Josephine Hutchinson

Josephine Hutchinson (October 12, 1903 – June 4, 1998) was an American actress.[1] She acted in several theater plays and films.

Josephine Hutchinson
Hutchinson in 1934
Born(1903-10-12)October 12, 1903
DiedJune 4, 1998(1998-06-04) (aged 94)
EducationCornish College of the Arts
Years active1917–1974
Robert W. Bell
(m. 1924; div. 1930)

James F. Townsend
(m. 1935; his death 1970)

Staats Cotsworth
(m. 1972; his death 1979)
Parent(s)Leona Roberts
Charles James Hutchinson
RelativesEdith Roberts (aunt)

Early years

Hutchinson was born in Seattle, Washington. Her mother, Leona Roberts, was an actress best known for her role as Mrs. Meade in Gone with the Wind.



Through her mother's connections, Hutchinson made her film debut at the age of 13 in The Little Princess (1917), starring Mary Pickford.[2] She later attended the Cornish School—now Cornish College of the Arts—in Seattle, receiving a diploma in 1929.[3] She moved to New York City, where she began acting in theater. By the late 1920s, she was one of the actors able to make the transition from silent movies to talkies.

Under contract with Warner Bros., Hutchinson went to Hollywood in 1934, debuting in Happiness Ahead. She was featured on the cover of Film Weekly on August 23, 1935[4] and appeared in The Story of Louis Pasteur in 1936.

At Universal, she played Elsa von Frankenstein in one of her more memorable roles alongside actor Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff in Son of Frankenstein (1939).[5][6] She later played Mrs. Townsend in North by Northwest (1959)[7] andMrs. Macaboy in Love Is Better Than Ever, starring Elizabeth Taylor.[8]


Hutchinson's Broadway debut came in The Bird Cage (1925). Her other Broadway credits included The Cherry Orchard (1933), Alice in Wonderland (1932), Dear Jane (1932), Alison's House (1931), Camille (1931), Alison's House (1930), The Women Have Their Way (1930), The Living Corpse (1929), Mademoiselle Bourrat (1929), The Cherry Orchard (1929), The Seagull (1929), Peter Pan (1928), The Cherry Orchard (1928), Hedda Gabler (1928), Improvisations in June (1928), The First Stone (1928), 2 x 2 = 5 (1927), The Good Hope (1927), Inheritors (1927), The Cradle Song (1927), Twelfth Night (1926), The Unchastened Woman (1926), and A Man's Man (1925).[9]


On television, she made four guest appearances on Perry Mason. In 1958, she played Leona Walsh in "The Case of the Screaming Woman". In 1959, she played murderer Miriam Baker in "The Case of the Spanish Cross". In 1961, she played Miss Sarah McKay in "The Case of the Barefaced Witness", and in 1962, she played Amelia Corning in "The Case of the Mystified Miner".

In The Rifleman episode "The Prodigal" in 1960, she played Christine, outlaw Billy St. John's mother.

In Little House on the Prairie Season 1, Episode 6, "If I Should Wake Before I Die", she played Amy Hearn.

Hutchinson continued to work steadily through the 1970s in film, radio, and television, establishing a solid career in supporting roles.[10] She appeared on Rawhide in 1962 in the episode "Grandma's Money", The Twilight Zone in the episode "I Sing the Body Electric", and Gunsmoke.[11] Hutchinson appeared in "The Walton's" movie "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story" in 1971 in which she played one half of a sister duo who made moonshine whiskey, a process handed down to sisters from their jurist father, they referred to as "the recipe".

Personal life

On August 12, 1924, Hutchinson married Robert W. Bell, a stage director, in Washington, D.C.[12] In 1926, she met the actress Eva Le Gallienne, and became a member of Le Gallienne's Civic Repertory Theatre company. By 1927, the two women were involved in an affair and Hutchinson and Bell, who separated in 1928, were divorced in 1930.[13] The press quickly dubbed her Le Gallienne's "shadow", a term which at the time meant lesbian.[14][11] Both actresses survived the scandal and carried on with their respective careers.

Hutchinson and Le Gallienne were intimately involved for a number of years. Although Hutchinson was married three times, Le Gallienne never married. Hutchinson married James F. Townsend in 1935; they later divorced. Her final marriage was to actor Staats Cotsworth in 1972; he died in 1979.[11][15]


She died, aged 94, on June 4, 1998 at the Florence Nightingale Nursing Home in Manhattan.[5] Her ashes were scattered near her niece’s home at Springfield, Oregon.[16]

Select filmography


  1. Vallance, Tom (June 13, 1998). "Obituary: Josephine Hutchinson". The Independent. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  2. Fisher, James; Londré, Felicia Hardison (2017). Historical Dictionary of American Theater: Modernism. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 338. ISBN 9781538107867. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  3. Anonymous. "Alumni List". Unpublished: University of Washington Special Collections Library, Cornish School of Allied Arts Records, accession 2654-005, Box 5, folder 11; , c. 1940.
  4. Film Weekly website Archived 2007-03-12 at the Wayback Machine
  5. "Ghoul Skool".
  6. "Basil Rathbone: Master of Stage and Screen - Son of Frankenstein".
  7. "hitchcock - Search Results - Classic Film Guide".
  8. "TV Guide".
  9. "("Josephine Hutchinson" search results)". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on 11 February 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  10. Nevada Smith Archived 2006-07-15 at the Wayback Machine
  11. Vallance, Tom (June 13, 1998). "Obituary: Josephine Hutchinson". The Independent. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  12. "Actress Gets Divorce From Robert Bell". Hartford Courant. Connecticut, Hartford. Associated Press. July 9, 1930. p. 22. Retrieved February 10, 2018 via
  13. "Divorces Robert Bell", The New York Times, July 9, 1930
  14. Eva Le Gallienne bio Archived 2011-05-24 at the Wayback Machine
  15. "Deaths" (PDF). Broadcasting. April 23, 1979. p. 71. Retrieved January 7, 2016.
  16. Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Location 22857). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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