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Subject: ARCHIVE: June 20, 1984 ~Veteran character actress ESTELLE WINWOOD, whose career began on turn-of-the-century stage through the 1940s, on to early Hollywood films, but made her biggest successful screen career of the 1950s & 60s like "Elmer Gantry", "Dead Ringer", "The Producers", and "Murder By Death", and TV's "Twilight Zone", "Bewitched", enjoying her celebrity until the day she died at 101. ...

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Date Posted: Saturday, June 20, 05:23:30pm

English stage and film actress who moved to the United States
in mid-career and became celebrated for her wit and longevity. ...

Estelle Winwood
[ Estelle Ruth Goodwin ]
24 January 1883 – 20 June 1984)

Early life and early career ...
Born Estelle Ruth Goodwin in 1883 in Lee, Hundred of Blackheath, Kent, she decided at the age of five that she wanted to be an actress.
With her mother's support, but her father's disapproval, she trained with the Lyric Stage Academy in London, before making her professional
debut in Johannesburg at the age of 20. During the First World War, she joined the Liverpool Repertory Company before moving on to a career in London's West End.

Broadway and West End career ...

...She moved to the U.S. in 1916 and made her Broadway début in New York City. Until the beginning of the 1930s, she divided her time between New York City and London. Throughout her career, her first love was the theatre; and, as the years passed, she appeared less frequently in London and became a frequent performer on Broadway, appearing in such plays as A Successful Calamity (1917), A Little Journey (1918), Spring Cleaning (1923), The Distaff Side (1934), The Importance of Being Earnest (which she also directed, 1939), When We Are Married (1939), Ladies in Retirement (1940), The Pirate (1942), Ten Little Indians (1944), Lady Windermere's Fan (1947), and The Madwoman of Chaillot (1948).

A reluctant film and television actress ...
Like many stage actors of her era, she expressed a distaste for films and resisted the offers she received during the 1920s. Finally, she relented and made her film début in Night Angel (1931), but her scenes were cut before the film's release. Her official film début came in The House of Trent (1933), and Quality Street (1937) was her first role of note. She made no cinematic films during the 1940s, but expressed a willingness to participate in the new medium of television, starring in a television production of Blithe Spirit in 1946. During the 1950s, she appeared more frequently in television than she did in film in such series as Robert Montgomery Presents, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Donna Reed Show. She played the character Hortense in the episode "Where's There's a Will" (August 30, 1960) on the ABC sitcom The Real McCoys starring Walter Brennan. Her few films from that period include The Glass Slipper (1955), The Swan (1956), and 23 Paces to Baker Street (1956).

Her other film credits include Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959), The Misfits (1961), The Magic Sword (1962),
The Notorious Landlady (1962), Dead Ringer (1964), Camelot (1967) and The Producers (1967). ...

...Her other work for television included guest roles in The Twilight Zone, Dennis the Menace, Thriller, Dr. Kildare, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Name of the Game, Bewitched, Batman, Love, American Style, Cannon, Police Story, The FBI, and the last episode of Perry Mason, titled "The Case of the Final Fade-Out", in which she plays an aging actress who ends up as a second defendant. Estelle Winwood also appeared in Barnaby Jones; episode titled "Murder in the Doll's House" (03/25/1973).

...Winwood's final film appearance, at age 92 in "Murder by Death (1976), was as Elsa Lanchester's character's ancient nursemaid. In this film, she joined other veteran actors spoofing some of the most popular detective characters in murder mysteries on film and television (Dick and Dora Charleston, Jessica Marbles, etc.). -She later denigrated that last film, saying she could not imagine why she had done it except for the money.

...When she took on her final major television role in a 1979 TV episode of "Quincy", she officially became, at age 96,
the oldest actor working in the U.S., narrowly beating fellow British actress Ethel Griffies. She continued making appearances
until she was 100 years old When she died at age 101, she was the oldest member in the history of the Screen Actors Guild.

Personal life ...
Winwood was married four times, including successful theatre director, film director and producer Guthrie McClintic, character actor Arthur Chesney, a New Zealand rancher, and American actor Robert Henderson in 1944 in NYC, a man many years her junior, from whom Winwood lived apart in her later life, though he would visit her several times a year. Winwood and Henderson would divorce in California in 1977. Winwood had no children by any of her marriages.

She was very good friends with Tallulah Bankhead, who died in 1968. ...

...Bankhead, actresses Eva Le Gallienne and Blyth Daly, and she were dubbed "The Four Riders of the Algonquin" in the early silent film days, because of their appearances together at the Algonquin Round Table. Winwood appeared as a character in Answered Prayers, Truman Capote's final, unfinished, thinly veiled roman à clef. In the novel, which uses her real name, she attends a drunken dinner party with Bankhead, Dorothy Parker, Montgomery Clift, and the novel's narrator, P.B. Jones.

Here is a RARE TV interview on "The Merv Griffin Show" in 1979, at age 96. ...

By the 1970's and 80s, as old friends grew sick and died off, Winwood amazed many reaching her centennial milestone in 1983, topped by a star-studded 100th birthday. As she was asked "how it felt to have lived so long"? Her response was, "How rude of you to remind me!" Old friend Bette Davis, a co-star from Dead Ringer, was in attendence and was photographed at Winwood's side on the occasion in Hollywood, California. -Winwood & Davis scene in "Dead Ringer" (1964). ...

Estelle Winwood died in her sleep at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital, in Woodland Hills, California, on June 20, 1984. She was 101, and was one of the oldest living Hollywood actors in its history at that time. Services for her cremated remains were held at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery Chapel, though there is no evidence she was laid to rest in the cemetery.

Links ...

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Subject Author Date
James Cromwell, Maggie Smith & Richard Narita are the last living actors from "Murder By Death" (1976) (NT).Sunday, June 21, 11:47:15am

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