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Subject: ARCHIVE: April 7, 2001 ~Acclaimed Award-winning actress of stage and screen Beatrice Straight, mainly known for her stage talents, earning a TONY in 1953, and her film efforts (though sporatic) earning an Oscar in 1977 for "Network" (for 5 min/2sec. of screen time, making it the shortest performance for an Oscar), dies at 86. ...

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Date Posted: Saturday, April 07, 06:52:42pm

American theatre, film and television actress and a member of the prominent Whitney family,
and was an Academy Award and Tony Award winner as well as an Emmy Award nominee. ...

Beatrice Straight
[ Beatrice Whitney Straight ]
(August 2, 1914 – April 7, 2001)

Straight made her Broadway debut in 1939 in The Possessed. Her other Broadway roles included Viola in Twelfth Night (1941), Catherine Sloper in The Heiress (1947) and Lady Macduff in Macbeth (1948). For her role as Elizabeth Proctor in the 1953 production of Arthur Millers "The Crucible", she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. For the 1976 film Network, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She was on screen for five minutes and two seconds, the shortest performance ever to win an Academy Award for acting. She also received an Emmy Award nomination for the 1978 miniseries The Dain Curse. Straight also appeared as Mother Christophe in The Nun's Story (1959) and Dr. Lesh in Poltergeist (1982).

Early life ...
Beatrice Whitney Straight was born in Old Westbury, New York, the daughter of Dorothy Payne Whitney, of the Whitney family, and Willard Dickerman Straight, an investment banker, diplomat, and career U.S. Army officer. Her maternal grandfather was political leader and financier William Collins Whitney. In 1918, when Straight was four years old, her father died in France of influenza during the great epidemic while serving with the US Army during World War I. Following her mother's remarriage to British agronomist Leonard K. Elmhirst in 1925, the family moved to Devon England. It was there that Straight was educated at Dartington Hall and began acting in amateur theater productions. In the 1930s, she attended the Cornish School in Seattle where many of her teachers at Dartington Hall were from and to which both she and her mother became major benefactors. Straight was also cousin of fashion designer/socialite Gloria Vanderbilt, who was once married to director Sidney Lumet, who would later direct Straight to an Oscar-winning performance in "Network" (1976).

Career ...

...Straight returned to the United States and made her Broadway debut in 1939 in the play The Possessed. Most of her theater work was in the classics, including Twelfth Night (1941), Macbeth, and Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" (1953), for which she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. From its inception, Straight was a member of the Actors Studio, attending the class conducted three times weekly by founding member Robert Lewis; her classmates included Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Jerome Robbins, Sidney Lumet, and about 20 others.

Straight, seen here with Arthur Kennedy and E.G. Marshall, in her TONY award winning
role as 'Elizabeth Proctor', on Broadway, in Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" in 1953. ...

Beatrice Straight, seen here with Wesley Addey,
and Victor Garber, in Henrik Ibsen's "Ghosts, in 1973. ...

Straight was active in the early days of television, appearing in anthology series such as Armstrong Circle Theatre, Hallmark Hall of Fame, Kraft Television Theatre, Studio One, Suspense, The United States Steel Hour, Playhouse 90, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents and dramatic series like Dr. Kildare, Ben Casey, The Defenders, Route 66, Mission: Impossible, and St. Elsewhere. Further television performances include the role of Hippolyta in the Wonder Woman series, and Marion Hillyard, the icy, controlling mother of Stephen Collins in The Promise.

Straight worked infrequently in film, with her debut coming in Jean Negulesco' "Phone Call from a Stranger" as 'Claire Fortness' widow of Michael Rennie, after an ill-fated plane crashes, killing him. The story leaves a sole survivor (Gary Merrill), who spends the following days contacted the families of his he met on his flight. Her next film followed in 1956 in Rod Serling's "Patterns" in a supporting but memorable performance as Van Heflin's wife. ...

Though busy on the NY stage in the 1950s, she did many early TV efforts, with only a handful of feature films that followed "Patterns". They include "The Silken Affair" (1956), "The Nun's Story" (1959), and "The Young Lovers" in 1964. But it was her next film, a decade later, for which Straight is remembered best. The role as a devastated wife confronting husband William Holden's infidelity in "Network" (1976). She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance which, at five minutes and two seconds, remains the shortest ever to win an Oscar. ...

Her most widely seen film appearance after Network was the role of the paranormal
investigator Dr. Martha Lesh in the 1982 horror film, "Poltergeist". ...

Other feature films that followed include "Two of a Kind" (1983), and 1986's "Power" -reuniting with director Sidney Lumet.
Her final film appearance was playing Goldie Hawn's mother in the thriller "Deceived" (1991). Her role was a mere five seconds long.

Personal life ...
On February 22, 1942, Straight married Louis Dolivet, Free French Leader, in Polk County, Iowa. At the time, Dolivet was a speaker at the National Farm Institute and Straight was in the middle of the mid-west road show of Twelfth Night. Her mother, Dorothy Elmhirst and stepfather, Leonard K. Elmhirst attended the wedding, along with her brother Michael Straight and his wife, Belinda Crompton. Dolivet was in the French Air Force until June 1940 and was the co-editor of The Free World, a magazine published by the International Free World Association, of which he was secretary general. At the time of the wedding, her elder brother, Whitney Straight, had been missing since August 1941, when his plane was shot down on the French coast. Straight obtained a divorce from Dolivet in Reno, Nevada on May 24, 1949. Together they had one child, Willard Whitney Straight Dolivet (1945-1952).

Heartbreakingly, in 1952, her 7-year-old son, Willard, from her first marriage, accidentally drowned in a pond on their farm in Armonk while playing in a small row boat tied to the dock. The boy was found by Straight's second husband, Cookson. The boy's father, Dolivet, who was living in Paris at the time, was refused a visa and, therefore, unable to fly to the United States to attend the funeral, because of his alleged pro-communist activities, which he denied.

...In 1948, while starring in the Broadway production of "The Heiress", an adaptation of Henry James's Washington Square, she met Peter Cookson, who she was acting opposite. They married in 1949 and remained married until Cookson's death in 1990. Peter had two children from his previous marriage, Peter Cookson, Jr. and Jane Coopland (née Cookson). Together, Straight and Cookson had two children: Gary Cookson, and Anthony "Tony" Cookson.

Her brother Michael Straight was publisher of "The New Republic." He was married three times. His second wife was Nina Auchincloss Steers, writer and step-sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and the half-sister of writer Gore Vidal. Her other brother Whitney Willard Straight was a noted race car driver who later headed up the British Overseas Airway Corporation. Also made news for being the youngest licensed pilot ever in England (age 16).

...Straight reportedly suffered from Alzheimer's disease in her last years.
In 2001, she died from pneumonia in Northridge, Los Angeles, at the age of 86.
Her interment was at William Henry Lee Memorial Cemetery in New Marlborough, Massachusetts.

Links ...

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