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Barbara Bel Geddes Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (5) | Trivia (77) | Personal Quotes (37)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 31 October 1922New York City, New York, USA
Date of Death 8 August 2005Northeast Harbor, Maine, USA  (lung cancer)
Height 5' 3½" (1.61 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Arguably best remembered for her role as Miss Ellie, the Ewing family matriarch on the long-running TV series Dallas (1978), Barbara Bel Geddes had earlier scored success on stage and screen long before gaining more lasting fame on television. Born in New York City on Halloween Day 1922, the daughter of noted theatrical and industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes, who staged more than 200 plays. After growing up amidst the theatre, Bel Geddes began acting on stage at age 18 and soon moved on to Broadway. The silver screen also beckoned, making her film debut in The Long Night (1947). She was quickly labeled a star, gracing the cover of Life magazine on April 12, 1948. Her third motion picture, I Remember Mama (1948), garnered Bel Geddes an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. Other notable films include Panic in the Streets (1950) directed by Elia Kazan; Alfred Hitchcock's classic mystery-thriller Vertigo (1958) with James Stewart and Kim Novak; and The Five Pennies (1959) opposite Danny Kaye. Though she achieved immediate success in films, Bel Geddes also continued to tread the boards on Broadway, since theatre was her first love. In 1952, she received the prestigious Woman of the Year Award by Hasty Pudding Theatricals USA, America's oldest theater company. She was nominated for Tony Awards as best dramatic actress for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1956 and for the lead in Mary, Mary in 1961. Bel Geddes made several TV appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955) and other programs in the mid-50s, but her greatest television role came as Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow on Dallas (1978), which enjoyed a run of 13 years (1978-1991). She won the Emmy Award for best actress in 1980 and was nominated in the same category in 1979 and 1981. Bel Geddes left the show for health reasons during the 1984-85 season, with Donna Reed taking over the role of Miss Ellie. Bel Geddes returned for the 1985-86 season and continued on Dallas (1978) until 1990, when she effectively retired from acting. She did not appear in either of the two Dallas TV reunion movies. On August 8, 2005, she died following a long illness.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Lisa Kelly Eason <lisakellyeason@yahoo.com>

Spouse (2)

Windsor Lewis (15 April 1951 - 15 May 1972) (his death) (1 child)
Carl Schreuer (24 January 1944 - 1951) (divorced) (1 child)

Trade Mark (5)

Characters were usually part of a grand, dysfunctional family
Soft-spoken, sincere voice
Short stature.
Usually played women who either become engaged or get married.
New York Accent.

Trivia (77)

She played Maggie the Cat in the original Broadway production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Elizabeth Taylor garnered the role in the Hollywood film version - Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)).
Daughters, Susan and Betsy.
Daughter of stage designer/art director Norman Bel Geddes and Helen Belle Sneider Geddes.
Stepdaughter of famous theatrical costumer designer Edith Lutyens-Bel Geddes
At age 16 she was kicked out of the fancy Putney Finishing School in New England for being a disruptive influence.
Had 5 grandchildren: Samantha, Hannah, Joshua, Maggie, and Oliver.
Designed stationery for Caspari and Crane in her retirement years.
Spent her retirement years in Northeast Harbor, Maine up until her death.
Operated on for breast cancer in 1971/72, and relived the experience in Dallas (1978) when Miss Ellie underwent a mastectomy.
She played the showgirl in The Sleeping Prince on Broadway. Marilyn Monroe garnered the role in the Hollywood film version - The Prince and the Showgirl (1957).
She played the lead in Mary, Mary on Broadway. Debbie Reynolds garnered the role in the Hollywood film version - Mary, Mary (1963).
Was twice nominated for Broadway's best dramatic actress Tony Award: in 1956 for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and in 1961 for Mary, Mary.
A longtime smoker, she was forced to quit by her doctors after her heart attack in March 1984.
Her future Dallas (1978) co-star's, Patrick Duffy's father-in-law, worked with her father Norman Bel Geddes, long before Duffy's future wife saw her in a Broadway play.
Was the first and only choice to audition for the role of Miss Ellie Ewing on Dallas (1978).
Prior to her retirement, she was the best-selling author of 2 children's books.
Best remembered by the public for her starring role as Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow on Dallas (1978).
Made her Broadway debut when she was 18.
She attended Putney School, a private school in Putney, Vermont.
Like her ex-Dallas (1978) co-star, Larry Hagman, Bel Geddes was also a heavy smoker for years, which eventually lead to her heart attack, decades before being diagnosed with lung cancer, which claimed her life.
Before she was a successful actress, she used to work at a summer stock as an apprentice in Clinton, Connecticut.
Of Scottish-German ancestry by her father.
She did not appear in two Dallas (1978) reunion movies, nor Dallas Reunion: Return to Southfork (2004), just the year before her death.
Left Dallas (1978) at the end of the seventh season, due to health problems. She came back at the beginning of the ninth season until she retired from acting in 1990.
Graduated from Andrewbrook, an all-girls French convent school, in Tarrytown, New York, in 1940.
After her long role on Dallas (1978), she retired from acting at age 67.
Her mother died when she was only age 15, at that time, she moved in with her father in Putney, Vermont.
Her parents, Norman Bel Geddes and Helen (Belle) Sneider, were married in Toledo, Ohio, in 1916, almost 7 years before they had her.
Her last name 'Bel Geddes' was described as a theatrical flourish, while another called it 'an act of prehistoric feminism.'.
Followed in her father's and her sister's footsteps in becoming an author.
Her older sister, Joan, died on September 4, 2001, at age 84. Her sister worked worked in a 4-year stint as a researcher and theatrical assistant for their father.
Her parents were originally from both Michigan and Ohio.
Stepmother, Edith Lutyens Bel Geddes died on August 16, 2002, at age 95.
Before her first birthday, her father's revolutionary vision as a set designer led to a pivotal collaboration with Max Rheinhardt in the theatrical production of 'The Miracle.'.
Her father married twice more, just before Norman's death in 1958.
She and the rest of her Dallas (1978) cast, attended the funeral of her one-time co-star and best friend, Jim Davis, on 1 May 1981.
Upon her death, she was cremated and her ashes were scattered from a simple wooden boat into the harbor waters bordering her home.
Like her father, Bel Geddes was also born in New York.
Was referred by Dallas (1978)'s co-stars, Larry Hagman's and Patrick Duffy's characters to both call her 'Mama.'.
Was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame, located in the Gershwin Theatre in New York City, in 1993, a distinction she shared with her father, stage and industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes.
Met her first husband, Carl Schreuer, after failing to get a contract for movie roles.
When she attended Putney School, she had displayed no dramatic talent whatsoever.
Her hobbies included spending time with family, dining, gardening, painting, drawing, traveling and taking care of farm animals.
Her parents were separated when she was only 4, she, her father and her sister moved to Millburn, New Jersey.
Had appeared in her first movie at age 24.
Went into semi-retirement in the late 1960s to take care of her dying husband.
Was a breast cancer survivor.
She died only 9 months after her Dallas (1978) co-star Howard Keel.
Was a spokesperson for Campbell's Soup Products in 1985.
Survived by 2 daughters and 3 grandchildren.
Theater ran in her family.
Had appeared in nearly each and every episode of Dallas (1978), for 6 1/2 yrs, until 1983 when she suffered a heart attack, and left temporarily in 1984. The following year, she came back, a second time, who appeared in nearly every show, until she left, for good, in 1990, to enjoy her quiet retirement.
Before she was a successful actress, she alongside an experienced actress, Carol Goodner, once did a commercial for Lux Soap, in Bel Geddes's early career.
Worked with Patrick Duffy's wife's (Carolyn Rosser) father in her first Broadway play, The Moon is Blue. Patrick Duffy later played her youngest son in the long-running series Dallas (1978).
Received the Theatre World Award and the Clarence Derwent Award in 1946 for her first mature performance in Deep Are the Roots, directed by Elia Kazan.
Began her career as a contract player for RKO Pictures in 1946.
Life Magazine named her 'Hollywood's Most Attractive New Star' on April 12, 1948.
In the book "Dallas: The Complete Story of the World's Favorite Prime-Time Soap" by Barbara A. Curran, producer Leonard Katzman said that at the time no one was looking for big-name actors. When asked what attracted her to the young serial, the actress said: "I needed a job and I needed to make some money.".
She had the following animals: ducks, geese, fish, turtles and goats.
Bel Geddes was the only cast member of the original Dallas (1978) series to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, as well as a Golden Globe Award.
When she left Dallas (1978) in 1984, her co-star Larry Hagman suggested that his real-life mother Mary Martin replaced her in the same role, when Bel Geddes was temporarily replaced by Donna Reed.
At a young age, she spent a lot of time with her father, who was involved in hundreds of theater productions in many capacities.
She commuted from her farm house in New York to Los Angeles every weekend for 13 years while starring in Dallas (1978).
Acting mentor and friends of Patrick Duffy, Victoria Principal and Charlene Tilton.
Played Larry Hagman's mother on Dallas (1978), in real-life, Bel Geddes was 9 years Hagman's senior.
Although her income from Dallas (1978) should have been enough to leave her financially secure, a $9 million lawsuit against her agent forced her to file for bankruptcy.
Lived on a farm house, in Ellenville, New York, from 1962 to 1990.
Was David Jacobs's first and only choice for the female starring role as Miss Ellie Ewing on Dallas (1978). She accepted the job only because she was flat broke, much due in part of her savings after her husband's death, six years earlier.
Left acting temporarily to take care of her ailing husband, Windsor Lewis. Lewis died in 1972.
Served as honorary chairperson and enthusiastic supporter of Lifeline for Wildlife, Inc., a nonprofit organization founded in 1978, by her daughter, Betsy Lewis.
She did not participate in the Dallas Reunion: Return to Southfork (2004) because she was too ill to attend. She delivered a telegram to the cast. She died the following year.
Bel Geddes received the prestigious Woman of the Year Award by Hasty Pudding Theatricals USA, America's oldest theater company in 1952.
Her father Norman Bel Geddes staged more than 200 plays.
Lived in Los Angeles, California, from 1947 to 1951, and again from 1958 to 1962.
Began working on Dallas (1978) when she was age 55.
A private person.

