Colleen Dewhurst
Colleen Dewhurst in The Trial of Susan B. Anthony (1971)
Colleen Rose Dewhurst

(1924-06-03)June 3, 1924
Montreal, Quebec
DiedAugust 22, 1991(1991-08-22) (aged 67)
Years active1952–1991
  • James Vickery
    (m. 1947; div. 1960)
  • (m. 1960; div. 1965)
  • (m. 1967; div. 1972)
PartnerKen Marsolais (1975–1991; her death)
Children2, including Campbell Scott
11th President of the Actors' Equity Association
In office
1985 – 1991 (died in the office)
Preceded byEllen Burstyn
Succeeded byRon Silver

Colleen Rose Dewhurst (June 3, 1924 – August 22, 1991) was a Canadian-American actress mostly known for theatre roles. She was a renowned interpreter of the works of Eugene O'Neill on the stage, and her career also encompassed film, early dramas on live television, and performances in Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival. One of her last roles was playing Marilla Cuthbert in the Kevin Sullivan television adaptations of the Anne of Green Gables series and her reprisal of the role in the subsequent TV series Road to Avonlea. In the United States, Dewhurst won two Tony Awards and four Emmy Awards for her stage and television work. In addition to other Canadian honors over the years, Dewhurst won two Gemini Awards (the former Canadian equivalent of an Emmy Award) for her portrayal of Marilla Cuthbert; once in 1986 and again in 1988. It is arguably her best known role because of the Kevin Sullivan produced series’ continuing popularity and also the initial co-production by the CBC; allowing for rebroadcasts over the years on it, and also on PBS in the United States. The initial broadcast alone was seen by millions of viewers.[1]

Early life

Dewhurst was born June 3, 1924, in Montreal, Quebec, the only child of Frances Marie (nee Woods) and Ferdinand Augustus "Fred" Dewhurst. Fred Dewhurst was the owner of a chain of confectionery stores and had been a celebrated athlete in Canada, where he had played football with the Ottawa Rough Riders.[2] The family became naturalized as U.S. citizens before 1940. Colleen Dewhurst's mother was a Christian Scientist, a faith Colleen also embraced.[3]

The Dewhursts moved to Massachusetts in 1928 or 1929, staying in the Boston area neighborhoods of Dorchester, Auburndale, and West Newton. Later they moved to New York City and then to Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. Dewhurst attended Whitefish Bay High School for her first two years of high school, moved to Shorewood High School for her junior year, and graduated from Riverside High School in Milwaukee in 1942. About this time her parents separated. Dewhurst attended Milwaukee-Downer College for two years, then moved to New York City to pursue an acting career.[4]


One of her more significant stage roles was in the 1974 Broadway revival of O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten as Josie Hogan, for which she won a Tony Award. She previously won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in 1961 for All the Way Home. She later played Katharina in a 1956 production of Taming of the Shrew for Joseph Papp. She (as recounted in her posthumous obituary in collaboration with Tom Viola) wrote:

With Brooks Atkinson's blessing, our world changed overnight. Suddenly in our audience of neighbors in T-shirts and jeans appeared men in white shirts, jackets and ties and ladies in summer dresses. We were in a hit that would have a positive effect on my career, as well as Joe's, but I missed the shouting.[5]

She played Shakespeare's Cleopatra and Lady Macbeth for Papp and years later, Gertrude in a production of Hamlet at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park.

She appeared in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode Night Fever in 1965 and with Ingrid Bergman in More Stately Mansions on Broadway in 1967. José Quintero directed her in O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night and Mourning Becomes Electra. She appeared in Edward Albee's adaptation of Carson McCullers' Ballad of the Sad Cafe and as Martha in a Broadway revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, with Ben Gazzara which Albee directed.

Dewhurst (right) guest starring on The Big Valley in 1966 with Barbara Stanwyck (left) and Michael Burns

She appeared in 1962 as Joanne Novak in the episode "I Don't Belong in a White-Painted House" in the medical drama The Eleventh Hour, starring Wendell Corey and Jack Ging. Dewhurst appeared opposite her then husband, Scott, in a 1971 television adaptation of Arthur Miller's The Price, on Hallmark Hall of Fame, and an anthology series. There is another television recording of them together when she played Elizabeth Proctor to the unfaithful John in Miller's The Crucible (with Tuesday Weld). In 1977, Woody Allen cast her in his film Annie Hall as Annie's mother.

In her autobiography, Dewhurst wrote: "I had moved so quickly from one Off-Broadway production to the next that I was known, at one point, as the 'Queen of Off-Broadway'. This title was not due to my brilliance, but, rather, because most of the plays I was in closed after a run of anywhere from one night to two weeks. I would then move immediately into another."[5]

In 1972 she played a madam, Mrs. Kate Collingwood, in The Cowboys (1972), which starred John Wayne. Dewhurst also appeared with Wayne in the 1974 film McQ. She was the first actress to share a love scene with Wayne in bed. In 1985, she played the role of Marilla Cuthbert in Kevin Sullivan's adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's novel Anne of Green Gables and reprised the role in 1987's Anne of Avonlea (also known as Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel) and in several episodes of Kevin Sullivan's Road to Avonlea.

