Joan Lorring

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Joan Lorring
Joan Lorring 1946.JPG
Lorring in 1946
Born Mary Magdalene Ellis[citation needed]
(1926-04-17)April 17, 1926
Hong Kong
Died May 30, 2014(2014-05-30) (aged 88)
Sleepy Hollow, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1944–1980
Spouse(s) Martin Sonenberg
(m. 1956; d. 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]) in Hong Kong, the daughter of Ania Ellis (1904-1995),[5] a Russian Jewish immigrant.[6] They fled Hong Kong in 1938 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 Mary (known by her nickname "Dellie") began working as a child actress in radio and film - she was credited as "Dellie Ellis" in her eponymous role in A Date With Judy (1941-1942).[7] Eventually she adopted Joan Lorring as her stage name.[8][9][10]

She was married to doctor 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 with an airdate of 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 would later play 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 memorable 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 50s, Lorring began appearing often on television. In 1955 she performed in thirteen 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 60s and 70s focusing on her family life. Her last film role came in 1974 with The Midnight Man and her last television roles were guest-starring for several episodes as Anna Pavel in Ryan's Hope and finally a 1980 episode of The Love Boat.

Retirement and death[edit]

Lorring enjoyed a quiet retirement through the 80s and 90s. 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 Film Role Other 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
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...

Radio appearances[edit]

Date Program Episode/source Role Notes
June 23 – 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"
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 04, 1974 CBS Radio Mystery Theater "The Lady Was A Tiger"
March 07, 1974 CBS Radio Mystery Theater "The Creature From the Swamp"
March 20 1974 - January 19, 1976 CBS Radio Mystery Theater 17 More Appearances


  1. ^ Catalog of Copyright Entries: Third series. 1978. p. 694. 
  2. ^ "Joan Lorring, Oscar-nominated actress from 'The Corn Is Green' and other films, dies at 88". 2 June 2014 – via 
  3. ^ Harris M. Lentz III (7 May 2015). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2014. McFarland. p. 217. ISBN 978-1-4766-1961-3. 
  4. ^ Joseph F. Clarke (1977). Pseudonyms. BCA. p. 105. 
  5. ^ a b accessed 8/22/14
  6. ^
  7. ^ John Dunning (7 May 1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. pp. 191–2. ISBN 978-0-19-977078-6. 
  8. ^ accessed 8/22/14
  9. ^ accessed 8/22/14
  10. ^ accessed 8/22/14
  11. ^ Joan Lorring profile, The New York Times; accessed March 11, 2014.
  12. ^ accessed 8/22/14
  13. ^!+1970&source=bl&ots=wmpb7NMq9y&sig=Q4BZlo_40B1s0s84lL3km3Cw1Qo&hl=en&sa=X&ei=N_P2U-GkJ9GqyASspoGwAg&ved=0CEsQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=joan%20lorring%20awake%20and%20sing!%201970&f=false accessed 8/22/14
  14. ^ Obituary for Joan Lorring,; accessed July 16, 2014.
  15. ^ "Escape and Suspense!: Suspense - A Man in the House". 
  16. ^ accessed May 26, 2017
  17. ^ Kirby, Walter (June 28, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 44. Retrieved July 1, 2015 – via  open access publication – free to read
  18. ^

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