Agnes as we remember her

Photoplay, August 1974

Agnes Moorehead: She Bewitched Us With Charm & Talent

Agnes Moorehead died in Rochester, Minnesota, on April 30, 1974, of undisclosed reasons. She was a woman and an actress with the rarest of all attributes - a sense of humor. In 1969, having played the sophisticated mother witch Endora on the TV show "Bewitched" for several years, Agnes was invited by NASA to participate in the launching of Apollo 12, on its way to the moon. The reason for her participation: she has often been to the moon and back - Endora liked an occasional visit.

Of course, Ms. Moorehead's visits to outer space were pure fantasy, but she considered fantasy and the use of imagination - both lacking in the cruel, realistic world of today, to be an extremely important part of life. This was especially true for an actress because fantasy, even magic, is what the creation and acceptance of a role is based upon.

Ms. Moorehead was an expert at creating artistic illusion. During a career that spanned 60 years, she played every kind of role in every kind of medium. But to her, acting really meant the theater. After finishing her education in the Midwest (she earned a Ph.D. in literature), she moved to New York City in the late twenties. There, she studied acting and made her stage debut. Theater roles were very scarce during the Depression, so she drifted into radio. She soon moved from simple soap operas into starring roles. She found radio very demanding, but an excellent training ground for her later appearances in film, TV and even on the stage. "Radio was a wonderful boon to an actor. You could use your imagination and your voice to create all sorts of characterizations. . . . Sometimes those radio fantasies seemed very real." Millions heard her as the tortured woman in "Sorry, Wrong Number" and as the girlfriend in "The Shadow," played by none other than Orson Welles. Her meeting with Welles was a turning point in her life. In 1941, she made her film debut in Welles' "Citizen Kane." From then on, she always worked, either acting or lecturing and teaching at universities.

With her film career in high gear, Ms. Moorehead moved to Hollywood. In 1948 she bought a luxurious Beverly Hills mansion, complete with fabulous gardens, swimming pool and extensive libraries. Soon after, she and her then husband Jack Lee, a TV-radio actor, adopted two year old Sean. Sean, now 25, was Ms. Moorehead's only child. When her son remarked to her that he was not interested in a theatrical career, Agnes was delighted. She always felt that the theatrical life created terrible demands on the artist, making a satisfactory personal life difficult. An actress is always traveling, always working, and there just isn't enough time to make close friends or raise a family. Her marriage to Lee ended in divorce, as did her subsequent marriage to TV director Robert Gist.

Her long career was full of critical acclaim. She was nominated five times for Academy Awards. But she was aware of the power of the critics to destroy an actor.

Agnes Moorehead need never have feared the critics. Her art and her ability were too large for criticism to tear her down. She worked until the very end. Coming full circle, she ended her career on the Broadway stage, as she had begun. Her life was full of success and reward. She was a fine actress and she will be missed, but she will also be remembered.

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