Mothers, Mammies and Old Maids: Twenty-Five Character Actresses of Golden Age Hollywood

Mothers, Mammies and Old Maids: Twenty-Five Character Actresses of Golden Age Hollywood

by Axel Nissen




Continuing the exploration which began in Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces from the Thirties to the Fifties (McFarland, 2006), this companion volume analyzes the contributions of female supporting players in the films of Hollywood’s Golden Age. The twenty-five actresses profiled herein range from the easily recognizable (Marie Dressler, Ethel Waters) to the long forgotten (Esther Howard, Evelyn Varden), and from the prolific (Clara Blandick, Mary Forbes) to the “one-work wonders” (Jane Cowl, Queenie Vassar).
Each profile captures the essence of the individual performer’s on-screen persona, unique talents and popular appeal—with special emphasis on a single definitive performance of the actress’s motion picture career (who, for example, could ever forget Josephine Hull in Harvey?). The appendix offers a list of “The 100 Top Performances by Character Actresses in Hollywood, 1930–1960.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786461370
Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
Publication date: 02/21/2012
Pages: 250
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Axel Nissen is a professor of American literature in the Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages at the University of Oslo in Oslo, Norway.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Foreword by Siân Phillips 1

Introduction 3

Mother, May I? Clara Blandick in Shopworn (1932) 5

What a Pal: Helen Broderick in Top Hat (1935) 12

Lady Detective: Constance Collier in Shadow of Doubt (1935) 18

Déclassée: Jane Cowl in Payment on Demand (1951) 27

Mother Courage: Henrietta Crosman in Pilgrimage (1933) 35

Auntz: Cecil Cunningham in The Awful Truth (1937) 43

Old Reliable: Esther Dale in My Reputation (1946) 49

The Dilapidated Diva: Marie Dressler in Dinner at Eight (1933) 56

The Last Dowager: Isobel Elsom in Ladies in Retirement (1941) 65

Larger Than Life: Hope Emerson in Cry of the City (1948) 74

Deep Freeze: Mary Forbes in You Can’t Take It with You (1938) 81

Clothes Horse: Marjorie Gateson in Cocktail Hour (1933) 88

Monster Mom: Louise Closser Hale in Another Language (1933) 95

Madame Noir: Esther Howard in Born to Kill (1947) 106

Asylums and Old Lace: Josephine Hull in Harvey (1950) 114

Maid in America: Patsy Kelly in Private Number (1936) 122

Grandmommie Dearest: Alma Kruger in These Three (1936) 131

The Real Thing: Aline MacMahon in Side Streets (1934) 139

Woman of the People: Beryl Mercer in Outward Bound (1930) 148

Her Girl Friday: Juanita Moore in Imitation of Life (1959) 156

Killing Your Babies: Marjorie Rambeau in Slander (1957) 166

Big Mama: Evelyn Varden in Hilda Crane (1956) 176

Grandma from Hell: Queenie Vassar in Primrose Path (1940) 184

Thoroughly Modern Mammy: Ethel Waters in The Member of the Wedding (1952) 191

Dowager Deluxe: Helen Westley in Splendor (1935) 199

Appendix: The 100 Top Performances by Character Actresses in Hollywood, 1930–1960 207

Notes 211

Bibliography 229

Index 233

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