Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Character Actor Corner: Beulah Bondi

Miss Beulah Bondi appeared in over 70 films,several Broadway Hit Plays, and appeared on Television. Of slight stature, with a gaunt, pale looking face, dark hair and deep-set, penetrating eyes, she was a veteran actress who worked well into her 80s.

Born Beulah Bondy in Chicago, Illinois on May 3, 1888, she began her acting career on the stage at age 7.  She changed the spelling of her name from Bondy to Bondi because her father disapproved of her chosen profession.  Upon graduation from Valparaiso University, she joined a stock company, working throughout the U.S. until her 1925 Broadway debut in Kenneth S. Webb's "One of the Family" at the 49th Street Theatre on December 21, 1925. The show was a modest hit, racking up 238 performances. She next appeared in another hit, Maxwell Anderson's "Saturday's Children," which ran for 326 performances, before appearing in her first flop, Clemence Dane's "Mariners" in 1927. Philip Barry's and Elmer Rice's "Cock Robin" was an extremely modest hit in 1928, reaching the century mark (100 performances), but it was Bondi's performance in Rice's "Street Scene," which opened at the Playhouse Theatre on Jamuary 10, 1929, that made her career. This famous play won Rice the 1929 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was a big hit, playing for 601 performances

Her film debut occurred at age 43, in 1931's Street Scene. Though young in age, Bondi specialized in playing mothers, grandmothers and society dowagers. Look for Beulah in movies made in the1930's and 40's. You will probably find her in the next one you watch. In her role as Rachel Jackson in "The Gorgeous Hussy" (1936), she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Nomination. She is probably best remembered for her role as Mrs. Bailey, the mother of George Bailey, in "It's A Wonderful Life" (1946). Her own favorite performance was as a bigoted women, Ma Bridges, in 1957's "Track of the Cat."

Her last movie role was in a TV movie "She Waits" (1971) as Mrs. Angela Medina.  In 1977, she won  an Emmy for her performance on the dramatic TV series The Waltons. As often as she played the ideal mother in films, she never married or had children in real life. She lived alone  in a beautiful three story house built into the Hollywood Hills. She died on January 11, 1981 at age 92 in Hollywood, California of pulmonary complications due to broken ribs she suffered in a fall at her home.

No comments: