Thelma Ritter (February 14, 1902 – February 5, 1969) was an American actress, best known for her comedic roles as working-class characters and her strong New York accent. She was the recipient of a Tony Award and six nominations for Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, more than any other actress in the category.
|Born||February 14, 1902|
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||February 5, 1969 (aged 66)|
New York City, U.S.
Early and family lifeEdit
Ritter was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1902, the first child of Charles and Lucy Ritter, both natives of the United States. Her father at that time was a bookkeeper, and he became a shore company's office manager.
At age 11, Ritter portrayed Puck in a semi-professional dramatic society's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. As a teenager, she appeared in high-school plays and stock companies. She later received formal training at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (ADA). That training came after her initial effort to attend the academy was rebuffed. After graduating from Manual Training High School, she achieved her goal of studying at ADA.
Although she subsequently struggled to establish a stage career, Ritter decided to take a hiatus from acting to raise her two children—Monica and Joe—by her husband Joseph Moran (whom she married in 1927). Moran was also an actor, but changed professions in the mid-1930s, opting to become an agent and then an advertising executive.
Ritter's first professional experience came with stock theater companies in New York and New England. Her Broadway credits include UTBU (1965), New Girl in Town (1956), In Times Square (1931), and The Shelf (1926).
Ritter's first movie role was in Miracle on 34th Street (1947). She made a memorable impression in a brief uncredited part, as a frustrated mother unable to find the toy that Kris Kringle has promised her son. Her third role, in writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's A Letter to Three Wives (1949), left a mark, although Ritter was again uncredited. Mankiewicz kept Ritter in mind, and cast her as Birdie in All About Eve (1950), which earned her an Oscar nomination. A second nomination followed for her work in Mitchell Leisen's' ensemble screwball comedy The Mating Season (1951) starring Gene Tierney and John Lund. She enjoyed steady film work for the next dozen years.
She appeared in many of the episodic drama TV series of the 1950s, such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, General Electric Theater, and The United States Steel Hour. Other film roles were as James Stewart's nurse in Rear Window (1954) and as Doris Day's maid in Pillow Talk (1959). Although best known for comedy roles, she played the occasional dramatic role, most notably in With a Song in My Heart (1952), Pickup on South Street (1953), Titanic (1953), The Misfits (1961), and Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), for which she received her final Oscar nomination. Her last work was an appearance on The Jerry Lewis Show on January 23, 1968.
Ritter died of a heart attack in New York City on February 5, 1969.
|1954||Lux Video Theatre||Lux Video Theatre Guest||Episode: Christmas in July|
|1955||The Best of Broadway||Mrs. Fisher||Episode: The Show-Off|
|The 20th Century Fox Hour||Abby||Episode: Christopher Bean|
|Goodyear Television Playhouse||Aggie Hurley||Episode: The Catered Affair|
|1956||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Lottie Slocum||Episode: The Baby Sitter|
|1957||Telephone Time||Mary Devlin||Episode: Plot to Save a Boy|
|The United States Steel Hour||Ma Garfield||Episode: The Human Pattern|
|1960||GE True Theatre||Doris Green||Episode: Sarah's Laughter|
|Startime||Mrs. Gillis||Episode: The Man|
|1961||Frontier Circus||Bertha Marie Beecher||Episode: Journey from Hannibal|
|1962||Wagon Train||Madame Sagittarius||Episode: The Madame Sagittarius Story|
|1926||The Shelf||Miss Paterson||Morosco Theatre, Broadway|
|1931||In Times Square||Sally Stewart||Longacre Theatre, Broadway|
|1957||New Girl in Town||McCathy||46th Street Theatre, Broadway|
|1961||UTBU||Performer||Hayes Theatre, Broadway|
|1953||Theatre Guild on the Air||Episode: A Square Peg|||
Awards and nominationsEdit
During her career, Ritter was nominated for an Oscar six times, giving her the distinction of being one of the three actresses (tied with Deborah Kerr and Amy Adams) with the second most nominations for the award in an acting category without a win, surpassed only by Glenn Close with eight. The current record for all actors is Close and Peter O'Toole with eight nominations without a win, followed by Richard Burton with seven nominations. Both Kerr and O'Toole received honorary awards from the Academy, however. In 1955, Thelma Ritter co-hosted the Oscar ceremony, notably trading wisecracks with Bob Hope.
|1950||Best Supporting Actress||All About Eve||Nominated|||
|1951||The Mating Season||Nominated|
|1952||With a Song in My Heart||Nominated|
|1953||Pickup on South Street||Nominated|
|1962||Birdman of Alcatraz||Nominated|
|1956||Best Actress in a Supporting Role||Goodyear Television Playhouse||Nominated|||
In 1958, Ritter won a Tony Award in a rare tie (with her co-star, Gwen Verdon) for their work in New Girl.
|1958||Best Actress in a Musical||New Girl in Town||Won|||
|1950||Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture||All About Eve||Nominated|||
|1951||The Mating Season||Nominated|||
- The New York State Census of 1905", 16th Assembly District, Borough of Brooklyn, Kings County, State of New York, June 1, 1905. Digital copy of original 1905 enumeration page available on FamilySearch, an online genealogical database provided as a public service by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved July 21, 2017.
- Born in 1902 as per Social Security Death Index under the name "Thelma Ritter"
- "Thelma Ritter, Versatile Actress With the Raspy Voice, Dies at 63". The New York Times. February 5, 1969. p. 45. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
- LoBianco, Lorraine. "Thelma Ritter Profile", Turner Classic Movies (TCM), a Time Warner Company, New York, N.Y. Retrieved July 21, 2017.
- Nissen, Axel (2007). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties. McFarland. pp. 171–172. ISBN 9780786427468. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
- "("Thelma Ritter" search results)". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Archived from the original on 26 September 2017. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
- "Appearance on Jerry Lewis Show". Thewindmillsofyourmind.com. Retrieved 2012-12-04.
- Kirby, Walter (March 15, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 46. Retrieved June 25, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "("Thelma Ritter" search results)". Academy Awards Database. Retrieved 26 September 2017.[permanent dead link]
- "("Thelma Ritter" search results)". EMMYS. Television Academy. Archived from the original on 26 September 2017. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
- "("Thelma Ritter" search results)". Tony Awards. Archived from the original on 31 August 2016. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
- "Thelma Ritter". Golden Globe Awards. HFPA. Archived from the original on 26 September 2017. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
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