Friday, October 15, 2010

You May Come Close.....But Not Too Close

This article was written by Bernice Mason.  I don't know exactly when because all I have is a copy that was among some papers that I got several years ago.  It is intriguing because it illustrates many instances of the abandoned sibling who has detached themselves from reality.  Interestingly enough the author picked it up as well.

"What is Agnes Moorehead really like as a person?  Since there seems to be some mystery surround her, it follows that there is much curiosity in the mind's of her TV fans who, for four years, have been highly entertained by her antics as the witch Endora, in ABC-TV's popular "Bewitched."

Throughout her career, audiences have always granted her enormous respect due her as an actress who has distinguished herself in radio, on the Broadway stage, in motion pictures and most recently, on television, which has accorded her two Emmy nominations for her role as Endora.  To these honors add the New York Critics Award for Best Actress of the Year for her screen performances in "The Magnificent Ambersons," plus five Academy Award nominations for "Johnny Belinda," "Mrs. Parkington," All That Heaven Allows," Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte," and , of course, "The Magnificent Ambersons."

So much mention has been made of her stellar career, but details of her personal life are not known.  There are things that have set people to wondering.  Signs....trail signs.  Signs that aren't actually there but you read them anyway--like Private Property, No Trespassing, and Stranger, Keep Out.  There also seems to be a general impression that she lives within a created impenetrable fortress composed of layer on layer of self protecting covering, perhaps to guarantee the safety of a hypersensitive spirit against the knife thrust of living...a fortress to which nobody would probably lay ruthless siege but which evokes the wonder if this fine, beautiful granite strength would crumble at too cruel a jest, too sweet a song, a too knowing surgeon's probe.

Any conversation with Agnes Moorehead should properly be held on or near a stage.  Which is why we caught up with her in the cavernous depths of Columbia Pictures' Stage 4, where Screen Gems is filming the fifth season of Bewitched.  Agnes comes off the set looking 20 years her junior, and we pick our way around cables, the lamps, the directors chairs to her dressing room. (For those who are color conscious, it is decorated in shades of violet.

She is gracious, professional, sincere, interested--and impersonal.  Lacking the terrible hardness of many other long established celebrities, her flexibility of manner is something like that of a good fencing foil, which can be bent into a circle without breaking yet is made of finely tempered steel.  For openers, she skates around for a long while on the edge of things.  In April, during the long filming hiatus, she had put on 23 one night stands of lectures in colleges across the country.  In May she had gone to Germany to act as a judge of seven plays produced by American  soldiers in different areas of the Western sector.  She had crossed into East Germany and found the wall sad.

We perceived that our questions would have to be abrupt and direct.  "Are you married, Agnes?"
"I was married--twice.  My first husband died.....The second one I divorced."  She speaks of it with a surprising lack of interest.  "I've been single since 1954,"  she adds--the only information she was to volunteer.
"Do you have any children?"
"My foster son Sean."
"How did you find him?  How old was he then?"
"He was a year and a half old.  My doctor told me about him...He was a legitimate child with about 14 brothers and sisters.  His mother had put six of them up for adoption.  Sean was very anemic, his little eyes were crossed, he had  bad teeth and a spot on his lung."
"A foster son....You didn't think of adopting him?"
"I couldn't.  I was single at the time and single women then weren't permitted to adopt babies.  But I took him into my home and raised him as my own son.  He's grown now and has gone out somewhere on his own."
"You don't know where he is now?"
"No, I haven't heard from him in quite a while."  There is no emotion in the things she says.  Now, quite suddenly, she flashes a most unexpected and radiant smile. "But that's all right.  That's the way boys are."

Agnes comes from a religious family, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister Rev. and Mrs. John H. Moorehead, of Scottish descent.  "I'm a religious girl," she says, "a fundamentalist not a modernist in any sense.  I've lived my life by prayer and faith and the belief that I will always be guided.  I've never had a problem that the Lord couldn't solve.  I put everything into the lord's hands.  It has given me serenity.  Of course, I got much of my religious thought from my father and mother.  In college I didn't think about religious things; I didn't know the depth and meaning.  But now....well, I'm no paragon of virtue or anything like that, but I am aware-I'm very aware...I know who I am.  I've been blessed materially and I'm really grateful for everything.  But if it were all to be gone tomorrow, I could adjust to that.

Cotten became co founders of the acclaimed Mercury Theatre Players.

There was her first trip to Hollywood when Welles sent for her to play an important role in his still remembered "Citizen Kane"- a short time after a movie representative in New York had stripped her hide off by telling her with disdain that she had absolutely nothing of interest to Hollywood, and had left her so desolate after a series of personal insults that she wept for three days and was ready to give up everything, feeling she was unattractive and without any talent at all.  But she went to Hollywood-and to triumphant success.  The three men who believed in her and opened doors to great opportunities--Orson Welles, Charles Laughton and Paul Gregory--earned her undying gratitude.  There are the one woman shows that she has put on since 1951, keeping herself before audiences; and now television, making her known to the young audiences of the future.  She has poured her life blood into her career.

She doesn't dwell much on what she doesn't have: the son who has gone, the husbands of yesteryear, the hundreds of acquaintances-but only two friends; the absence of anyone close to give her affection, the final lack of any present romantic interest.

"I don't know why I shut it out," she confesses "I don't know why.  I haven't sought it, it would have to come to me.  I can't go out and get involved in some scandalous affair--I owe something to the public that has kept me going.  And....I'm not really alone.  I have many pets-- three dogs and three birds.  And then there are the two girls who work for me--one has been with me for 20 years, the other for 14.  They look after me and take good care of me.  As for personal loves---you can't always depend on a human being, you know.  Then again, I seem to need a certain amount of solitude.  It renews me.  Solitude enriches ones being....."

Sometimes, in solitude, it is good to rest,
Either to mend the broken blossoms
And the life that hurts within....
Or be forever reconciled.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for that. Very interesting Read and a tiny bit of a deeper look into this most marvelous woman.

April Marie said...

Thank you for this. Leaves me wanting more. So much more :(

Post a Comment