Actress Barbara Bel Geddes was born in New York City in October 1922. Her father was well-known stage designer Norman Bel Geddes. She first appeared on stage at age 10 in her father’s production of Dead End and later became a member of Elia Kazan’s Actors Studio. She made her name on Broadway, winning a 1946 Theatre World Award (Marlon Brando also won that year), before her film career began. She was later nominated for two Tony Awards for Best Actress in a Play – in 1956, as (the original) Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and in 1961 for Mary, Mary.
Barbara Bel Geddes arrived in Hollywood in 1947. She earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her performance in her second film, the George Stevens classic I Remember Mama, starring Irene Dunne.
Along with theater and film, Bel Geddes was also busy working in ‘Golden Age TV’ live drama anthologies and turning in guest performances on weekly series TV. One of her best remembered appearances was an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode entitled, “Lamb to the Slaughter.” In it, she portrayed a woman who murders her husband, a police chief, with a frozen leg of lamb. Officers arrive at the scene of the crime and while they’re investigating she offers them dinner and serves up the murder weapon – leg of lamb fresh from the oven.
When the memorable primetime soap Dallas got underway in the late ’70s, Bel Geddes was the first cast member signed. She is probably still best-remembered for her portrayal of ‘Miss Ellie’ Ewing. She appeared in the series from 1978 – 1990 (except for the 1984/85 season) and won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her portrayal of the Ewing family matriarch.
Vertigo screenwriter Samuel A. Taylor had Bel Geddes, a friend whose work as an actress he admired, in mind when he contrived Midge, the only featured character who is stable, grounded and has a sense of humor…
A month-long tribute to Vertigo is in progress now at The Lady Eve’s Reel Life