Caftan Woman

Caftan Woman

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

For Your Consideration: Josephine Hutchinson

Josephine Hutchinson
October 12, 1903 - June 4, 1993

Once again, Caftan Woman's blog highlights a performance that was overlooked by the Academy during Hollywood's Golden Age. Fortunately, the work lasts for us to enjoy today.

Seattle born Hutchinson was an actress with a strong theatrical background before signing with Warner Brothers in 1934. She appeared in 22 plays between 1925 and 1933 including Alice in Wonderland (Alice), Peter Pan (Wendy), Twelfth Night, Hedda Gabbler, The Cherry Orchard, The Seagull and Camille. Not a conventional leading lady, but more than a standard character actress Hollywood found it difficult to pigeon-hole the talented actress.

Some of her well-remembered titles include The Story of Louis Pasteur (1935) opposite Paul Muni, Ruby Gentry (1952), Miracle in the Rain (1956), North by Northwest (1959) as the phoney ambassador's phoney wife and Widow Douglas in Michael Curtiz' The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960). A particular favourite of Ms. Hutchinson's was Son of Frankenstein (1939) for the good humour and cameraderie of her co-stars, Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone and Bela Lugosi.

Josephine Hutchinson was also featured in many classic television episodes including four episodes of Perry Mason, The Twilight Zone's "I Sing the Body Electric", Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie. She created the role of Mamie Baldwin in Christmas StoThe Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971) which became the popular series The Waltons. Dorothy Stickney played her sister Emily. The Baldwin sisters were so generous by sharing their late Papa's "recipe". On the series the roles were played by Helen Kleeb and Meg Jenkins.

In Joseph Mankiewicz's prototype noir of 1946 Somewhere in the Night Josephine Hutchinson gave one of those memorable performances that deserved much more recognition from her peers. A war veteran with amnesia played by John Hodiak desperately searches for the clues to the man he is and the man others claim him to be. The trail leads to Elizabeth Conroy played by Hutchinson. She is a lonely woman living in a dream world brought about by trauma equal to our hero. Does she know him? What secrets are locked in her mind? It is a heartbreakingly moving and touching performance that in lesser hands could have been a dotty Miss Faversham type. Instead, the audience is left wondering about this character and hoping for her peace and sanity. Brava, Ms. Hutchinson.