When I was a teenager, I wanted to be Rita Hayworth or Vivien Leigh. The sheer beauty of these women was intoxicating, and at that age I thought that was the be all and the end all for a woman. When I got a little older, I came to realize that even great beauty just wouldn't do. I began to notice other qualities of women I admired, particularly my mother. I became acquainted with the movies of Teresa Wright, and ever since then have felt that if I were not myself, I would like to be her. It wasn't just her looks or talent -- she was certainly lovely and a wonderful actress. She was not glamorous and did not want to be. Teresa's prime movie career was set in a time I have always loved. She was in her 20's during the 1940's. I had always felt I would been better suited there than in my own time. The 40's, even though stricken by war, seemed a wonderful time to be a young woman living in a medium-sized town where decent people lived ordinary lives (eg. Shadow of a Doubt); where modesty, love, and the importance of fidelity were desirable virtues (eg. The Best Years of Our Lives); where love of country and responsibility for it were commonplace (eg. Mrs. Miniver). The most famous movies in which Teresa appeared, added to the three already mentioned, were The Little Foxes and Pride of the Yankees. These films spanned the years of 1941 to 1946.
|Teresa and Dame May Whitty in Mrs. Miniver|
Lest I be dismissed as a rose-colored glasses type, I certainly know that those years, the towns portrayed, the stories themselves also held behind closed doors the fear, unhappiness and difficulties with life as in any era. In fact, each of the five movies has Teresa starting out as an innocent girl, only to be forced to deal with disappointment, sorrow and sometimes just plain evil -- a beloved, yet murderous, Uncle Charlie in Shadow; post-war mental and social damage, divorce and physical disability in Best Years; the effect of war on an ordinary English family, and death that comes as never expected in Mrs. Miniver; greed and evil in a young girl's mother and uncles in Foxes; and deep sorrow for a wife with her husband's illness in Pride.
|Teresa in The Best Years of Our Lives|
Teresa's movie career began to decline after 1946, although she made several, none of which ever reached the the level of importance of the first five. Teresa then became a prolific actress on television, with a few occasional movies, and worked until she was 78 years old. She died in 2005.
So why do I feel so akin to a decade that ended before I was born? I like what I've seen and heard about the cultural attitudes, the social aspect of relationships and other heavy issues. But right now, I'm thinking about the fabulous big band music, the way that men dressed in suits and fedoras, and the women's clothes that looked like ball gowns compared to the way we appear in public these days. One of the fun things about Teresa for me is her clothes. In every movie she is dressed in beautiful, simple day wear, tailored just to her. You can imagine yourself in clothes like that, as opposed to period costumes or mink-laden outfits for the rich. Teresa always looked great, cool and womanly. I liked her hair too.
|Teresa and Greer Garson in Mrs. Miniver|
|Teresa and detective in Shadow of a Doubt|
|Teresa, Joseph Cotton and a cop in Shadow of a Doubt|
It's hard to believe that Teresa Wright could fall under the category of forgotten stars, but I bet not many people other than us have any idea who she is. That's such a shame. She made important, great movies, and neither she nor they should be forgotten.