Colleen Dewhurst

Colleen Rose Dewhurst (3 June 1924 – 22 August 1991) was a Canadian-American actress. She is known most for theatre roles, and for a while as "the Queen of Off-Broadway". In her autobiography, Dewhurst wrote: "I had moved so quickly from one Off-Broadway production to the next that I was known, at one point, as the 'Queen of Off-Broadway'. This title was not due to my brilliance, but, rather, because most of the plays I was in closed after a run of anywhere from one night to two weeks. I would then move immediately into another."[1] She was a renowned interpreter of the works of Eugene O'Neill on the stage, and her career also encompassed film, early dramas on live television, and Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival. One of her last roles was playing Marilla Cuthbert in the Kevin Sullivan television adaptations of the Anne of Green Gables series, and her reprisal of the role in the subsequent TV series Road to Avonlea (marketed as Avonlea in the US). Dewhurst won two Tony Awards and four Emmy Awards for her stage and television work.

Colleen Dewhurst
Dewhurst in The Trial of Susan B. Anthony, 1971
Colleen Rose Dewhurst

(1924-06-03)3 June 1924
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Died22 August 1991(1991-08-22) (aged 67)
OccupationFilm, stage, television, and voice actress
Years active1952–1991
James Vickery
(m. 1947; div. 1960)

George C. Scott
(m. 1960; div. 1965)

(m. 1967; div. 1972)
Partner(s)Ken Marsolais (1975–her death)
11th President of the Actors' Equity Association
In office
Preceded byEllen Burstyn
Succeeded byRon Silver

Early life

Dewhurst was born 3 June 1924, in Montreal, Quebec, to housewife Frances Marie (née Woods) and Ferdinand Augustus "Fred" Dewhurst. She had no siblings. Fred Dewhurst was the owner of a chain of confectionery stores, and had been a celebrated athlete in Canada, where he had played football with the Ottawa Rough Riders.[2] The family became naturalized as U.S. citizens before 1940. Colleen's mother was a Christian Scientist, a faith Colleen also embraced.[3]

The Dewhursts moved to Massachusetts in 1928 or 1929, staying in Boston, Dorchester, Auburndale, and West Newton. Later they moved to New York City, and then to Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. She attended Whitefish Bay High School for her first two years of high school, moved to Shorewood High School for her junior year, and finally graduated from Riverside High School in Milwaukee in 1942. Around this time, her parents separated. Dewhurst went on to attend Milwaukee-Downer College for two years before moving to New York City to pursue an acting career.[4]


One of Dewhurst's most significant stage roles was in the 1974 Broadway revival of O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten as Josie Hogan, for which she won a Tony Award. She previously won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in 1961 for All the Way Home. She later played Katharina in a 1956 production of Taming of the Shrew for Joseph Papp. She (as recounted in her posthumous obituary in collaboration with Tom Viola) wrote:

With Brooks Atkinson's blessing, our world changed overnight. Suddenly in our audience of neighbors in T-shirts and jeans appeared men in white shirts, jackets and ties, and ladies in summer dresses. We were in a hit that would have a positive effect on my career, as well as Joe's, but I missed the shouting.[1]

She played Shakespeare's Cleopatra and Lady Macbeth for Papp and, years later, Gertrude in a production of Hamlet at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. Dewhurst and George C. Scott met while working together in 1958, in Children of Darkness, while they were both married to other people.

She appeared in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode Night Fever in 1965 and with Ingrid Bergman in More Stately Mansions on Broadway in 1967. José Quintero directed her in O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night and Mourning Becomes Electra. She appeared in Edward Albee's adaptation of Carson McCullers' Ballad of the Sad Cafe, and as Martha in a Broadway revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, opposite Ben Gazzara which Albee directed.

She appeared in 1962 as Joanne Novak in the episode "I Don't Belong in a White-Painted House" in NBC's medical drama, The Eleventh Hour, starring Wendell Corey and Jack Ging. Dewhurst appeared opposite her then-husband, Scott, in a 1971 television adaptation of Arthur Miller's The Price, on Hallmark Hall of Fame, an anthology series, and there is another television recording of them together when she played Elizabeth Proctor to his unfaithful John in Miller's The Crucible (with Tuesday Weld). In 1977, Woody Allen cast her in his film Annie Hall as Annie's mother.

In 1972, she played a madam, Mrs. Kate Collingwood, in The Cowboys (1972), which starred John Wayne. In 1985, she played the role of Marilla Cuthbert in Kevin Sullivan's adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's novel Anne of Green Gables, and reprised the role in 1987's Anne of Avonlea (also known as Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel), and in several episodes of Kevin Sullivan's Road to Avonlea.