Personal Quotes (37)

I'm not very well-bred and I'm not much of a lady.
I'm a dull girl, I guess, because I like to do mundane things. I like to putter things around the house, draw, raise geraniums and I can't let an avocado pit go into the garbage. I have to try to make it grow into a tree.
[on the Mastectomy storyline]: When the producer asked me if I would mind having Ellie discover a malignant lump on her breast, I thought, 'No, this time, I won't mind.'
[In 1979]: You learn to live with it. That's how I like to help, if I can, by talking about it - to say there's hope and not to give up. You do get well. You are able to laugh about it and make jokes about it.
[In 1986]: That quote got under my skin. If you fret about tomorrow so much that you dare not live today, then, how wise are you?
[When she learned of Donna Reed's firing from Dallas (1978)]: I certainly wouldn't do anything to harm Donna. I think she's a lovely lady and a wonderful actress, and everyone was grateful when she stepped in. And, as an actress, I would not appreciate being told I was being replaced the way she was.
[Who was aware of her deceased TV star (Jim Davis), who encouraged her to stay on Dallas (1978) for the entire run]: I miss Jim terribly. When I became ill, I started to consider whether I would ever return to the show.
Mother Teresa is one of my heroines.
[In 1951]: I think that was cute of R.K.O.
[In 1966]: I was never the Jane Russell type, although no one claimed my Maggie the Cat in 'Cat on a Hat Tin Roof,' lacked sex appeal.
[In 1985]: I haven't seen it for a couple of months, so they are sending me a load of tapes, so I can catch up with all the action. I'm afraid all I've been doing for the past few weeks is enjoying myself, puttering about doing things like painting the house and watching my goose, who's about to hatch her eggs any day now?
[Who said in 1989 about her deceased co-star (Jim Davis) as to how he would encourage her to stay on Dallas (1978), if he was around]: Just as I was pondering the future, I heard his voice saying, 'Stick with the show; the others need you.' I looked across the room and saw Jim's face reflected in the glass. He was telling me what to do - guiding me down the right path as he had in life.
[Who shuddered after hearing about one of the Dallas (1978) reunion movies]: They'll make it without me, I'm not going through that again!
I sometimes wonder if whoever invented the boomerang also invented the credit card.
[With the encouragement of her doctors, she stopped smoking]: I have to do something with my hands.
[Who talked about training]: You have to treat yourself like an athlete. You're always in training. You have to save yourself for those hours on the stage or before the cameras, when you'll need every bit of energy you possess.
[In 1959]: When I first started, I thought it would be all fun - like appearing in a high school play. I didn't realize the discipline involved.
[In 1980]: Self-examination was a term I never even heard of, even after I realized I had the lump. I ignored it until it just became too painful.
[In 1982]: We must not ignore the wild animals. I'll do anything I can to help.
[on her popularity while playing the sixty-something Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow on Dallas]: It's absolutely ridiculous. Ellie is no lush and the viewers would never believe that she could become one.
[In doing a scene with Jim Davis sitting down]: I'm so sorry, I thought I had that line off pat.
[In 1998]: I know all about the human soul, and this is what good for mine. That's why I'm here.
[Who said in 1996 when she had no choice other than to sell her 200-year-old farmhouse near New York City, where he deceased husband lived]: I'll be happy to live here until I die.
I plan to go back to my farm in upstate New York where I've lived for 35 years. It's a typical 'Back East' country house and I have some farm animals like ducks and geese.
[Where the ghost came to her dressing room about Jim Davis]: I told him, 'Jim, rest easy - our kids are doing just fine and I am, too.' Then, he faded away.
I'll be harrowing, but it's worth it. I'll have to commute - I hate to be away from here.
[Who said in 1988 of her second husband (Windsor Lewis) dying of cancer, 16 years earlier]: I knew he was dying, but he didn't. I was too concerned about him to think about my lump. I thought my surgery was for a biopsy, but when I came around, the doctor said: 'I had to play a mean trick on you ...' I said: 'I know - my breast is gone. A serious illness like this opens your mind to what's important in life - and it isn't riches and fames.
[Who refused scriptwriters' ideas to have her Miss Ellie cheating on her husband, scheming with her own sons or even turning to demonic drinking]: Dallas' fans around the world have come to accept Miss Ellie as a caring, loving wife and mother and that's the way I want her to stay.
I'm ready to leave and just play for a while.
[Who said in 1983 prior to recovering from her major heart operation]: There was a time when I didn't think I would be back on the show.
I loved the entertainment industry, but that's in the past and I don't miss it at all.
[Who said in 1987, in one of her movies, she remembered the late Howard Hughes sacked her, who also told her she wasn't sexy enough]: It was a crushing blow. Who wants to be told that?
[on the death of Jim Davis]: One evening I was alone in my dressing room when I felt a draft and turned to see Jim's ghostly figure passing through the closed door. He smiled reassuringly and then disappeared.
I want to quit and just play, which I have never been able to do my whole life. I've just worked. Now I want to read and bird-watch and do my drawing.
[As to why she retired from her roles on television, esp. Dallas (1978), when Larry Hagman drove her away from the show]: Larry has stabbed me in the back. I've been betrayed by the person I thought was my best friend. He's as devious and cruel as when he plays J.R. I'm sure he's only doing it to save money.
[In 1990 of the success of Dallas (1978)]: I never believed Dallas would become the hit it was. While I'm happy it was a success financially and career-wise for the young actors, I was hopelessly typecast from then on, which really put an end to my career outside the show.
[on her Dallas (1978) character]: Miss Ellie loved her boys. Bobby (Patrick Duffy) was special to her, a favourite, with Gary Ewing the black sheep and the wonderfully ruthless and so very often heartless JR her mainstay, but who gave Miss Ellie the most sleepless nights.

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