Fay Bainter

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Fay Bainter
Bainter in 1950
Fay Okell Bainter

(1893-12-07)December 7, 1893
Los Angeles, California, U.S.[1]
DiedApril 16, 1968(1968-04-16) (aged 74)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
Years active1907–1961
Known forJezebel
White Banners
State Fair
The Children's Hour
Reginald Venable
(m. 1921; died 1964)

Fay Okell Bainter (December 7, 1893 – April 16, 1968) was an American film and stage actress.[2] She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Jezebel (1938) and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Early life[edit]

Portrait of Fay Bainter by Robert Henri (1918)

Bainter was born in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Charles F. Bainter and Mary Okell.[3]


Fay Bainter in Jezebel (1938).

Bainter made her first appearance on stage in 1908 in The County Chairman at Morosco's Theater in Burbank, California. In 1910, she was a traveling stage actress. Her Broadway debut was in the role of Celine Marinter in The Rose of Panama (1912). P. G. Wodehouse, reviewing Turn to the Right in Vanity Fair in 1916, wrote, "Miss Bainter's advent from nowhere and her instant success form the season's biggest sensation."[4] She appeared in a number of successful plays in New York, such as East Is West, The Willow Tree, and Dodsworth. In 1926, she appeared with Walter Abel in a Broadway production of Channing Pollock's The Enemy. MGM persuaded her to try films and her movie debut was in This Side of Heaven (February 1934). Also in 1934, she appeared in Dodsworth on Broadway and in the film It Happened One Day. Bainter quickly achieved success in the movies, and in 1939, she became the first performer to receive two Oscar nominations in the same year, contending for both Best Actress for White Banners (1938) and Best Supporting Actress for Jezebel (1938), winning for the latter.[5] In 1940, she played Mrs. Gibbs in the film production of the Thornton Wilder play Our Town. In 1945, she played Melissa Frake in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical State Fair. She was again nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Children's Hour (1961).[6]

Bainter has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Fay Bainter and Reginald Venable were married on June 8, 1921, in Riverside, California.[8] Cmdr. Reginald Venable was a United States Navy officer who graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1913. He resigned from the Navy in 1925 as a Lieutenant Commander to manage his wife's business affairs. He had been a real-estate operator.[9] The couple had one son, Reginald Venable Jr., who became an actor.[10]

Bainter was the aunt of actress Dorothy Burgess.[11]

Bainter and Venable are interred at Arlington National Cemetery.[12]


Year Title Role Notes
1934 This Side of Heaven Francene Turner
1937 Quality Street Susan Throssel
1937 The Soldier and the Lady Strogoff's Mother
1937 Make Way for Tomorrow Anita Cooper
1938 White Banners Hannah Parmalee Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
1938 Jezebel Aunt Belle Massey Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1938 Mother Carey's Chickens Mrs. Margaret Carey
1938 The Arkansas Traveler Mrs. Martha Allen
1938 The Shining Hour Hannah Linden
1939 Yes, My Darling Daughter Ann "Annie" Murray
1939 The Lady and the Mob Hattie Leonard
1939 Daughters Courageous Nancy "Nan" Masters
1939 Our Neighbors – The Carters Ellen Carter
1940 Young Tom Edison Mrs. Samuel (Nancy) Edison
1940 Our Town Mrs. Julia Hersey Gibbs
1940 A Bill of Divorcement Margaret "Meg" Fairfield
1940 Maryland Charlotte Danfield
1941 Babes on Broadway Miss "Jonesy" Jones
1942 Woman of the Year Ellen Whitcomb
1942 The War Against Mrs. Hadley Stella Hadley
1942 Journey for Margaret Trudy Strauss
1942 Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch Mrs. Elvira Wiggs
1943 The Human Comedy Mrs. Macauley
1943 Presenting Lily Mars Mrs. Thornway
1943 Salute to the Marines Jennie Bailey
1943 Cry 'Havoc' Captain Alice Marsh
1944 The Heavenly Body Margaret Sibyll
1944 Dark Waters Aunt Emily
1944 Three Is a Family Frances Whittaker
1945 State Fair Melissa Frake
1946 The Kid from Brooklyn Mrs. E. Winthrop LeMoyne
1946 The Virginian Mrs. Taylor
1947 Deep Valley Ellie Saul
1947 The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Mrs. Eunice Mitty
1948 Give My Regards to Broadway Fay Norwick
1948 June Bride Paula Winthrop
1951 Close to My Heart Mrs. Morrow
1953 The President's Lady Mrs. Donaldson
1961 The Children's Hour Mrs. Amelia Tilford Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance (2nd place)
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture

Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1946 Suspense 180/"The Lucky Lady"
1952 Theatre Guild on the Air "The Search"[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Fay Bainter". The Montreal Gazette. April 18, 1968. p. 35.
  2. ^ Obituary Variety, April 24, 1968.
  3. ^ "Deaths (In the Profession)". Variety. October 21, 1922. p. 106. ProQuest 1031698390. BAINTER—Mrs. Mary Okell, 72, mother of Fay Bainter, widely known actress, died of heart trouble at the Good Samaritan Hospital, Los Angeles, October 2. Surviving are her husband Charles F. Bainter and three daughters, Mrs. Ada M. Fitxmier, Mrs. Grace Burgess and Mrs. Fay Bainter Venable.
  4. ^ P. G. Wodehouse. "Our Slack and Slothful Playwrights". Retrieved November 9, 2022.
  5. ^ "Hollywood's Shining Hour". American Cinematographer. May 1972. p. 566. ProQuest 196323768. The year 1939 was one of repeats. Bette Davis for 'Jezebel', Spencer Tracy for 'Boys Town' and Walter Brennan for 'Kentucky', all got their second Oscars. Fay Bainter won as Best Supporting Actress for 'Jezebel', and the Best Picture was 'You Can't Take It With You'. Miss Bainter also had been nominated as Best Actress for her performance in 'White Banners'. She was the first actress to run in two categories in the same year.
  6. ^ Thomas, Bob (February 1, 1962). "Liz Isn't in the Race for '61 Academy Awards". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 24. Retrieved June 28, 2023.
  7. ^ "Fay Bainter". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Archived from the original on February 18, 2014. Retrieved October 7, 2022.
  8. ^ Los Angeles Times, November 24, 1921, "Marriage Of Star Is Declared – Wedding of Fay Bainter and Navy Man Revealed by Mother of Actress", p. 17.
  9. ^ "Reginald S. H. Venable, 74, Was Fay Bainter's Husband". The New York Times. September 29, 1964. p. 43. ProQuest 115587529. Reginald S. H. Venable of Palm Springs, Calif., husband of Fay Bainter, the actress, died yesterday in a hospital there. He was 74 years old. Mr. Venable, who resigned from the Navy in 1925 as a lieutenant commander, had managed his wife's business affairs and had been a real-estate operator.
  10. ^ Associated Press (April 17, 1968). "Fay Bainter, 'Motherly' Actress, Dies". The Evening Press. p. 8-B. ProQuest 2043678747. Plans were for her to be buried in Arlington national Cemetery in Virginia beside her husband, Navy Lt. Comdr. Reginald Venable, who died in 1964. Their son, actor Reginald Venable, Jr., survives.
  11. ^ "Obituaries: Dorothy Burgess". The Hollywood Reporter. August 25, 1961. p. 9. ProQuest 2339687816. Actress Dorothy Burgess, niece of Fay Bainter, died Sunday of cancer. Burial was Wednesday.
  12. ^ Patterson, Michael Robert. "Fay Okell Bainter – Navy Spouse & Actress". Arlington National Cemetery. Archived from the original on December 29, 2003. Retrieved October 7, 2022.
  13. ^ Kirby, Walter (March 16, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 44. Retrieved May 23, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. open access

Further reading[edit]

  • Alistair, Rupert (2018). "Fay Bainter". The Name Below the Title : 65 Classic Movie Character Actors from Hollywood's Golden Age (softcover) (First ed.). Great Britain: Independently published. pp. 22–25. ISBN 978-1-7200-3837-5.

External links[edit]