Gun. Her last screen appearance was in 1964, in an episode of Bonanza.[citation needed]

Personal life and death[edit]

On April 11, 1948, at 24 years old, she married 47-year-old Robert Wyler, the elder brother of film director William Wyler, who had directed her in The Best Years of Our Lives and would later direct her in Detective Story and Ben-Hur. At the age of 46, O'Donnell died of a cancer-related cerebral hemorrhage, on her 22nd wedding anniversary.[1] She is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.



Year Film Director Role Notes
1945 Wonder Man H. Bruce Humberstone Nightclub Extra Uncredited
1946 The Best Years of Our Lives William Wyler Wilma Cameron
1947 Bury Me Dead Bernard Vorhaus Rusty
1948 The Amazing Mr. X Bernard Vorhaus Janet Burke
1948 They Live By Night Nicholas Ray Catherine "Keechie" Mobley
1950 Side Street Anthony Mann Ellen Norson
1950 The Miniver Story H.C. Potter Judy Miniver
1951 Never Trust A Gambler Ralph Murphy Virginia Merrill
1951 Detective Story William Wyler Susan Carmichael
1952 The Woman's Angle Leslie Arliss Nina Van Rhyne
1954 Eight O'Clock Walk Lance Comfort Jill Manning
1954 Loves of Three Queens Edgar G. Ulmer Enone (segment: The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships)
1955 Mad at the World Harry Essex Anne Bennett
1955 The Man from Laramie Anthony Mann Barbara Waggoman
1957 The Deerslayer Kurt Neumann Judith Hutter
1957 The Story of Mankind Irwin Allen Early Christian Woman
1958 My World Dies Screaming

(retitled Terror in the Haunted House)

Harold Daniels Sheila Wayne Tierney
1959 Ben-Hur William Wyler Tirzah


Year Show Episode Role Notes
1951 Lights Out To See Ourselves
1952 Orient Express 13th Spy Francine Gilman
1954 The Philip Morris Playhouse Up for Parole
1954 Center Stage Chivalry at Howling Creek
1955 The Best of Broadway The Best of Broadway Amy Fisher
1955 Climax! Flight 951 Mona Herbert
1956 Matinee Theater Greybeards and Witches Velna
1958 Zane Grey Theater Sundown at Bitter Creek Jennie Parsons
1958 The Californians Skeleton in the Closet Grace Adams
1959 Man Without a Gun Accused
1960 The Detectives The Trap Laurie Dolan
1960 The Rebel You Steal My Eyes Prudence Gant
1960 Tate Quiet After the Storm Amy
1960 The Rebel The Hope Chest Felicity Bowman
1961 Perry Mason The Case of the Fickle Fortune Norma Brooks
1961 Sugarfoot Angel Angel
1964 Bonanza The Lila Conrad Story Sarah Knowles (Last appearance)


  1. ^ David M. Story (June 2012). "Dream a Little Dream". Slice. Retrieved 2015-07-10. 

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