Dewhurst was on hiatus from Road to Avonlea when she died in 1991. Sullivan Productions was unaware she was terminally ill, so her portrayal of Marilla ended posthumously. This was accomplished by shooting new scenes with actress Patricia Hamilton acting to a body double of Dewhurst, and by recycling parts of scenes from Anne of Green Gables, Road to Avonlea, and using Dewhurst's death scene as Hepzibah in Sullivan's production of Lantern Hill. The latter was a 1990 television film based on L.M. Montgomery's Jane of Lantern Hill.

During 1989 and 1990, she appeared in a supporting role on the television series Murphy Brown playing the feisty mother of Candice Bergen's title character; this role earned her two Emmy Awards, the second being awarded posthumously. Dewhurst won a total of two Tony Awards and four Emmy Awards for her stage and television work.

She was president of the Actors' Equity Association from 1985 until her death.

Personal life and final years

Dewhurst was married to James Vickery from 1947 to 1960. She married and divorced George C. Scott twice. They had two sons, Alexander Scott and actor Campbell Scott; she co-starred with Campbell in Dying Young (1991), one of her last performances. During the last years of her life, she lived on a farm in South Salem, New York, with her partner, Ken Marsolais. They also had a summer home on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Dewhurst's Christian Science beliefs[5] led to her refusal to countenance any kind of surgical treatment. Maureen Stapleton wrote about Dewhurst:

Colleen looked like a warrior, so people assumed she was the earth mother. But in real life Colleen was not to be let out without a keeper. She couldn't stop herself from taking care of people, which she then did with more care than she took care of herself. Her generosity of spirit was overwhelming and her smile so dazzling that you couldn't pull the f_-kng reins in on her even if you desperately wanted to and knew damn well that somebody should.[1]

Dewhurst died of cervical cancer, age 67, at her South Salem home in 1991. She was cremated and her ashes were given to family and friends; no public service was planned.


Over the course of her 45-year career, Dewhurst won the 1974 Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre, two Tony Awards, two Obie Awards, and two Gemini Awards. In 1989, she won the Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for her role in Hitting Home. Of her 13 Emmy Award nominations, she won four. She was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981.[6]

This television-related list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.


Films and television films

Year Title Role Notes
1959 The Nun's Story Archangel Gabriel (Sanatorium)
1960 Man on a String Helen Benson
1961 The Foxes television film
1962 Focus television film
1966 A Fine Madness Dr. Vera Kropotkin
1967 The Crucible Elizabeth Proctor television film (adaptation of the play The Crucible)
1971 The Price Esther Franz television film
1971 The Last Run Monique
1972 The Cowboys Kate
1972 The Hands of Cormac Joyce Molly Joyce Made for television film
1973 Legend in Granite Marie Lombardi television film
1974 Parker Addison, Philosopher Hostess television film
The Music School Hostess television film
McQ Myra
The Story of Jacob and Joseph Rebekah television film
1975 A Moon for the Misbegotten Josie Hogan television film (adaptation of the play A Moon for the Misbegotten)
1977 Annie Hall Mrs. Hall
1978 The Third Walker Kate Maclean
Ice Castles Beulah Smith
1979 Silent Victory: The Kitty O'Neil Story Mrs. O'Neil television film
When a Stranger Calls Tracy Fuller
And Baby Makes Six Anna Kramer television film
Mary and Joseph: A Story of Faith Elizabeth television film
1980 Death Penalty Elaine Lipton television film
Escape Lily Levinson television film
Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones Mrs. Myrtle Kennedy television miniseries
The Women's Room Val television film (based on the book The Women's Room)
A Perfect Match Meg Larson television film
Baby Comes Home Anna Kramer television film
Final Assignment Dr. Valentine Ulanova
Tribute Gladys Petrelli
1981 A Few Days in Weasel Creek Aunt Cora television film
1982 Split Cherry Tree Mother
Between Two Brothers television film
1983 Sometimes I Wonder Grandma television film
The Dead Zone Henrietta Dodd
1984 You Can't Take It with You Grand Duchess Olga Katrina television film (adaptation of the play You Can't Take It with You)
The Glitter Dome Lorna Dillman television film
1985 Anne of Green Gables Marilla Cuthbert television film
1986 Between Two Women Barbara Petherton television film
Johnny Bull Marie Kovacs television film
As Is Hospice Worker television film
The Boy Who Could Fly Mrs. Sherman
Sword of Gideon Golda Meir television film
1987 Hitting Home Judge television film
Bigfoot Gladys Samco television film
Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel Marilla Cuthbert television film
1988 Woman in the Wind
1989 Those She Left Behind Margaret Page television film
Termini Station Molly Dushane
1990 The Exorcist III Pazuzu Voice, Uncredited
Kaleidoscope Margaret television film
Lantern Hill Elizabeth television film
1991 Dying Young Estelle Whittier
Bed & Breakfast Ruth (final film role)
2000 Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story Marilla Cuthbert television miniseries, uncredited (archive footage)
2008 Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning Marilla Cuthbert television film (archive footage)

