Agnes Moorehead


06 Dec 1900


Clinton, Massachusetts, USA


Agnes Robertson Moorehead


Of Irish/English ancestry, Agnes was born near Boston, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister (her mother was a mezzo-soprano) who encouraged her to perform in church pageants. Aged three, she sang 'The Lord is my Shepherd' on a public stage and seven years later joined the St. Louis Municipal Opera as a dancer and singer for four years. In keeping with her father's dictum of finishing her education first (then doing whatever she wished to do with her career), Agnes attended Muskingum College (Ohio) and, subsequently, the University of Wisconsin, where she graduated with an M.A. in English and public speaking, later adding a doctorate in literature from Bradley University to her resume. When her family moved to Reedsburg, Wisconsin, where her father had a pastorate, Agnes taught public school English and drama for five years. In between, she went to Paris to study pantomime with Marcel Marceau.

In 1928, she began studies at the American Academy for Dramatic Arts and graduated with honors the following year. In order to supplement her income , Agnes had turned to radio early on. She had her first job in 1923 as a singer for a St. Louis radio station. Her love for that medium remained with her all her life, and, from the 1930's to the 1950's, she appeared on numerous serials, dramas and children's programs. She was Min Gump in "The Gumps" (1934), the 'dragon lady' in "Terry and the Pirates" (1937), Margot Lane of classic comic strip fame in "The Shadow", Mrs.Danvers in "Rebecca" and the bed-ridden woman about to meet her end in "Sorry, Wrong Number" . Acting on the airwaves was so important to her that she would insist on its continuation as a precondition of a later contract with MGM. Significantly, through her radio work on "The Shadow"and "March of Time" in 1937, she met and befriended fellow actor Orson Welles. Welles soon invited her to join him and Joseph Cotten as charter members of his Mercury Theatre on the Air. Agnes was involved in the famous "War of the Worlds" broadcast of 1938, which attracted nationwide attention and resulted in a lucrative $100,000 per picture deal with RKO in Hollywood. The Mercury players (the other principals were Ray Collins, Everett Sloane, Paul Stewart and George Coulouris) packed up and went west.

An ebullient and versatile character actress, Agnes was impossible to typecast: she could play years older than her age, appear as heroine or villainess, tragedienne or comedienne. In her first film, the iconic Citizen Kane (1941) she played the titular character's mother. She received her greatest critical acclaim for her emotive second screen performance, as Aunt Fanny Minafer, in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). In addition to being voted the year's best female performer by the New York Film Critics, she was also nominated for an Academy Award. Through the years, Agnes would be nominated three more times: for her touching portrayal of the jaded but sympathetic Baroness Conti in Mrs. Parkington (1944); for her role as the title character's Aunt Aggie in Johnny Belinda (1948) and for playing Velma, the hard-boiled, suspicious housekeeper of Bette Davis in Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), co-starring her old friend Joseph Cotten. Other notable film appearances included Jane Eyre (1943), with Orson Welles, The Woman in White (1948) as Countess Fusco), The Lost Moment (1947) (as a 105-year old woman) and Dark Passage (1947), a classic film noir in which she had third billing behind Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall as the treacherous , malevolent Madge Rapf. She had a rare starring role in the campy horror flick The Bat (1959), giving (according to the New York Times of December 17) 'a good, snappy performance'.

On Broadway, she appeared in several noted plays, such as "All the King's Men" and "Candlelight". She enjoyed success with "Don Juan in Hell", touring nationally, the first time (1951-2) with Charles Laughton and Cedric Hardwicke, the second time (receiving fewer critical plaudits) with Ricardo Montalban and Paul Henreid in 1973. She also starred with Joseph Cotten in "Prescription Murder" (1962), which, while not a great critical success was much liked by audiences and introduced a famous detective named Lieutenant Columbo. From 1954, she also toured the U.S. and Europe with her own a one-woman show, entitled "The Fabulous Redhead". Agnes performed numerous times on television before landing the role of Endora on Bewitched (1964). One particularly interesting part came her way through the director Douglas Heyes, who remembered her from "Sorry, Wrong Number", and cast her in the starring - and indeed, only role in The Twilight Zone: The Invaders (1961) episode, "The Invaders". As the lonely old woman confronted by tiny alien invaders in her remote farmhouse, Agnes never utters a single word, cleverly acting her scenes as a pantomime of unspoken terror.

Of course, the genial Agnes Moorehead has been immortalized as Elizabeth Montgomery's flamboyant witch-mother, Endora, though that was not a role the actress wished to be remembered for, in spite of several Emmy Award nominations. Indeed, she had considered the whole witchcraft theme to be too far-fetched and was somewhat taken aback by the show's huge popularity. Agnes had a special clause inserted in her contract which limited her appearances to eight out of twelve episodes, giving her the opportunity to work on other projects. Commenting on the acting profession in one of her many interviews (New York Times, May 1, 1974), she found the key to success in being " sincere in your work " and to "just go right on whether audiences or critics are taking your scalp off or not".

