Subject: ARCHIVE: April 16, 1968 ~It was 50 years ago today, Hollywood lost one of its finest actresses in veteran player Fay Bainter, who built a 30 year career in film, earning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for "Jezebel", and is one of the few actresses to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, dies at 74. ...
Bio & PHOTO
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Date Posted:Monday, April 16, 01:03:27pm
American film and stage actress, thrice nominated for Oscars; earning nominations for
'Best Actress in a Leading Role' in "White Banners" (1938), 'Best Actress in a Supporting Role'
in "The Children's Hour (1961), and EARNING the Academy Award for 'Best Supporting Actress'
for "Jezebel" (1938), and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. ...
Early Life ...
She was born ay Okell Bainter in Los Angeles, CA, the daughter of Charles F. Bainter and Mary Okell. Bainter's career began as a skilled child performer in 1898. By 1910, she was a traveling stage actress. She made her first appearance on stage in 1908 in The County Chairman at Morosco's Theater in Burbank, CA., as a member of the traveling cast of the Morosco Stock Company. Bainter made her Broadway debut was in the role of 'Celine Marinter' in "The Rose of Panama" (1912). In 1912, she made her Broadway debut in 'The Rose of Panama', but this and her subsequent play 'The Bridal Path' (1913), were conspicuous failures. She continued in stock and, after forming an association with David Belasco, took another swing at Broadway. She had her first hit with a dynamic performance, which established her as major theatrical star, as Ming Toy in 'East is West', at the Astor Theatre (1918-1920).
...She appeared in a number of successful plays in New York like East is West, The Willow Tree, and Dodsworth. Alternating between comedy and melodrama, Fay then shone in 'The Enemy' (1925-26) with Walter Abel and gave an outstanding performance of mid-life crisis as the desperate Fran Dodsworth ('Dodsworth',1934-35), opposite Walter Huston as her husband Sam. Fay never had the chance to recreate her stage role on screen - Ruth Chatterton got the part instead.
At the same time, now aged 41, MGM persuaded her for films,
and was offered a role in her first motion picture, "This Side of Heaven" (1934),
starring opposite Lionel Barrymore, this was the first of many thoughtful,
understanding wives, aunts and mothers she was to play over the next twenty years.
The same year she appeared in Dodsworth on Broadway and in the film It Happened One Day (July 1934).
While not often top-billed, her name remained consistently high in the list of credits throughout her career.
Critics applauded her sterling performances in productions like "Make Way for Tomorrow" (1937),
and "Quality Street" (1937), as Katharine Hepburn's excitable spinster sister. ...
In 1938's "Jezebel", Bainter was cast as Bette Davis' stern, reproving Aunt Belle, excelling in the
somewhat meatier role, than the genteel or fluttery ladies she had previously been engaged to portray. ...
...That same year, she was also nominated (as Best Actress) for her housekeeper, Hannah Parmalee, in White Banners (1938), but lost to Bette Davis. Since then, only nine other actors have earned DUAL nominations in a single year. Soon after, A change in the Academy Awards nominating and voting rules was made because of confusion over her two nominations in 1938. But, Bainter quickly achieved success, with Bainter becoming the first performer nominated in the same year for both the Academy Award for Best Actress, for White Banners (1938), and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, for Jezebel (1938), winning for the latter.
Bainter was only the third actress to earn 'Best Supporting' Oscar
statuette to be awarded after the catagories conception in 1936. ...
And the following year, it was Bainter who made history again with the distinction of being the
first to present actress Hattie McDaniel, Oscar's first African-American Academy Award recipient. ...
In 1940, she played 'Mrs. Gibbs' wife of Thomas MItchell's 'Mr. Gibbs' in the film production
of the Thornton Wilder play, "Our Town", with a young William Holden, in his first credited role. ...
Fay enhanced many more films with her presence during the 1940's, notably as 'Mrs. Elvira Wiggs', in "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch" (1942), Merle Oberon's eccentric aunt from the bayou in "Dark Waters" (1944) and Danny Kaye's mother in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (1947).
Through the 1940s & 50's, she alternated stage with acting on television. In 1945 she played 'Melissa Frake' in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, "State Fair", with her last stage role of note was as 'Mary Tyrone' in Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey into Night", on tour with the National Company in 1958. By the later 1950s, Bainter appeared in countless small screen projects, with many TV anthology series, like Lux Video Theatre, Robert Montgomery Presents, and Studio One in Hollywood, among others.
...Her final feature film role was as the memorable 'Mrs. Amelia Tilford' concerned grandmother to a troublesome girl in the controversial "The Children's Hour" (1961), directed by veteran William Wyler, and starring Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine. The successful infamous Lillian Hellman play originally opened at the Maxine Elliott's Theatre on November 20, 1934, and ran for 691 performances. The role of 'Mrs. Tilford' was originally given to veteran Cathleen Nesbitt, but the role that went to Bainter. And to her fortunate luck, as Bainter left her film career on top, AGAIN nominated for an Academy Award as 'Best Supporting Actress' (losing to Ria Moreno for "West Side Story"). After her final big screen exit, Bainter appeared in only a few TV projects -"Dr. Kildare", "The Donna Reed Show (TV Series), and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour -in her last screen appearance in Spring 1965, finally retiring not long after the death of her husband, the previous Fall.
She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood. ...
Personal life ...
Fay Bainter married Reginald Sydney Hugh Venable (1890-1964), a lieutenant commander in the United States Navyon June 8, 1921, in Riverside, California. It's said Reginald Venable was struck with Bainter, the first time he saw her on the stage, and in 1918, they met. They were engaged for a year before getting married in the Summer of 1920. They did not announce their wedding until the next year. So enamored was a young Reginald Venable, he made the news when he broke Navy regulations by using the destroyer he was in charge of for his own personal use. He redirected the destroyer so that he could be the first to meet Fay's steamer that was returning from a trip she had taken to Europe. Navy secretary Daniels was lenient and smilingly said that Reginald was just "a young man courting." Later Venable resigned from the Navy in 1925 as a Lieutenant Commander, had managed his wife's business affairs and had been a real-estate operator. The couple had one son, Reginald Venable Jr. (1926–1974), who became an actor. Bainter was the aunt of actress Dorothy Burgess.
On April 16, 1968, Fay Bainter, 74, died in Los Angeles, CA, and was eulogized at a memorial service at All Saints' Episcopal Church
in Beverly Hills, CA. As her husband was a United States Navy Officer, the couple are interred at Arlington National Cemetery. ...