Joan Lorring

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Joan Lorring
Joan Lorring 1946.JPG
Lorring in 1946
Mary Magdalene Ellis[citation needed]

(1926-04-17)April 17, 1926
DiedMay 30, 2014(2014-05-30) (aged 88)
Sleepy Hollow, New York, U.S.
Other namesDellie Ellis
Years active1944–1980
Martin Sonenberg
(m. 1956; died 2011)

Joan Lorring (April 17, 1926 – May 30, 2014) was an American actress and singer known for her work in film and theatre. For her role as Bessy Watty in The Corn Is Green (1945), Lorring was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Lorring also originated the role of Marie Buckholder in Come Back, Little Sheba on Broadway in 1950, for which she won a Donaldson Award (an early version of the Tony Award).

Personal life[edit]

Lorring was born Madeline Ellis[1][2] (though her name has been given variously as Mary Magdalene Ellis,[3] Magdalen Ellis[4] and Ann Ellis[5][failed verification]) in Hong Kong, the daughter of Anya Ellis (1904–1994),[5] a Russian Jewish immigrant.[6] They fled Hong Kong in 1937 following the Japanese invasion in 1937 at the start of World War II, traveling by boat to Honolulu, and then landing in San Francisco. Soon after, they moved to Los Angeles and Madeleine (known by her nickname "Dellie") began working as a child actress in radio and film – she was credited as "Dellie Ellis" when she played the title role in the radio program A Date With Judy (1942).[7] She eventually adopted Joan Lorring as her stage name.[8][9][10]

She was married to cancer researcher and Professor of Medicine and Professor of Biochemistry at Cornell Medical School, and Chief of Endocrinology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Martin Sonenberg (1920–2011). The couple had two daughters, Santha and Andrea.[11]


Lorring began her career as a child actress on the radio. Her performances include Alma Horrell in the Suspense episode "The Great Horrell", aired on August 22, 1946, and "The Farmer Takes a Wife".


Lorring made her Broadway debut in 1950, originating the role of Marie Buckholder opposite Shirley Booth in Come Back Little Sheba. Terry Moore later played Marie in the 1952 film version. For this role, Lorring won a Donaldson Award for Most Outstanding Female Debut in the 1949-1950 Broadway season. This success led to her performing in the 1951 Broadway production of the Lillian Hellman play The Autumn Garden. In 1954, she performed in the play Dead Pidgeons, and her last Broadway appearance was in 1957, originating the role of The Young Woman, opposite Kim Stanley as The Woman, in A Clearing in the Woods by Arthur Laurents.[12]

In 1970, Lorring performed in an Off-Broadway production of Awake and Sing! as Bessie Berger.[13]

Joan Lorring (far right) and cast on the set of Norby

Film and television[edit]

Lorring made her film debut at age 18 in Song of Russia (1944). Her second film was the Oscar-nominated drama The Bridge of San Luis Rey.

For her third film role as Bessy Watty in 1945's The Corn Is Green opposite Bette Davis as Miss Moffat, Lorring (at age 19) was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Thelma Schnee had originated the role of Bessy on Broadway opposite Ethel Barrymore in 1940.

Lorring next had supporting roles in the 1946 dramas Three Strangers and The Verdict, in which she plays Lottie Rawson and performs the song "Give Me a Little Bit". In 1947, she appeared in The Other Love, a drama that stars Barbara Stanwyck, and in The Lost Moment which stars Susan Hayward. In 1948, she played a supporting role in Good Sam, which stars Gary Cooper as was directed by Leo McCarey.

In the early 1950s, Lorring began appearing often on television. In 1955, she performed in 13 episodes of the television series Norby as Helen Norby. The show lasted one season. Also in 1956, she reprised her award-winning role as Bessy in The Corn is Green on television opposite Eva Le Gallienne as Miss Moffat. She appeared on one episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, (The Older Sister, 1956) about Lizzie Borden, in which she portrayed her sister Emma.

Lorring performed infrequently in the 1960s and 1970s focusing on her family life. Her last film role came in 1974 with The Midnight Man, and her later television roles were guest-starring for several episodes as Anna Pavel in Ryan's Hope and a 1980 episode of The Love Boat.

Retirement and death[edit]

Lorring enjoyed a quiet retirement through the 1980s and 1990s. She lived until May 30, 2014 when she died in Sleepy Hollow, New York at age 88 from natural causes.[14] Lorring was not included in the In-Memoriam segment at the 87th Academy Awards.


Year Title Role Notes
1944 Song of Russia Sonia
The Bridge of San Luis Rey Pepita
1945 The Corn Is Green Bessie Watty Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1946 Three Strangers Icey Crane
The Verdict Lottie Rawson
1947 The Other Love Celestine Miller
The Lost Moment Amelia
The Gangster Dorothy
1948 Good Sam Shirley Mae
1951 The Big Night Marion Rostina
1952 Imbarco a mezzanotte Angela English title: Stranger on the Prowl
1974 The Midnight Man Judy
Year Title Role Notes
1950–1956 Robert Montgomery Presents 5 episodes
1952 The Philco Television Playhouse Episode: The Thin Air
The Doctor Episode: No Story Assignment
1954 The Motorola Television Hour Episode: A Dash of Bitters
Love Story Episode: For All We Know
Danger Episode: The Big Man
Suspense Episode: The Last Stand
Center Stage Terry Clayborn Episode: The Day Before Atlanta
1953, 1955 Goodyear Television Playhouse Episode: The Rumor
Episode: The Prizewinner
1954–1955 Valiant Lady Bonnie Withers #1
Westinghouse Studio One Blair
Episode: Castle in Spain
Episode: Millions of Georges
1955 Norby Helen Norby
The Elgin Hour Maggie Episode: Black Eagle Pass
Kraft Television Theatre Episode: Coquette
Appointment with Adventure Episode: Return of the Stranger
1956 Star Stage Episode: Of Missing Persons
Alfred Hitchcock Presents Emma Borden Episode: The Older Sister
General Electric Theater Episode: The Shunning
1965 The Nurses Jean Bower Episode: Act of Violence
For the People Jean Bow Episode: Act of Violence (2)
1966 The Star Wagon Martha PBS TV-Movie
1979–1980 Ryan's Hope Anna Pavel
1980 The Love Boat Mrs. Cummings Episode: Tell Her She's Great..., (final appearance)

Radio appearances[edit]

Date Program Episode/source Role Notes
June 23 to September 15, 1942 (second season) A Date with Judy Entire season Judy Credited as "Dellie Ellis". Sponsored by Pepsodent
August 2, 1945 Suspense "A Man in the House" Emily Barrett[15]
August 22, 1946 Suspense "The Great Horrell" Alma Horrell[16]
1953 Best Plays "The Farmer Takes a Wife"[17]
December 3, 1961 Suspense "Luck of the Tiger Eye"
June 2, 1965 ABC's Theatre-Five "Noose of Pearls" Maude
January 12, 1974 CBS Radio Mystery Theater "I Warn You Three Times"
January 15, 1974 CBS Radio Mystery Theater "The Resident"
January 28, 1974 CBS Radio Mystery Theater "Three Women"
February 4, 1974 CBS Radio Mystery Theater "The Lady Was a Tiger"
March 7, 1974 CBS Radio Mystery Theater "The Creature from the Swamp"
March 20 1974 to January 19, 1976 CBS Radio Mystery Theater Numerous appearances


  1. ^ "Joan Lorring, Oscar-nominated actress from 'The Corn Is Green' and other films, dies at 88". Washington Post. 2 June 2014. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  2. ^ Harris M. Lentz III (7 May 2015). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2014. McFarland. p. 217. ISBN 978-1-4766-1961-3.
  3. ^ Joseph F. Clarke (1977). Pseudonyms. BCA. p. 105.
  4. ^ a b accessed 8/22/14
  5. ^
  6. ^ Dunning, John (7 May 1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 191–192. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  7. ^ accessed 8/22/14
  8. ^ accessed 8/22/14
  9. ^ accessed 8/22/14
  10. ^ Joan Lorring profile, The New York Times; accessed March 11, 2014.
  11. ^ "Joan Lorring". Playbill. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  12. ^ Andrew Harris (11 January 2013). Broadway Theatre. Routledge. p. 141. ISBN 978-1-135-09399-0.
  13. ^ Maane Khatchatourian (31 May 2014). "Joan Lorring, Oscar Nominated 'Corn Is Green' Actress, Dies at 88". Variety. Retrieved July 16, 2014.
  14. ^ Christine Miller (ed.). "Suspense – A Man in the House". Escape and Suspense!. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  15. ^ Christine Miller (ed.). "Suspense – The Great Horrell". Escape and Suspense!. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
  16. ^ Walter Kirby (28 June 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 44. Retrieved July 1, 2015 – via open access

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