Actor ( 145 credits )

La imagen de tu vida (2006)  Endora (1 episode, 2006)
Bewitched (2005) Endora (archive footage) (uncredited)
The Naked Archaeologist (2005)  Endora / ... (archive footage) (2 episodes, 2008-2010)
Backstory (2000)  Velma Cruther (archive footage) (1 episode, 2001)
Biography (1987)  Endora in 'Bewitched' (1 episode, 1999)
America at the Movies (1976) Rebecca Prescott (archive footage)
That's Entertainment! (1974) Clip from 1951 version of 'Show Boat' (archive footage)
Charlotte's Web (1973) The Goose (voice)
What's My Line? (1973)  Herself - Guest Celebrity (1 episode, 1973)
Dear Dead Delilah (1972) Delilah Charles
What's the Matter with Helen? (1971) Sister Alma
The Smith Family (1971) (1 episode, 1971)
The Pet Set (1971)  Herself (1 episode, 1971)
It Was a Very Good Year (1971)  Herself (1 episode, 1971)
Barefoot in the Park (1970)  Mrs. Wilson (1 episode, 1970)
Night Gallery (1969)  Emma Brigham (segment "Certain Shadows on the Wall") /
Marcus Welby, M.D. (1969)  Mrs. Ramsey (1 episode, 1972)
Love, American Style (1969)  Mrs. Cooper (segment 'Love and the Particular Girl') (
Della (1969)  Herself (1 episode, 1969)
The Magic Pear Tree (1968) Chantelle (voice)
Lancer (1968)  Mrs. Normile (1 episode, 1969)
That's Life (1968) (1 episode, 1969)
The Don Rickles Show (1968)  Herself (1 episode, 1968)
Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1967)  Herself (1 episode, 1971)
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1967)  Herself (1 episode, 1967)
Custer (1967)  Watoma (1 episode, 1967)
The Joey Bishop Show (1967)  Herself (2 episodes, 1967)
The Jonathan Winters Show (1967)  Herself (1 episode, 1968)
The Woody Woodbury Show (1967)  Herself (1 episode, 1967)
The Pat Boone Show (1967)  Herself (1 episode, 1968)
Dateline: Hollywood (1967)  Herself (1 episode, 1967)
Mondo Hollywood (1967) Herself (archive footage) (uncredited)
The Singing Nun (1966) Sister Cluny
The Lone Ranger (1966)  Black Widow (1 episode, 1966)
The Wild Wild West (1965)  Emma Valentine (1 episode, 1967)
The Hollywood Squares (1965)  Herself (21 episodes, 1966-1968)
Hollywood Talent Scouts (1965) (1 episode, 1966)
Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) Velma
Chevrolet's Bewitching Bonanza (1964) Herself
Bewitched (1964)  Endora (254 episodes, 1964-1972)
The Hollywood Palace (1964)  Herself - Dramatic Reader (1 episode, 1966)
The Celebrity Game (1964)  Herself (1 episode, 1965)
Who's Minding the Store? (1963) Mrs. Phoebe Tuttle
Burke's Law (1963)  Dona Ynez Ortega y Esteban / ... (3 episodes, 1963-196
The Greatest Show on Earth (1963)  Millie (1 episode, 1964)
Channing (1963)  Professor Amelia Webster (1 episode, 1964)
You Don't Say (1963)  Herself (1 episode, 1964)
The Jerry Lester Show (1963)  Herself (1 episode, 1963)
How the West Was Won (1962) Rebecca Prescott
Jessica (1962) Maria Lombardo
The Virginian (1962)  Emma Garvey (1 episode, 1970)
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962)  Herself (1 episode, 1970)
The Merv Griffin Show (1962)  Herself (1 episode, 1967)
Girl Talk (1962)  Herself (3 episodes, 1963-1967)
Bachelor in Paradise (1961) Judge Peterson
Twenty Plus Two (1961) Mrs. Eleanor Delaney
Password All-Stars (1961)  Herself (1 episode, 1967)
The Mike Douglas Show (1961)  Herself (4 episodes, 1967-1973)
Pollyanna (1960) Mrs. Snow
Harrigan and Son (1960) (1 episode, 1960)
My Sister Eileen (1960)  Aunt Harriet (2 episodes, 1961)
Here's Hollywood (1960)  Herself (1 episode, 1960)
The Shari Lewis Show (1960)  Herself (1 episode, 1963)
About Faces (1960)  Herself (1 episode, 1960)
The Chevy Mystery Show (1960)  Elizabeth Marshall (1 episode, 1960)
The Bat (1959) Cornelia van Gorder
Night of the Quarter Moon (1959) Cornelia Nelson
Twilight Zone (1959)  Woman (1 episode, 1961)
