When Colleen Dewhurst was born in Montreal on June 3, 1924, radio was just five years old, movies were silent and television not much more than a theory. If you wanted to be an actor in those days, you set your sights on the stage and that’s exactly what Dewhurst did.
As luck would have it, her family moved to the United States, and in 1946 she began to study drama at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. Just one year later she turned 23 and married James Vickery, a fellow acting student. They spent the next 10 years doing mostly regional theatre and summer stock, and perhaps that’s where the story would have ended except for the chance meeting with another actor.
It was 1958 and both Colleen Dewhurst and George C. Scott were cast in the play Children of Darkness. They fell in love, acquired divorces from their respective spouses, and married in 1959. But things didn’t go smoothly, and they went their separate ways in 1965, only to marry again. Whatever it was between them that didn’t work the first time, it didn’t work this time either, and she obtained another divorce from Scott in 1972.
Dewhurst’s career mirrored that of many actors. After working for 27 years, she finally achieved that elusive breakthrough role and became an “overnight success” in 1974 when she appeared in the play A Moon for the Misbegotten. Although she became extremely successful in movies and television, her first love remained the stage, and she often returned to it, not only to perform but to direct as well. She also served the members of her craft very well as president of Actor`s Equity, the theatre union for actors in the United States, from 1985 until 1991.
In Canada, she is best remembered as Marilla Cuthbert in the two Anne of Green Gables productions from Sullivan Entertainment. She was the first choice of producer Kevin Sullivan when he was casting the role, and she accepted it immediately, even before reading the script. Anne of Green Gables was special to Dewhurst, and she often told people how she remembered her mother reading it to her when she was a little girl. In addition to appearing regularly in the series Road to Avonlea as Marilla, she had a recurring role as Candice Bergen’s mother in the CBS series Murphy Brown, for which she won her third Emmy. Over the course of her 45-year career, she won a total of four Emmys, two Tonys, two Obies and two Gemini Awards.
During the last years of her life, Ms.Dewhurst lived on a farm in South Salem, New York, and had a summer home on Prince Edward Island. Colleen Dewhurst was 67-years-old when she died of cancer.
Also see: Colleen Dewhurst’s Filmography