Agnes Moorehead

Active - 1941 - 1973  |   Born - Dec 6, 1900 in Clinton, Massachusetts, United States  |   Died - Apr 30, 1974 in Rochester, MN  |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography

At age three Agnes Moorehead first appeared onstage, and at 11 she made her professional debut in the ballet and chorus of the St. Louis Opera. As a teenager she regularly sang on local radio. She earned a Ph.D. in literature and studied theater at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She began playing small roles on Broadway in 1928; shortly thereafter she shifted her focus to radio acting, becoming a regular on the radio shows March of Time, Cavalcade of America, and a soap opera series. She toured in vaudeville from 1933-36 with Phil Baker. In 1940 she joined Orson Welles's Mercury Theater Company, giving a great boost to her career. Moorehead debuted onscreen as Kane's mother in Welles' film Citizen Kane (1941). Her second film was Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), for which she received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination; ultimately she was nominated for an Oscars five times, never winning. In films, she tended to play authoritarian, neurotic, puritanical, or soured women, but also played a wide range of other roles, and was last onscreen in 1972. In the '50s she toured the U.S. with a stellar cast giving dramatic readings of Shaw's Don Juan in Hell. In 1954 she began touring in The Fabulous Redhead, a one-woman show she eventually took to over 200 cities across the world. She was also active on TV; later audiences remember her best as the witch Endora, Elizabeth Montgomery's mother, in the '60s TV sitcom Bewitched. Moorehead's last professional engagement was in the Broadway musical Gigi. She died of lung cancer in 1974. She was married to actors John Griffith Lee (1930-52) and Robert Gist (1953-58).

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Factsheet

  • Her father was a Presbyterian minister.
  • Made her professional stage debut at 11 as a ballet dancer performing with the St. Louis Municipal Opera.
  • Briefly became a high school teacher before shifting her focus to acting.
  • Met Orson Welles when they appeared together on radio programs and joined his Mercury Theater on the Air Company.
  • Her first film role was playing the mother of Orson Welles' character in 1941's Citizen Kane.
  • In 1954, began touring worldwide in her one-woman show, The Fabulous Redhead.
  • Best known for her role as Endora on the television series Bewitched (1964-72).
  • Was rumored to have developed cancer from filming The Conquerer downwind from a nuclear test site.