Beatrice Whitney Straight (August 2, 1914 – April 7, 2001) was an American theatre, film and television actress and a member of the prominent Whitney family. She was an Academy Award and Tony Award winner as well as an Emmy Award nominee.
Beatrice Whitney Straight
August 2, 1914
Old Westbury, New York, U.S.
|Died||April 7, 2001 (aged 86)|
(m. 1942; div. 1949)
(m. 1949; died 1990)
|Parent(s)||Willard Dickerman Straight|
Dorothy Payne Whitney
|Relatives||Whitney W. Straight (brother)|
Michael W. Straight (brother)
Straight made her Broadway debut in The Possessed (1939). 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 production of The Crucible (1953), she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. For the satirical film Network (1976), she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her performance is the shortest ever to win an Academy Award for acting, at five minutes and two seconds of screen time. She also received an Emmy Award nomination for the miniseries The Dain Curse (1978). Straight also appeared as Mother Christophe in The Nun's Story (1959) and Dr. Martha Lesh in Poltergeist (1982).
Beatrice Whitney Straight was born in Old Westbury, New York, the daughter of Dorothy Payne Whitney of the Whitney family, and Willard Dickerman Straight, an investment banker, diplomat, and career U.S. Army officer. Her maternal grandfather was political leader and financier William Collins Whitney. In 1918, when Straight was four years old, her father died in France of influenza during the great epidemic while serving with the United States Army during World War I. Following her mother's remarriage to British agronomist Leonard K. Elmhirst in 1925, the family moved to Devon, England. It was there that Straight was educated at Dartington Hall and began acting in amateur theater productions. In the 1930s, she attended the Cornish School in Seattle where many of her teachers at Dartington Hall were from and to which both she and her mother became major benefactors.
Straight returned to the United States and made her Broadway debut in the play The Possessed (1939). Most of her theater work was in the classics, including Twelfth Night (1941), Macbeth (1948) 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.
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). Despite having a brief appearance, Straight was highly praised for her performance, earning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Another widely seen film appearance was the role of the paranormal investigator Dr. Martha Lesh in the horror film Poltergeist (1982).
On February 22, 1942, Straight married Louis Dolivet, Free French Leader, in Polk County, Iowa. At the time, Dolivet was a speaker at the National Farm Institute and Straight was in the middle of the midwest road show of Twelfth Night. Her mother Dorothy Elmhirst and stepfather Leonard K. Elmhirst attended the wedding with her brother Michael Straight and his wife Belinda Crompton. Dolivet was in the French Air Force until June 1940 and was the co-editor of The Free World, a magazine published by the International Free World Association, of which he was secretary general. At the time of the wedding, her elder brother, Whitney Straight, had been missing since August 1941, when his plane was shot down on the French coast.
- Willard Whitney Straight Dolivet (1945–1952)
In 1948, while starring in the Broadway production of The Heiress, an adaptation of Henry James's Washington Square, she met Peter Cookson. They married in 1949 and remained married until Cookson's death in 1990. Peter had two children from his previous marriage, Peter W. Cookson Jr. and Jane Coopland (née Cookson). Together, Straight and Cookson had two children:
- Gary Cookson
- Anthony "Tony" Cookson
In 1952, her 7-year-old son, Willard, from her first marriage, accidentally drowned in a pond on their farm in Armonk while playing in a small row boat tied to the dock. The boy was found by Cookson. The boy's father, Dolivet, who was living in Paris at the time, was refused a visa and, therefore, unable to fly to the United States to attend the funeral because of his alleged pro-communist activities, which he denied.
Straight reportedly suffered from Alzheimer's disease in her last years. In 2001, she died from pneumonia in Northridge, Los Angeles, at the age of 86. Her interment was at William Henry Lee Memorial Cemetery in New Marlborough, Massachusetts.
