Janet Beecher

Janet Beecher (born Janet Meysenberg; October 21, 1884 August 6, 1955) was an American stage and screen actress.

Janet Beecher
Beecher in 1916
Janet Meysenburg

(1884-10-21)October 21, 1884
DiedAugust 6, 1955(1955-08-06) (aged 70)
Years active1903-1944
Spouse(s)Harry R. Guggenheimer (?-1919) (divorced)
Richard H. Hoffman (?-1935) (divorced)
Children1 (a son, with Hoffman)

Early years

The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Von Meysenburg,[1] Beecher was born in Jefferson City, Missouri.[2] Her sister was actress Olive Wyndham.[3] The sisters were related to Harriet Beecher Stowe on their mother's side.[4]

Her father's work as a vice-consul for Germany led to her growing up in Chicago.[5]


Beecher was a supporting player and lead on the Broadway stage between the 1900s and 1940s. Her Broadway debut came in The Education of Mr. Pipp (1905).[6] Her final Broadway play was The Late George Apley (1944).[5] Other notable plays she appeared in included The Lottery Man (1909), The Concert (1910), The Purple Road (1913), Fair and Warmer (1915), The Woman in Room 13 (1919), Call the Doctor (1920), A Bill of Divorcement (1921),[7] The Love Child (1922), A Kiss in a Taxi (1925), and Courage (1928).

Between 1915 and 1943, she appeared in about motion pictures. She remains perhaps best-remembered as a character actress during Hollywood's golden age, often seen in roles as "firm but compassionate matriarchs".[8] She was known for her roles as Ginger Rogers' mother in The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), Tyrone Power's mother in the adventure film The Mark of Zorro (1940), and Henry Fonda's mother in Preston Sturges' screwball comedy The Lady Eve (1941). She retired from film business in 1943, but managed to play a role in the television series Lux Video Theatre in 1952.

Personal life

Beecher was married twice: first to Harry R. Guggenheimer and then to Richard H. Hoffman. She had a son named Richard.[9][10][11][12]

"Automatic writing" controversy

Automatic writing played a pivotal role in Beecher's divorce from Hoffman. Beecher's mother, Mrs. Oral J. Wyndham, produced messages that she said were sent by spirits, but which Hoffman said were created by Wyndham's subconscious mind. After six years of marriage, both Beecher and Hoffman filed suit for separation, based on both the contentious messages and a disagreement about religion's influence in raising their son. Beecher, her sister, and their mother were members of the Unity Scientific Christianity Association. The judge who granted the divorce wrote, "both the practice of spirit writing and the content of the messages undoubtedly affected the family society. The plaintiff was frankly hostile to the practice, while some of the writings criticized his character and behavior in unmistakable terms."[3]


On August 7, 1955, Beecher died at her sister's home in Washington, Connecticut, at age 70.[13]


Year Title Role Notes
1915Fine FeathersJane Reynolds
1933Gallant LadyMaria Sherwood
1934The Last GentlemanHelen Barr
1934The President VanishesMrs. Mary Stanley
1934The Mighty BarnumNancy Barnum
1935Let's Live TonightMrs. Routledge
1935So Red the RoseSally Bedford
1935Village TaleAmy Somerville
1935The Dark AngelMrs. Shannon
1936Love Before BreakfastMrs. Colby
1936I'd Give My LifeGovernor's wife
1936The Longest NightMrs. Briggs, Carl's Mother
1937The Good Old SoakMatilda Hawley
1937The Thirteenth ChairLady Crosby
1937Between Two WomenMiss Pringle
1937Big CitySophie Sloane
1937My Dear Miss AldrichMrs. Sinclair
1937Beg, Borrow or StealMrs. Agatha Steward
1937RosalieMiss Baker
1938Judge Hardy's ChildrenMiss Budge, Suzanne's Tutor
1938Yellow JackMiss Macdade
1938Woman Against WomanMrs. Holland
1938Say It in FrenchMrs. Carrington
1939I Was a ConvictMrs. Martha Harrison
1939The Story of Vernon and Irene CastleMrs. Foote
1939Man of ConquestMrs. Sarah Lea
1939CareerMrs. Amy Cruthers
1939Laugh It OffMary Carter
1939Slightly HonorableMrs. Cushing
1940All This, and Heaven TooMiss Haines
1940The Mark of ZorroSenora Isabella Vega
1940Bitter SweetLady Daventry
1941The Lady EveMrs. Pike
1941The Man Who Lost HimselfMrs. Milford
1941Men of Boys TownSpokeswoman(scenes deleted)
1941West Point WidowMrs. Graves
1941For Beauty's SakeMiss Merton
1941A Very Young LadyMiss Steele
1941The Parson of PanamintMrs. Tweedy
1942A Tragedy at MidnightThird Mrs. Charles MillerUncredited
1942Reap the Wild WindMrs. Mottram
1942Men of TexasMrs. Sam Houston
1942Hi, NeighborHattie Greenfield
1942Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage PatchMrs. Olcott
1942Silver QueenMrs. Laura Forsythe
1943Henry Aldrich Gets GlamourMrs. Eloise LowryUncredited
1952Lux Video TheatreKate Walburn1 episode, (final appearance)


  1. "Janet Beecher, Actress, Passes". Democrat and Chronicle. New York, Rochester. Associated Press. August 8, 1955. p. 9. Retrieved February 26, 2018 via Newspapers.com.
  2. Fisher, James; Londré, Felicia Hardison (2009). The A to Z of American Theater: Modernism. Scarecrow Press. p. 52. ISBN 9780810870475. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  3. "How Spooks Wrecked the Doctor-Actress Threesome". Hamilton Evening Journal. Ohio, Hamilton. July 10, 1926. p. 20. Retrieved February 25, 2018 via Newspapers.com.
  4. Tildesley, Alice L. (June 30, 1935). "How to keep from growing old". The Nebraska State Journal. Nebraska, Lincoln. p. 33. Retrieved February 26, 2018 via Newspapers.com.
  5. Hischak, Thomas S. (2003). Enter the Players: New York Stage Actors in the Twentieth Century. Scarecrow Press. pp. 26–27. ISBN 9780810847613. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  6. "("Janet Beecher" search results)". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on 25 February 2018. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  7. (7 August 1955). Janet Beecher, Actress is Dead - Star of Stage aad' Screen Played Her Last Role in 'The Late George Apley', The New York Times (paywll)
  8. Janet Beecher profile, Allmovie.com; accessed April 28, 2017.
  9. Obituary Billboard magazine, August 20, 1955; mentions surviving family, her sister Olive Wyndham and son Richard
  10. Who Was Who in the Theatre 1912-1976; originally published annually by John Parker, 1976 editions by Gale Research
  11. Silent Film Necrology 2nd edit. by Eugene M. Vazanno c. 2001
  12. Janet Beecher profile, alexanderstreet.com; accessed April 28, 2017.
  13. "Janet Beecher, Ex-Actress, Dies at 70". The Courier-Journal. Kentucky, Louisville. Associated Press. August 8, 1955. p. 8. Retrieved February 25, 2018 via Newspapers.com.
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