Dewhurst was on hiatus from Road to Avonlea when she died in 1991. Sullivan Productions was unaware she was terminally ill, so her portrayal of Marilla ended posthumously. This was accomplished by shooting new scenes with actress Patricia Hamilton acting as a body double for Dewhurst and by recycling parts of scenes from Anne of Green Gables, Road to Avonlea, and using Dewhurst's death scene as Hepzibah in Sullivan's production of Lantern Hill. The latter was a 1990 television film based on L.M. Montgomery's Jane of Lantern Hill.

During 1989 and 1990, she appeared in a supporting role on the television series Murphy Brown playing Avery Brown, the feisty mother of Candice Bergen's title character; this role earned her two Emmy Awards, the second being awarded posthumously. Dewhurst won a total of two Tony Awards and four Emmy Awards for her stage and television work. Season 4, Episode 6 entitled "Full Circle" was the Murphy Brown episode filmed shortly after her death and dedicated to her memory.

In a review of Dewhurst's final film role as Ruth in Bed and Breakfast (1991), Emanuel Levy wrote “Bed and Breakfast is the kind of small, intimate picture that actors revere. The stunningly sensual Dewhurst, in one of her last screen roles, dominates every scene she is in, making the lusty and down-to-earth Ruth at once credible and enchanting.“

Dewhurst was president of the Actors' Equity Association from 1985 until her death. She was the first national president to die in the office.

Personal life and final years

Colleen Dewhurst was married to James Vickery from 1947 to 1960. She married and divorced George C. Scott twice. They had two sons, Alexander Scott and actor Campbell Scott; she co-starred with Campbell in Dying Young (1991), one of her later film roles as she died in August 1991.[citation needed]

During the last years of her life she lived on a farm in South Salem, New York, with her partner Ken Marsolais. They also had a summer home on Prince Edward Island, Canada.[citation needed]

Maureen Stapleton wrote about Dewhurst:

Colleen looked like a warrior, so people assumed she was the earth mother. But in real life Colleen was not to be let out without a keeper. She couldn't stop herself from taking care of people, which she then did with more care than she took care of herself. Her generosity of spirit was overwhelming and her smile so dazzling that you couldn't pull the ... reins in on her even if you desperately wanted to and knew damn well that somebody should.[5]

Dewhurst's summer home at Fortune Bridge, Prince Edward Island, was built by the playwright Elmer Blaney Harris. It is a private inn as of August 2008.

Dewhurst's Christian Science beliefs[6] led to her refusal to accept any kind of surgical treatment. She died of cervical cancer at the age 67 at her South Salem home in 1991. She was cremated and her ashes were given to family and friends; no public service was planned.[citation needed]


Over the course of her 45-year career, Dewhurst won the 1974 Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre, two Tony Awards, two Obie Awards, and two Gemini Awards. In 1989, she won the Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for her role in Hitting Home. Of her 13 Emmy Award nominations, she won four. She was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981.[7]

This television-related list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (February 2010)


Films and television films

Year Title Role Notes
1959 The Nun's Story Archangel Gabriel (Sanatorium)
1960 Man on a String Helen Benson
1961 The Foxes television film
1962 Focus
1966 A Fine Madness Dr. Vera Kropotkin
1967 The Crucible Elizabeth Proctor television film (adaptation of the play The Crucible)
1971 The Price Esther Franz television film
The Last Run Monique
1972 The Cowboys Kate
The Hands of Cormac Joyce Molly Joyce television film
1973 Legend in Granite Marie Lombardi
1974 Parker Addison, Philosopher Hostess
The Music School
McQ Myra
The Story of Jacob and Joseph Rebekah television film
1975 A Moon for the Misbegotten Josie Hogan television film (adaptation of the play A Moon for the Misbegotten)
1977 Annie Hall Mrs. Hall
1978 The Third Walker Kate Maclean
Ice Castles Beulah Smith
1979 Silent Victory: The Kitty O'Neil Story Mrs. O'Neil television film
When a Stranger Calls Tracy Fuller
And Baby Makes Six Anna Kramer television film
Mary and Joseph: A Story of Faith Elizabeth
1980 Death Penalty Elaine Lipton
Escape Lily Levinson
Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones Mrs. Myrtle Kennedy miniseries
The Women's Room Val television film (based on the book The Women's Room)
A Perfect Match Meg Larson television film
Baby Comes Home Anna Kramer
Final Assignment Dr. Valentine Ulanova
Tribute Gladys Petrelli
1981 A Few Days in Weasel Creek Aunt Cora television film
1982 Split Cherry Tree Mother
Between Two Brothers television film
1983 Sometimes I Wonder Grandma
The Dead Zone Henrietta Dodd
1984 You Can't Take It with You Grand Duchess Olga Katrina television film (adaptation of the play You Can't Take It with You)
The Glitter Dome Lorna Dillman television film
1985 Anne of Green Gables Marilla Cuthbert
1986 Between Two Women Barbara Petherton
Johnny Bull Marie Kovacs
As Is Hospice Worker
The Boy Who Could Fly Mrs. Sherman
Sword of Gideon Golda Meir television film
1987 Hitting Home Judge
Bigfoot Gladys Samco
Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel Marilla Cuthbert
1988 Woman in the Wind
1989 Those She Left Behind Margaret Page television film
Termini Station Molly Dushane
1990 The Exorcist III Pazuzu Voice, Uncredited
Kaleidoscope Margaret television film
Lantern Hill Elizabeth
1991 Dying Young Estelle Whittier
Bed & Breakfast Ruth Wellesly final film role

