- 25 January 1901
- Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Petite American character actress who was celebrated for her definitive portrayal of long-suffering Linda Loman in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman", a part she played opposite Lee J. Cobb at the Morosco Theatre for 742 consecutive performances between 1949 and 1950. Mildred recreated her role for the screen the following year and was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress, critic Bosley Crowther describing her performance as 'simply superb'. Ironically, Dunnock had not been the first choice for the part for either Miller, or the director, Elia Kazan. Mildred Dunnock first came to the realisation that she had the potential to perform in public when called upon to read in front of her assembled classmates at Western High School. She quickly discovered that, above all, she had 'a voice'. Her initial training was served at Agora, the dramatic society of Baltimore's Goucher College. After graduation she continued her studies at Columbia, completing a master's degree in theatre arts. She first appeared in college productions at John Hopkins University, her debut being a part in "Penelope" by W. Somerset Maugham in 1924. She had to wait another eight years before making her debut on Broadway in "Life Begins", at the same time earning a crust teaching at a private girl's school. The 1930's were a period of struggle and hardship for the actress and not until the following decade did she gain recognition for her performances in "King Richard II", "Foolish Notion" and "The Corn is Green". One of her biggest hits was as Lavinia Hubbard in Lillian Hellman's "Another Part of the Forest" (1946-47). Going from strength to strength, Mildred followed her triumph in 'Salesman' with a tour-de-force performance in the Tennessee Williams play "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1955-56), originating the role of 'Big Mama'. Mildred absented herself from the theatre for several years to act in films. Near the beginning of her motion picture career, she was the frail old lady in a wheelchair (in real life she was in her forties) pushed down a flight of stairs by psychopathic killer Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark, in his screen debut) in Kiss of Death (1947). With her finely etched features and sad, all-knowing eyes, Mildred excelled in equal measure at playing eccentric spinster aunts, understanding wives and mothers, her slight frame belying a powerful, intense presence. In Elia Kazan's Baby Doll (1956), she enacted the relatively small part of simple-minded, perpetually timorous Aunt Rose Comfort with such conviction, that she garnered her second Academy Award nomination (losing to Dorothy Malone for Written on the Wind (1956)). She then appeared as a compassionate teacher (her first real-life profession) in Peyton Place (1957), as the exemplary Sister Margharita in The Nun's Story (1959), and, against type, as Gig Young's glacial and avaricious mother in The Story on Page One (1959). In this, Mildred demonstrated her versatility in a chilling portrayal of motherly domination and ostensible virtue turned to vice. Dunnock's film roles in the 1960's included two films with Geraldine Page: Sweet Bird of Youth (1962), as another gentle-mannered aunt, and What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? (1969), as Page's housekeeper and eventual murder victim. As film roles diminished, she appeared on television and returned to stage work, particularly at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, acting in plays by Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill. In 1971, she received the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance for her starring role in "A Place Without Doors" by Marguerite Duras. The much-respected actress spent her final years in relative seclusion at Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, and died there of age-related problems in July 1991. A teaching theatre at Goucher College is named in her honour.
|Ποιος σκότωσε το Χάρι – The Trouble with Harry (1955)
|October 3, 1955