From the Archives: Agnes Moorehead, Character Actress of Movies and TV, Dies

Times Staff Writer

Agnes Moorehead, whose acting career spanned half a century and almost every character role from glamorous divorcee to acid-tongued witch, died Tuesday at Methodist Hospital in Rochester, Minn.

Miss Moorehead’s age was officially listed as 67. She was admitted to the hospital, which is affiliated with the Mayo Clinic, April 9. She had been under treatment by Mayo doctors several times during the last two years.

A hospital spokesman declined to state the cause of death, saying it had been Miss Moorehead’s wish that the information not be made public.


One of her last acting appearances was in a segment of a two-hour television trilogy, “Rex Harrison: Stories of Love,” which will be aired tonight on Channel 4. The show was filmed more than two years ago.

In later years, she had spent increasing amounts of time on her 320-acre farm in Ohio. The land had been in her family for more than a century and had been homesteaded by her great-grandparents.

Miss Moorehead was born in Clinton, Mass., and her father, a Presbyterian minister, had insisted she be educated for a teaching career. She had a master of arts degree from the University of Wisconsin and taught English and dramatics before turning to the stage.

As a teacher in New York, she enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and made her first appearance at the Municipal Opera in St. Louis. Returning to New York, she appeared with the American Academy Stock Co. and began to find Broadway roles.

She appeared in “Marco’s Millions,” “Scarlet Pages” and “Men, Soldiers and Women,” toured in vaudeville and then began her radio career with Orson Welles’ Mercury Players and a continuing role in Lionel Barrymore’s Mayor of the Town radio series.

One of her most famous radio performances was as the neurotic wife-victim in “Sorry, Wrong Number,” now recognized as a classic.

Miss Moorehead’s first motion picture role was with Welles, who cast her as his mother in “Citizen Kane.” This role, as a drab and bitter woman, led to more film appearances in similar characterizations, but she managed to break the mold with the role of a chic French-woman, “Asphasia,” in “Mrs. Parkington.”

She was twice nominated for the Academy Award, in 1942 for “The Magnificent Ambersons,” and in 1948 for “Johnny Belinda,” and won the New York Film Critics Award in 1942 and Radio Life award the same year. She held an honorary doctor of humanities degree from Muskingum College and was an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Most recently, she was known to television audiences as the sarcastic witch-mother, Endora, in the Bewitched series.

Miss Moorehead was twice married, to actors Jack G. Lee and Robert Gist. Both marriages ended in divorce. She had no children and no known close relatives. Funeral services are pending.


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