Television work (excluding television films)

Year Title Role Notes
1957 Studio One teleplay: First Prize for Murder
1958 Kraft Television Theatre teleplay: Presumption of Innocence
Decoy Taffy one episode: "Deadly Corridor"
DuPont Show of the Month teleplay: The Count of Monte Cristo
1959 Aldonza/Dulcinea teleplay: I, Don Quixote
Play of the Week Mordeen Saul / Woman teleplays: Burning Bright; Medea
The United States Steel Hour Vera Brandon teleplay: The Hours Before Dawn
1961 Play of the Week teleplays: No Exit; The Indifferent Lover
Ben Casey Phyllis Anders one episode: "I Remember a Lemon Tree"
1962 The Eleventh Hour Joanne Novak one episode: "I Don't Belong in a White-Painted House"
The Virginian Celia Ames one episode: "The Executioners"
The Nurses Grace Milo one episode: "Fly, Shadow"
1963 The United States Steel Hour Francie Broderick teleplay: Night Run to the West
DuPont Show of the Month Karen Holt teleplay: Something to Hide
1964 East Side/West Side Shirley one episode: "Nothing but the Half Truth"
1965 Dr. Kildare Eleanor Markham one episode: "All Brides Should Be Beautiful"
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Nurse Ellen Hatch one episode: "Night Fever"
1966 The F.B.I. Amy Doucette one episode: "The Baby Sitter"
The Big Valley Annie Morton one episode: "A Day of Terror"
1971 ITV Sunday Night Theatre Mrs. Franz teleplay: The Price
Hallmark Hall of Fame
1972 Molly Joyce teleplay: The Hands of Cormac Joyce
1973 Wide World Mystery Margery Landing one episode: "A Prowler in the Heart"
1979 Studs Lonigan Mary Lonigan miniseries
1982 Quincy, M.E. Dr. Barbara Ludow one episode: "For Love of Joshua"
The Blue and the Gray Maggie Geyser miniseries
1983 Great Performances Red Queen teleplay: Alice in Wonderland
1984 Finder of Lost Loves Rachel Green one episode: "Echoes"
The Love Boat Maud one episode: "Welcome Aboard: Part 1 and 2"
1985 A.D. Antonia miniseries
1988 The Twilight Zone Alley Parker one episode: "There Was an Old Woman"
1989 Moonlighting Betty Russell one episode: "Take My Wife, for Example"
1989–1990 Murphy Brown Avery Brown Sr. three episodes:
-"Brown Like Me: Part 1 and Part II" (1989)
-"Mama Said" (1989)
-"Bob & Murphy & Ted & Avery (1990)
1990–1992 Road to Avonlea Marilla Cuthbert four episodes:
- "Of Corsets and Secrets and True, True Love"
-"The Materializing of Duncan McTavish"
-"The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham's" and "Old Friends New Wounds (Marilla's Death)"


Year Play Role
1952 Desire Under the Elms Neighbor
1956 Tamburlaine the Great Virgin of Memphis / Turkish Concubine
1957–1958 The Country Wife Mrs. Squeamish
1960 Caligula Caesonia
1960–1961 All the Way Home Mary Follet
1962 Great Day in the Morning Phoebe Flaherty
1963–1964 The Ballad of the Sad Café Miss Amelia Evans
1967–1968 More Stately Mansions Sara
1970 The Good Woman of Setzuan Shen Te
1971 All Over The Mistress
1972 Mourning Becomes Electra Christine Mannon
1973–1974 A Moon for the Misbegotten Josie Hogan
1976 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Martha
1977–1978 An Almost Perfect Person Irene Porter
1982 The Queen and the Rebels Argia
1983–1984 You Can't Take It with You Olga
1988 Long Day's Journey into Night Mary Cavan Tyrone
Ah, Wilderness! Essie Miller
1989–1990 Love Letters Melissa Gardner


  • Dewhurst, Colleen; Viola, Tom (1997). Colleen Dewhurst - Her Autobiography. Scribner. ISBN 978-0-684-80701-0.


  1. Dewhurst, Colleen; Viola, Tom (1997). Colleen Dewhurst — Her Autobiography. Scribner; ISBN 978-0-684-80701-0
  2. Colleen Dewhurst genealogy
  3. "Show Business: Gorgeous Gael". Time. January 21, 1974. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
  4. Colleen Dewhurst profile, Yahoo! Movies; accessed February 8, 2014.
  5. Susan Ware (editor), Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary Completing the Twentieth Century, Volume 5, pages 174-175 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 2004). ISBN 9780674014886
  6. The New York Times, March 3, 1981 - 26 Elected to the Theater Hall of Fame
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