I cannot tell you the number of times I have read in either a newspaper article or magazine article Agnes describing herself or being described as "not beautiful." It appears, to me anyway, that perhaps this was ingrained in her from the time she was very, very young. Most likely, her sister was referred to as the pretty one and most likely Agnes was referred to as the smart but unattractive one. It is amazing what these types of off handed comments can do to a young psyche. I was told that "You will never be beautiful so you had better develop my personality or you'll get nowhere in this world. Brains and personality will get you what you need to survive." I'm sure that having a massive scar on her face didn't help her view of herself either. Most folks don't notice it because it is airbrushed out of studio portraits and covered in heavy make up on other occasions. It is on the right side of her face starting about an inch to an inch and a quarter above her eyebrow right at the nose end of the brow. It runs about 2 inches back above the brow, down the inside of her nose next to the tear duct and terminates about 3 inches below the tear duct. It is about a half an inch or so wide right at the front of the eyebrow. It's why her right eyebrow is shorter than her left. I don't know how she came by it but that must have been some cut and it was definitely stitched. I know first hand what that looks like, stitch marks I mean, I was hit on the right side of the face with the base of trampoline at age 5 and that took 45 stitches inside and out to close. If you watch for it on close ups in Bewitched you can see a little of it. I happen to own an unretouched photo. I will scan it in so that you can see it for yourself. Suffice it to say that at any age a facial scar will definitely make it difficult to see yourself as attractive.
I just posted an article yesterday in which Agnes herself said, "I never was pretty enough to play a heroine. As a little girl I was the long gangly type, almost as tall as I am now (5'6"), sad and pathetic. I have no vanity at all..." How tragic to have that view of yourself. Oddly enough as a young girl, around 4th grade I stood head and shoulders above the class at five feet five inches. I only grew another inch the next year and have been five feet six inches tall ever since. I know exactly what it feels like to be the long gangly one that everyone picks on but I wasn't necessarily sad and pathetic. It breaks my heart to think she saw herself in such depressing terms. Further back in the same article she talks about being afraid to ask for a job, "Because I can't sell myself-I'm still scared to ask anyone for a part." This was in 1942 and I don't know about you but I cannot even begin to imagine my cousin being scared to ask anyone for anything.
I think this supports the hypothesis I put forward in an earlier blog. The hypothesis was that Agnes kept everyone at arms length and the creation we came to know as Agnes Moorehead was just another role for her. It was a part she stepped into that gave her control over her life and her career. She was forever saying that her air of mystery was a boon to her career. I even have an article titled " Actress Says Mystery Aids Her Career." She also says in this article, "I have played so many authoritative and strong characters that some people are nervous at the prospect of meeting me for the first time. Hmmm, come to think of it, in their shoes, I might be, too. To be frank, there is a certain amount of aloofness on my part at times, because an actor can be so easily hurt by unfair criticism."
As I sift through all the pieces of paper I have seen a pattern develop with Agnes. She started out being humble, especially about her looks, being self deprecating and then she came into her own, performance wise. Once that happened a whole new woman developed. She became flamboyant, direct, opinionated and for a long time courted controversy in her personal life with her two marriages. She became known as one of the best dressed women in Hollywood. By 1950 this article appears:
August 26, 1950
Glamor Boys Choose--Filmlands Sexiest Sextet
The six sexiest women in Hollywood were handpicked today!
The sextet stacks up with Linda Darnell, Paulette Goddard, Agnes Moorehead, Dorothy Malone, Spring Byington and Jan Sterling.
Judeges, who stuck out their necks and opions were Richard Widmark, Richard Basehart, Ray Milland, Scott Brady, Charles Coburn and Paul Douglas....
Goes For Agnes
Ray Milland, who has caressed such sexy sirens as Lana Turner, Joan Fontaine, Ginger Rogers and Paulette Goddard during his celluloid days turned his back on them and selected Agnes Moorehead.
Usually Agnes' allure is hidden under layers of character makeup and costume, Milland claimed. As for why she is "sexy" the suave smoothie stammered, "Well, she is very intelligent--she has reddish hair-she's quite beautiful, she, well she just is!"
Agnes, who usually plays the intense, shrill voiced psychotic, frowned then smiled:
"I'd never thought of myself in the glamor girl bracket, but its very pleasing. I have no beauty rituals-rather, I think sexy is more in the mind than body. That's me."
This piece blew me away actually. Two character actresses selected as Hollywood's Sexiest. The other was Spring Byington. She, like Agnes, played a certain type of part usually the mother or aunt. Just as an aside Spring was also the long term partner of Marjorie Main. Her sexuality, like Agnes' was a topic of discussion then as well. What really stunned me though was the grasp that Agnes had on sexy being a state of mind and Ray Milland's very first comment was "She is very intelligent." I think back to my instruction to use my brain and definitely not count on beauty for anything. Apparently it wasn't all that bad as far as advice goes.
Agnes radiated a type of beauty that cannot be duplicated. Yes, in later years she relied on heavy make up to cover her proliferate freckles. I must add this runs in the family and if we, family wise, spend any time in the sun we blossom with freckles. She definitely didn't take care of her skin the way women do today. She spent a lot of time outside and no doubt did a great deal of damage to her skin but her beauty wasn't exterior it came from the soul. It came from her eyes and her bearing and her elegant movement.
By the time she was seventy she was still one of the most beautiful women we had ever seen. She aged gracefully. She worked with her age and used her skills to distract us from anything that might be perceived as a flaw. Her beauty was so much more than skin deep it was soul deep. We should all be so fortunate to have a soul that beautiful.
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