Judith Anderson

Active - 1933 - 2004  |   Born - Feb 10, 1898 in Adelaide, South Australia, Australia  |   Died - Jan 3, 1992   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Comedy, Mystery, Western

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Australian-born Dame Judith Anderson (she was knighted in 1960) was for nearly 70 years one of the foremost Shakespearian actresses of the stage, playing everything from Lady MacBeth to Portia to Hamlet (yes, Hamlet). In films, she was Cruella DeVil--over and over again. Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but it is true that movies seldom took full advantage of Anderson's versatility and rich speaking voice, opting instead to confine her to unsympathetic roles on the basis of her hard, cruel facial features. She made her first film appearance as an incongrously sexy temptress in 1933's Blood Money; seven years later, she essayed her most famous screen role, the obsessed housekeeper Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca (1940). For the rest of her career, she was apparently regarded by Hollywood as an alternate for Gale Sondergaard in roles calling for refined truculence. She played the New York society dragon who "keeps" weak-willed Vincent Price in Laura (1944), the sinister wife of tormented farmer Edward G. Robinson in The Red House (1948), the imperious Queen Herodias in Salome (1953) and the wicked stepmother of Jerry Lewis in Cinderfella (1960). Some of Judith Anderson's later film roles allowed her a modicum of audience empathy, notably the aged Sioux Indian matriarch in A Man Called Horse (1970) and the High Priestess of the Vulcans in Star Trek IV: The Search for Spock (1984).

Movie Highlights

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  • Made her New York stage debut in 1918.
  • Had an acclaimed theatrical career, particularly in Shakespearean roles and in the 1947 Broadway production of Medea that was adapted especially for her by poet Robinson Jeffers.
  • Film debut was in 1933's Blood Money.
  • Known for playing villains, such as Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca (1940).
  • Became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1960.
  • Played the High Priestess of the Vulcans in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984).
  • Received a 1986 Daytime Emmy nomination for her role in Santa Barbara.