|Phone Call from a Stranger||1952||Claire Fortness|
|The Silken Affair||1956||Theora|
|The Nun's Story||1959||Mother Christophe (Sanatorium)|
|The Young Lovers||1964||Mrs. Burns|
|The Garden Party||1973||Mrs. Sheridan|
|Network||1976||Louise Schumacher||Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|The Promise||1979||Marion Hillyard|
|The Formula||1980||Kay Neeley|
|Endless Love||1981||Rose Axelrod|
|Two of a Kind||1983||Ruth|
|Power||1986||Claire Hastings||nominated - Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress|
|Deceived||1991||Adrienne's Mother||final film role|
|Title||Date of Production||Role||Notes|
|The Possessed||Oct. 24, 1939 - Nov. 4, 1939||Lisa|
|Twelfth Night||Dec. 2, 1941 - Dec. 13, 1941||Viola|
|Land of Fame||Sep. 21, 1943 - Sep. 25, 1943||Angela|
|The Wanhope Building||Feb. 9, 1947 - Feb. 16, 1947||Felina|
|The Heiress||Sep. 29, 1947 - Sep. 18, 1948||Catherine Sloper||Replacement|
|Eastward in Eden||Nov. 18, 1947 - Nov. 29, 1947||Emily Dickinson|
|Macbeth||Mar. 31, 1948 - Apr. 24, 1948||Lady Macduff|
|The Innocents||Feb. 1, 1950 - Jun. 3, 1950||Miss Giddens|
|The Grand Tour||Dec. 10, 1951 - Dec. 15, 1951||Nell Valentine|
|The Crucible||Jan. 22, 1953 - Jul. 11, 1953||Elizabeth Proctor||1953 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play|
|Everything in the Garden||Nov. 29, 1967 - Feb. 10, 1968||Mrs. Toothe|
|Somerset Maugham TV Theatre||Series||1951|
|Love of Life||Series||1951||Vinnie Phillips|
|Love Story||Movie||1952||Elizabeth Barrett|
|The Magnificent Failure||Movie||1952||Louisa May Alcott|
|Armstrong Circle Theatre||Series||1952|
|Suspense||Series||1952-1954||Mrs. de Spain / Claire Trent|
|You Are There||Series||1954-1955||Anne Boleyn|
|Studio One in Hollywood||Series||1951-1957||Pamela Baxter|
|The United States Steel Hour||Series||1955-1958||Katherine Grant / Daisy Jackson|
|Play of the Week||Series||1959||Mlle. de St. Euverte|
|Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Series||1959-1960||Ida Blythe / Cynthia Fortnam||Season 5, Episode 10 and Season 5, Episode 27|
|Diagnosis: Unknown||Series||1960||Rhoda Clarence|
|Dr. Kildare||Series||1961||Pamela Rainey|
|Naked City||Series||1962||Ann Johns|
|The Doctors and the Nurses||Series||1962||Ruth Martin|
|The Eleventh Hour||Series||1963||Veronica Filmore|
|Ben Casey||Series||1963||Edith Bauer|
|Route 66||Series||1961-1963||Elena De Amundo / Mother Teresa / Kitty Chamberlain|
|The Defenders||Series||1965||Mrs. Campbell|
|Mission: Impossible||Series||1966||Dr. Martha Richards Zubrovnik||Season 1, Episode 11|
|Felony Squad||Series||1967||Victoria Cahill|
|The Borrowers||Movie||1973||Mrs. Crampfurl|
|Beacon Hill||Series||1975||Mrs. Hacker|
|The Andros Targets||Series||1977||Mrs. Benderson|
|The World of Darkness||Movie||1977||Joanna Sanford|
|Killer on Board||Movie||1977||Beatrice Richmond|
|The Dain Curse||Mini-Series||1978||Alice Dain Leggett||Emmy Award for Guest Actress in a Comedy (nomination)|
|King's Crossing||Series||1982||Louisa Beauchamp|
|Faerie Tale Theatre||Series||1984||Queen Veronica / Woman in Museum|
|Robert Kennedy and His Times||Miniseries||1985||Rose Kennedy|
|Under Siege||Movie||1986||Margaret Sloan|
|Jack and Mike||Series||1988||Mike's mother|
|St. Elsewhere||Series||1988||Marjorie Andrews|
|Run Til You Fall||Movie||1988||Margaret|
|People Like Us||Movie||1990||Maisie Verdurin|
- Mel Gussow (April 11, 2001). "Beatrice Straight, Versatile Star, Dies at 86". The 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. ...
- Cornish, Nellie C. Miss Aunt Nellie: the Autobiography of Nellie C. Cornish. Seattle, University of Washington Press, 1964: pp 214-17.
- Robert Lewis (1996) . "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.
- "Beatrice Straight performance length". Serving Cinema. Archived from the original on 2017-08-06. Retrieved 2016-10-09.
- Staff (February 22, 1942). "BEATRICE W. STRAIGHT IS WED IN DES MOINES Sister of Lost R.A.F. Flier the Bride of Louis Dolivet, Editor". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
- Staff (May 25, 1949). "MRS. DOLIVET GETS DECREE As Beatrice Straight of the Stage, She Was Married in '42". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
- Staff (September 8, 1952). "ACTRESS' SON, 7, DROWNS Willard Dolivet Found in Pool on Westchester Farm". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
- Fluker, Kit. "Beatrice Straight papers 1922-1987 [bulk 1968-1986]". nypl.org. Archives of the New York Public Library. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
- Staff (September 12, 1952). "$110,000 IN BOYS ESTATE Mother Files Papers in Case of Dolivet Child Who Drowned". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
- "Beatrice Straight". imdb.com. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
- "Beatrice Straight". ibdb.com. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
- Beatrice Straight on IMDb
- Beatrice Straight at the Internet Broadway Database
- Beatrice Straight at the TCM Movie Database
- Beatrice Straight at AllMovie
- Beatrice Straight at Find a Grave
- Beatrice Straight papers, 1922-1987, held by the Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts