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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Dallas Star Bel Geddes Dies at 82

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Barbara Bel Geddes.jpg" />Barbara Bel Geddes, the Emmy Award-winning actress who will forever be remembered for originating the role of the sultry Maggie the Cat in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and for playing Miss Ellie on "Dallas," passed away of lung cancer on Monday, August 8th at the age of 82. She died in her home in Northeast Harbor, Maine, where she had lived in retirement from show business for almost 15 years.

The daughter of famed scenic designer Norman Bel Geddes, she made her debut at the age of 18 in 1941's Out of the Frying Pan, and her last role on Broadway was in Jean Kerr's Finishing Touches in 1973. As Maggie, who spends the first part of the play tormenting her husband Brick in a slip, she received her first Tony nod in 1955. She also received a Tony nomination for her performance in the hit 1961 comedy Mary, Mary; also penned by Kerr, it ran for 1,572 performances. Bel Geddes' other Broadway credits included Little Darling, Nine Girls, Mrs. January and Mr. X, Deep Are the Roots (her breakout performance, for which she won a New York Drama Critics Award), Burning Bright, The Moon is Blue, The Living Room, The Sleeping Prince (which would be made into the Marilyn Monroe film The Prince and the Showgirl), Silent Night, Lonely Night, the comedy hit Luv and Edward Albee's Everything in the Garden.

Bel Geddes is perhaps best-known for playing Ewing family matriarch Miss Ellie on the torrid 80s primetime soap opera "Dallas;" she won an Emmy for her work (although she initially only agreed to do it because she was "flat broke"). Although a 1984 heart attack caused her to leave the show for a spell (and to be replaced by Donna Reed), she returned and continued in the role until 1990. "Dallas" would mark her last acting appearance; she quit the profession after the run of the show. She had put a previous hiatus on acting in the late 60s in order to tend to her second husband, director Windsor Lewis, who died of cancer in 1972.

Bel Geddes' career as a film star began in 1947, soon after she had done Deep Are the Roots on Broadway. Starring opposite Henry Fonda in The Long Night, she had a bigger hit with her next film, I Remember Mama, an adaptation of the John Van Druten stage play. As winsome Katrin, she received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Howard Hughes, however, bought RKO (where she was signed) and not finding her sexy enough, he nipped her film career when it was beginning to bud; she returned to the somewhat less shallow world of Broadway.

She would make later film appearances, the best known of which was probably Midge in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. Other film credits include Fourteen Hours, The Five Pennies, By Love Possessed, Summertree, The Todd Killings and a TV version of Our Town (she played Mrs. Webb). During the 50s, 60s and 70s, Bel Geddes had also appeared on a number of TV shows, including "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "Playhouse 90."

Twice married, Bel Geddes is survived by her daughters Susan (by first husband Carl Schreuer) and Betty (by Lewis), as well as by three grandchildren--Samantha, Hannah and Joshua.


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