American actress, artist, and children’s book author Barbara Bel Geddes is best known for her role as Miss Ellie, the brash matriarch of CBS’s primetime serial opera “Dallas.” She had accumulated a fantastic resume over the course of her 60-year career with numerous theater, film, and television performances. Bel Geddes began her career on stage. She is the daughter of an industrial and stage designer. In the 1945 Broadway production of “Deep Are The Roots,” she played her first big role. She won various accolades and rose to fame as a result of it. She made her acting debut in the film noir “The Long Night” in 1947. She received her first television role three years later in the drama series “Robert Montgomery Presents” on NBC. She performed a pivotal part in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” George Stevens’ “I Remember Mama,” and several roles in “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” the renowned director’s small-screen project, during the height of her career. She also starred in the Broadway production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” She joined the original cast of “Dallas” in 1978 and remained a part of the show through its penultimate season. Bel Geddes then decided to stop acting.
Early Childhood & Life
Norman Bel Geddes and Helen Belle (née Schneider), Barbara Bel Geddes’ parents, welcomed her into the world on October 31, 1922, in New York City. Norman was an accomplished theatrical and business manager who oversaw more than 200 productions. At some point, her father remarried, this time to Edith Lutyens, a well-known creator of theatrical costumes. Joan was the sister of Bel Geddes.
Working in theater
At the age of 18, Barbara Bel Geddes started her acting career on stage after graduating from The Putney School in Putney, Vermont. Deep Are the Roots, a 1945 Broadway production, gave her her first notable performance. Her performance was lauded by the critics and the play was a big hit. She also won the Donaldson Award (the precursor to the Tony Awards) and the Clarence Derwent Award for Outstanding Achievement in The Theatre for the part.
She made 924 theatrical appearances for F. Hugh Herbert’s popular comedy “The Moon Is Blue” between 1951 and 1953. She played Maggie “The Cat” in the first performance of Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in 1955.
She played the title role in Jean Carr’s comedy “Mary, Mary” in 1961; at over 1500 performances, it holds the record for the longest-running Broadway production. Both of these roles earned Bel Geddes nominations for Tony Awards.
She also participated in the theatrical productions of Edward Albee’s “Everything in the Garden” and John Steinbeck’s “Burning Bright” during her successful career. She appeared in a production of “Silent Night, Lonely Night” alongside Henry Fonda.
Movie Career of Barbara Bel Geddes
In 1947’s “The Long Night,” a remake of the 1939 French film “Le Jour Se Lève,” Barbara Bel Geddes made her feature film debut alongside Henry Fonda.
She played Norwegian immigrant author Katrin Hanson in George Stevens’ 1948 drama “I Remember Mama,” which has come to be regarded as her best work on the silver screen. She collaborated with Richard Widmark on the 1950 film noir “Panic in the Streets.”
She appeared onscreen alongside Kim Novak and James Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock’s timeless 1958 picture “Vertigo.” She played Marjorie “Midge” Wood, the companion and confidante of John “Scottie” Ferguson (Stewart), the movie’s main character, rather than the female love interest.
Bel Geddes played Willa Stutsman in “The Five Pennies,” a semi-biographical movie based on the life of jazz cornettist and composer Ernest Loring “Red” Nichols. Danny Kaye played Nichols. The 1971 psychological suspense thriller “The Todd Killings” was her last movie.
Career in Television
She made guest appearances in a number of shows after portraying a number of characters in “Robert Montgomery Presents” in 1950, including “Pulitzer Prize Playhouse,” “Campbell Summer Soundstage,” “The Joseph Cotten Show: On Trial,” “Schlitz Playhouse,” “Studio One in Hollywood,” “Playhouse 90,” and “Riverboat.”
She had the chance to work with Hitchcock once more in “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” after their previous collaboration on “Vertigo” (1958-60). She portrayed Sybilla Meade in “Sybilla,” Helen Brewster in “The Morning of the Bride,” Mary Maloney in “Lamb to the Slaughter,” and Lucia Clay in “The Foghorn” (1958). (1960).
She additionally made appearances in the 1976 television movies “Our Town” and “Spencer’s Pilots” (1977).
Later Years of Barbara Bel Geddes
She wrote two children’s books, “I Like to Be Me” in 1963 and “So Do I” in 1973, after quitting performing. She was responsible for the development of a well-liked greeting card line.
Bigger Works of Barbara Bel Geddes
The first actress to sign on with CBS’ storied soap series “Dallas,” which has cemented a significant position in television history, was Barbara Bel Geddes. It first aired on April 2, 1978, and ran until May 3, 1991. It was about the affluent and contentious Texan family, the Ewings, who own the Ewing Oil Company and the Southfork cattle ranch. She played the independent, headstrong Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow for 12 years, garnering numerous honors. In 1990, a year before the program’s final season, she finally quit the program.
Recognition & Achievements
For her performance in “I Remember Mama,” Bel Geddes was nominated for an Academy Award in 1949 for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, but Claire Trevor won.
Hasty Pudding Theatricals, USA presented her with the Woman of the Year Award in 1952.
She received numerous honors for her work as Miss Ellie Ewing in “Dallas,” including the German Golden Camera Award for Best International Actress in 1985, the Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Actress in a Mature Role in a Prime Time Soap Opera, the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1980, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama in 1982.
Personal Legacy & Life
In her lifetime, Barbara Bel Geddes was married twice. On January 24, 1944, she married her first husband, Carl Sawyer (née Schreuer), who worked as a theatrical manager. On March 13, 1951, their divorce was legally formalized after seven years of marriage. Together, they gave birth to a girl they called Susan.
On April 15, 1951, she wed theater director Windsor Lewis. She gave birth to Betsy Lewis, his daughter. Bel Geddes took a significant career break to care for Windsor after he was given a cancer diagnosis in 1966. On May 15, 1972, he passed away.
She was put on the Hollywood Blacklist in the 1950s due to her socialist activities by the House Un-American Activities Committee. As a result, her cinematic career plummeted. She decided to concentrate on theater performing at this time.
Bel Geddes spent the final years of her life in Northeast Harbor, Maine. At the age of 82, she passed away on August 8, 2005. Lung cancer had been an ongoing issue for her. She was cremated in accordance with her desires, and her remains were dispersed into the harbor waters next to her property.
Dallas was given a third season on TNT in 2012. She was mentioned in every episode of the first season in relation to “Southfork and the land,” according to Patrick Duffy, who played her son in the original series.
Estimated net worth
The estimated net worth of Barbara Bel Geddes is unknown.
Bel Geddes was kicked out of Putney Finishing School when she was 16 years old for being a disruptive influence.