Rawhide (1959)  Sister Frances (1 episode, 1960)
The Rebel (1959)  Mrs. Martha Lassiter (1 episode, 1959)
Adventures in Paradise (1959)  Jikiri (1 episode, 1960)
Startime (1959)  Carmen Lynch (1 episode, 1960)
Tempest (1958) Vassilissa Mironova
Screen Snapshots: Salute to Hollywood (1958) Herself
The Rifleman (1958)  Alberta 'Bertie' Hoakam (1 episode, 1960)
Shirley Temple's Storybook (1958)  Hepzibah Pyncheon / ... (3 episodes, 1958-1960)
The Story of Mankind (1957) Queen Elizabeth I
Raintree County (1957) Ellen Shawnessy
Jeanne Eagels (1957) Nellie Neilson
The True Story of Jesse James (1957) Mrs. Samuel
Wagon Train (1957)  Mary Halstead (1 episode, 1957)
Suspicion (1957)  Katherine Searles (1 episode, 1958)
The DuPont Show of the Month (1957)  Madame Defarge (1 episode, 1958)
Alcoa Theatre (1957)  Mrs. Adams (1 episode, 1959)
Operation Raintree (1957) Herself (uncredited)
The Opposite Sex (1956) Countess
Pardners (1956) Mrs. Matilda Kingsley
The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956) Bertha Parchman
The Swan (1956) Queen Maria Dominika
The Conqueror (1956) Hunlun
Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956) Miss Hattie
Playhouse 90 (1956)  Rose Ganun (1 episode, 1958)
All That Heaven Allows (1955) Sara Warren
The Left Hand of God (1955) Beryl Sigman
Untamed (1955) Aggie
The Millionaire (1955)  Katherine Boland (1 episode, 1960)
Matinee Theatre (1955)  Mrs. Barnes (1 episode, 1956)
Camera Three (1955)  Herself (1 episode, 1963)
Magnificent Obsession (1954) Nancy Ashford
Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color (1954)  Mrs. Snow / ... (5 episodes, 1963-1971)
Climax! (1954)  (segment "Child of the Wind") / ... (2 episodes, 1956-
Studio 57 (1954)  Mrs. Tolliver (1 episode, 1956)
Those Redheads from Seattle (1953) Mrs. Edmonds
Main Street to Broadway (1953) Mildred Waterbury
Scandal at Scourie (1953) Sister Josephine
The Story of Three Loves (1953) Aunt Lydia (segment "The Jealous Lover")
General Electric Theater (1953)  Ana Konrad Bethlen (1 episode, 1959)
The Revlon Mirror Theater (1953)  Martha Adams (1 episode, 1953)
The Blazing Forest (1952) Jessie Crain
The Linkletter Show (1952)  Herself (1 episode, 1970)
The Blue Veil (1951) Mrs. Palfrey
Adventures of Captain Fabian (1951) Aunt Jezebel
Show Boat (1951) Parthy Hawks
Fourteen Hours (1951) Christine Hill Cosick
The Red Skelton Hour (1951)  Bertha Bluenose (1 episode, 1969)
Schlitz Playhouse (1951) (1 episode, 1957)
Captain Blackjack (1950) Mrs.Emily Birk
Caged (1950) Ruth Benton
The Colgate Comedy Hour (1950)  Aunt Minnie (1 episode, 1955)
Without Honor (1949) Katherine Williams
The Great Sinner (1949) Emma Getzel
Some of the Best: Twenty-Five Years of Motion Picture Leadership (1949) Herself (archive footage) (uncredited)
The Stratton Story (1949) Ma Stratton
Johnny Belinda (1948) Aggie MacDonald
Station West (1948) Mrs. Caslon
The Woman in White (1948) Countess Fosco
Summer Holiday (1948) Cousin Lily
The Ed Sullivan Show (1948)  Mrs. Snow - Scene from 'Pollyanna' (1 episode, 1960)
The Lost Moment (1947) Juliana Borderau
Dark Passage (1947) Madge Rapf
Her Highness and the Bellboy (1945) Countess Zoe
Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945) Bruna Jacobson
Keep Your Powder Dry (1945) Lieut. Colonel Spottiswoode
Tomorrow, the World! (1944) Aunt Jessie Frame
The Seventh Cross (1944) Mme. Marelli
Dragon Seed (1944) Third Cousin's Wife
Since You Went Away (1944) Mrs. Emily Hawkins
Mrs. Parkington (1944) Baroness Aspasia Conti
Jane Eyre (1943) Mrs. Reed
Government Girl (1943) Adele - Mrs. Delancey Wright
The Youngest Profession (1943) Miss Featherstone
Journey Into Fear (1942) Mrs. Mathews
The Big Street (1942) Violette Shumberg
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) Fanny
Citizen Kane (1941) Mary Kane