Teresa Wright was a revelation for me when I first saw her. If I can remember correctly I saw her first in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) and then Shadow of a Doubt (1943). In their day both films were quite popular and although one was a romantic drama directed by William Wyler and the other a thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Wright remained steadfast in both. She is never villainous or petty, but in all circumstances she exudes kindness. In a more innocent world where the girl next door was the dream, Teresa Wright was the perfect representation.
Although that unfairly suggests that it was all a front and Wright was actually not like that at all in real life. Such things were true of other stars, but I have no indication that they were true of her. She seemed like a genuine and humble person her entire life.
Despite being an Oscar winner* and 3 time Oscar nominee for her first three films (which is unheard of!), Ms. Wright said herself that she “only ever wanted to be an actress, not a star.”
She did not need top billing on all the marquees, she was content with just being in the movies. The amazing thing is that she saw success even if it was not what she needed. She was a reluctant star and that makes her even more appealing to audiences.
Her career undoubtedly would have kept on going strong, but she had a disagreement Samuel Goldwyn and her contract was terminated in 1948. She gladly took less money in her next roles; the falling out came partially because she had a long stipulation in her contract to preserve her modesty. In other words swim suit modeling or shots of her hair flying were not allowed. That was for other stars who were willing to bend to the studio system, but Teresa Wright was not that type of actress. She worked on her own terms.
One performance of hers that I have yet to bring up is her role as Eleanor Gehrig in The Pride of the Yankees (1942). I am not one to tear up in movies, but when I watch Wright as she begins to cry, knowing that later her husband (Gary Cooper) will die from ALS, I can barely stand it. I cannot bear anything bad happening to her because she is so innocent, this is not what she deserves, but life can be cruel.
Teresa Wright was the perfect choice for the role, going from moments of light hearted playfulness to pure anguish. She certainly tugs at the heartstrings and makes the story of the already tragic Lou Gehrig that much more impactful.
Then, I read that Ms. Wright became an avid Yankees fan later in life and I was sold! This actress who I was so enthralled by was also a baseball fan? What more could you want to solidify a legacy. She even met Babe Ruth and Eleanor Gehrig herself. That’s fantastic!
After she passed away at the age of 86 in 2005, her name was read aloud with other former Yankee players of old. She was always and forever a Yankee, but in the hearts of fans everywhere she was so much more. I hope that many others will discover her like I did back in 2011. The beauty of her career is that she rose to the apex of Hollywood only to gracefully fade away, content with what she had done.
Her filmography includes:
The Little Foxes (1941) – Starring Bette Davis, Directed by William Wyler
The Pride of the Yankees (1942) – Starring Gary Cooper, Directed by Sam Wood
Mrs. Miniver (1942) – Starring Greer Garson, Directed by William Wyler
Shadow of a Doubt (1943) – Starring Joseph Cotten, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
The Best Year of Our Lives (1946) – Starring Dana Andrew, Directed by William Wyler
Pursued (1947) – Starring Robert Mitchum, Directed by Raoul Walsh
The Men (1950) – Starring Marlon Brando, Directed by Fred Zinnemann
Inspired by this story (Not this exact article):
*She won best supporting actress for the popular WWII drama Mrs. Miniver