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Subject: ARCHIVE: February 5, 1969 ~It was 50 years ago today, veteran actress Thelma Ritter, best known for her (mainly) comedic working-class characters, usually w/strong NY accent, in such films like "Miracle on 34th St." (debut), "The Mating Season", "The Misfits", and "All About Eve", where she earned the first of her SIX 'Best Supp. Actress' Oscar nominations -no win, dies of a heart attack, a week before her 67th birthday. ...

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Date Posted: Monday, February 04, 01:49:59pm

Thelma Ritter
(February 14, 1902 February 5, 1969)

American actress, best known for her comedic roles as working-class characters and her strong New York accent. She received six Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actressfirst actress to be nominated more than any other actress in history surpassed by Glenn Close with 7 nominations and won one Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.

Early life
Thelma was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1902, the first child of Charles and Lucy Ritter, both natives of the United States. According to the New York State Census of 1905, her father at that time was a bookkeeper. Thelma's acting career began as a teenager, when she appeared in high-school plays and stock companies. She later received formal training at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Although she subsequently struggled to establish a stage career, Ritter decided to take a hiatus from acting to raise her two childrenMonica and Joeby her husband Joseph Moran (whom she married in 1927), who was also an actor, but changed professions in the mid-1930s, opting to become an agent and then an advertising executive.

Ritter did stock theater and radio shows early in her career. Her Broadway credits include UTBU (1965), New Girl in Town (1956), In Times Square (1931), and The Shelf (1926).

...Ritter's first movie role was in Miracle on 34th Street (1947). She made a memorable impression in a brief uncredited part, as a frustrated mother unable to find the toy that Kris Kringle has promised her son. Her third role, in writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's A Letter to Three Wives (1949), left a mark, although Ritter was again uncredited. Mankiewicz kept Ritter in mind, and cast her as Birdie in All About Eve (1950), which earned her an Oscar nomination.

A second nomination followed for her work in Mitchell Leisen's' ensemble screwball comedy The Mating Season (1951) starring Gene Tierney and John Lund. She enjoyed steady film work for the next dozen years, in many films like "As Young As You Feel", starring Monty Wooley.

She appeared in many of the episodic drama TV series of the 1950s, such as
Alfred Hitchcock Presents, General Electric Theater, and The United States Steel Hour.


...Other film roles were as James Stewart's nurse in Rear Window (1954) and as Doris Day's maid in Pillow Talk (1959). Although best known for comedy roles, she played the occasional dramatic role, most notably in With a Song in My Heart (1952), Pickup on South Street (1953), Titanic (1953), The Misfits (1961), and Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) as Robert Stroud's (Burt Lancaster) mother (with heavy aging make-up), for which she received her final Oscar nomination.

Her last work was an appearance on The Jerry Lewis Show on January 23, 1968.
Ritter died of a heart attack in New York City, nine days before her 67th birthday.

Awards and nominations
During her career, Ritter was nominated for an Oscar six times, giving her the distinction of being one of the three actresses (tied with Deborah Kerr and Glenn Close) most nominated for the award in an acting category without a win. The current record for all actors is Peter O'Toole with eight nominations without a win, followed by Richard Burton with seven nominations. Both Kerr and O'Toole received honorary awards from the Academy, however. In 1954, Thelma Ritter co-hosted the Oscar ceremony, notably trading wisecracks with Bob Hope.


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