Teresa Wright, Happy Birthday! Wright Place, Wright Time, Wright Beginning; The Early-Wright Highlights…

Teresa Wright LIFE , July 20, 1942

Teresa Wright LIFE Magazine, July 20, 1942

This brief biography is only a highlight of Ms. Wright’s fabulous career, I will not go in depth regarding those points that are best known, but instead will attempt to bring attention to those lesser recognized facts of her glorious stage, television and film résumé.

Teresa Wright, born October 27, 1918, really began to grow up into her own, in New Jersey when attending Columbia High School in Maplewood; she came under the influence of a wonderful teacher who was the head of the local dramatic society.[1] The teacher used a connection and got Wright a job as an apprentice at the Wharf Theater in Provincetown, Massachusetts.[2]

Wright was a member of the resident Barnstormers Company of Tamworth, New Hampshire, in July of 1939;[3] and by October had landed the role that would eventually make a name for her. Life With Father was in dress rehearsals, prior to its Baltimore run which was scheduled for a week beginning Monday, October 27.[4] Wright, then made her way to Broadway playing the same part of Mary in, Life With Father, and she was considered “well chosen” for the role and was “an attractive ingénue”.[5] This 1939 production of, Life With Father, was staged at the Empire Theatre, opening on November 8 and was a mega hit.[6]

The_Brooklyn_Daily_Eagle_Thu__Mar_20__1941_

 

If trying to research Ms. Wright’s Great White Way debut appearance in, Our Town, in February of 1938, you won’t find a mention of her in the trade papers, because she was the understudy for the role of, Emily Webb, which part was portrayed by Martha Scott, who also was in her first appearance on Broadway.[7] In 1938 Wright did the portrayal of Emily Webb for, Our Town, for the road tour.[8]

While on Broadway in, Life With Father, Samuel Goldwyn saw the play and asked producer Oscar Serlin (if he thought Wright could play Alexandra in, The Little Foxes; Serlin said he was certain she could. Wright got the job for the film version of, The Little Foxes, without a try-out and with no rehearsals.[9] In the spring of 1941 she was granted eight-weeks leave of absence from, Life With Father, for the filming of the Goldwyn production of, The Little Foxes.[10] After the glowing reviews started flowing for Wright, Goldwyn decided to cast her in, Pride of the Yankees, as Mrs. Lou Gehrig. There were plans by Oscar Serlin to have Wright star on Broadway in King’s Maid by Ferenc Molnar,[11] but that did not see New York staging. The play opened in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in August of 1941, Wright co-starred with Sam Jaffe,[12] but the production did not perform well at the box-office. The King’s Maid, premiered on August 25 and ended the season at the Bass Rocks Theatre in Gloucester.[13]  Serlin hired Robert Edmond Jones to design the setting and the costumes for King’s Maid, and scheduled a week’s engagement in Baltimore at the Maryland Theater,[14] beginning on Monday, November 24, 1941. But, this cast did not include Teresa Wright.[15] The play was to have its Broadway premier on Thursday, December 4, 1941, at the Longacre Theater.[16] But that engagement for New York was canceled before the Baltimore showings were finished; one report said that the play would “not reach Broadway until structural changes have been made.”[17]

In January of 1943, Wright was slated to appear in, The North Star, written by Lillian Hellman,[18] but in March, before the cameras rolled, she was prescribed five-months of rest by her doctor, due to pregnancy[19]; Anne Baxter was signed as her replacement.[20] Ms. Wright, never a large young woman, weighed in at one-hundred-five-pounds at twenty-one years old,[21] dropped to ninety-eight by the first of September, 1943[22] and solicited concern from the Hollywood community, when by December she had dropped to eighty-nine-pounds.[23] This was due, I am sure, to the fact that she had miscarried sometime in the summer.

In addition to, North Star, two other projects were scheduled for Ms. Wright, and both were shelved. Bid For Happiness, which was only supposed to be delayed until, Those Endearing Young Charms, was completed, never found traction and Charms ended up not being produced by Goldwyn.[24] Teresa Wright was also a front-runner for the lead in, The Enchanted Cottage;[25] oh, what brilliant casting that would have been. But it was not to be.

 

By C. S. Williams

 

[1] Performing O’Neill: Conversations with actors and Directors, edited by Yvonne Shafer, St. Martin’s Press, 2000,

pages 195-212

[2] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) April 6, 1941

[3] Variety, July 5, 1939

Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) April 6, 1941

[4] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) October 25, 1939

[5] Variety, November 15, 1939

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) November 26, 1939

[6] Variety, November 15, 1939

[7] Internet Broadway Data Base

[8] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) April 6, 1941

[9] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) April 6, 1941

[10] Times Herald (Olean, New York) March 29, 1941

[11] Fresno Bee (Fresno, California) August 18, 1941

[12] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) August 30, 1941

[13] Lethbrideg Herald (Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada) August 22, 1941

Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) August 30, 1941

[14] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) November 28, 1941

[15] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) October 29, 1941

[16] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) November 19, 1941

[17] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) November 27, 1941

[18] Film Daily, January 6, 1943

The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington) February 8, 1943

[19] Screenland, September, 1943

[20] Motion Picture Daily, March 1, 1943

Showmen’s Trade Review, March 6, 1943

[21] Republic Kansas Advertiser (Republic, Kansas) August 8, 1940

[22] Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) September 2, 1943

[23] Photoplay, December, 1943

[24] Film Daily, August 25, 1943

[25] Modesto News-Herald (Modesto, California) August 28, 1943

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