Television work (excluding television films)

Year Title Role Notes
1957 Studio One teleplay: First Prize for Murder
1958 Kraft Television Theatre teleplay: Presumption of Innocence
Decoy Taffy episode: "Deadly Corridor"
DuPont Show of the Month teleplay: The Count of Monte Cristo
1959 Aldonza/Dulcinea teleplay: I, Don Quixote
Play of the Week Mordeen Saul / Woman teleplays: Burning Bright; Medea
The United States Steel Hour Vera Brandon teleplay: The Hours Before Dawn
1961 Play of the Week teleplays: No Exit; The Indifferent Lover
Ben Casey Phyllis Anders episode: "I Remember a Lemon Tree"
1962 The Eleventh Hour Joanne Novak episode: "I Don't Belong in a White-Painted House"
The Virginian Celia Ames episode: "The Executioners"
The Nurses Grace Milo episode: "Fly, Shadow"
1963 The United States Steel Hour Francie Broderick teleplay: Night Run to the West
DuPont Show of the Month Karen Holt teleplay: Something to Hide
1964 East Side/West Side Shirley episode: "Nothing but the Half Truth"
1965 Dr. Kildare Eleanor Markham episode: "All Brides Should Be Beautiful"
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Nurse Ellen Hatch episode: "Night Fever"
1966 The F.B.I. Amy Doucette episode: "The Baby Sitter"
The Big Valley Annie Morton episode: "A Day of Terror"
1971 ITV Sunday Night Theatre Mrs. Franz teleplay: The Price
Hallmark Hall of Fame
1972 Molly Joyce teleplay: The Hands of Cormac Joyce
1973 Wide World Mystery Margery Landing episode: "A Prowler in the Heart"
1979 Studs Lonigan Mary Lonigan miniseries
1982 Quincy, M.E. Dr. Barbara Ludow episode: "For Love of Joshua"
The Blue and the Gray Maggie Geyser miniseries
1983 Great Performances Red Queen teleplay: Alice in Wonderland
1984 Finder of Lost Loves Rachel Green episode: "Echoes"
The Love Boat Maud episode: "Welcome Aboard: Part 1 and 2"
1985 A.D. Antonia miniseries
1988 The Twilight Zone Hallie Parker episode: "There Was an Old Woman"
1989 Moonlighting Betty Russell episode: "Take My Wife, for Example"
1989–1990 Murphy Brown Avery Brown Sr. 3 episodes:
-"Brown Like Me: Part 1 and Part II" (1989)
-"Mama Said" (1989)
-"Bob & Murphy & Ted & Avery (1990)
1990–1992 Road to Avonlea Marilla Cuthbert 4 episodes: "Of Corsets and Secrets and True, True Love", "The Materializing of Duncan McTavish", "The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham's" and "Old Friends New Wounds (Marilla's Death)"


Year Play Role
1952 Desire Under the Elms Neighbor
1956 Tamburlaine the Great Virgin of Memphis / Turkish Concubine
1957–1958 The Country Wife Mrs. Squeamish
1960 Caligula Caesonia
1960–1961 All the Way Home Mary Follet
1962 Great Day in the Morning Phoebe Flaherty
1963–1964 The Ballad of the Sad Café Miss Amelia Evans
1967–1968 More Stately Mansions Sara
1970 The Good Woman of Setzuan Shen Te
1971 All Over The Mistress
1972 Mourning Becomes Electra Christine Mannon
1973–1974 A Moon for the Misbegotten Josie Hogan
1976 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Martha
1977–1978 An Almost Perfect Person Irene Porter
1982 The Queen and the Rebels Argia
1983–1984 You Can't Take It with You Olga
1982 Long Day's Journey into Night Mary Cavan Tyrone
Ah, Wilderness! Essie Miller
1989–1990 Love Letters Melissa Gardner



  1. ^ "CBC Archives".
  2. ^ Colleen Dewhurst genealogy
  3. ^ "Show Business: Gorgeous Gael". Time. January 21, 1974. Archived from the original on December 22, 2008. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
  4. ^ Colleen Dewhurst profile, Yahoo! Movies; accessed February 8, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c Dewhurst, Colleen; Viola, Tom (1997). Colleen Dewhurst – Her Autobiography. Scribner; ISBN 978-0-684-80701-0
  6. ^ Susan Ware (editor), Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary Completing the Twentieth Century, Volume 5, pages 174-175 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 2004). ISBN 9780674014886
  7. ^ The New York Times, March 3, 1981 - 26 Elected to the Theater Hall of Fame