Tuesday, July 14, 2009

For Your Consideration: Josephine Hutchinson

Josephine Hutchinson
October 12, 1903 - June 4, 1993

Once again, let's highlight 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.

Josephine Hutchinson with Basil Rathbone
Son of Frankenstein

Some of her well-remembered titles include The Story of Louis Pasteur opposite Paul Muni, Ruby Gentry, Miracle in the Rain, North by Northwest and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. A particular favourite of Ms. Hutchinson's was 1939s Son of Frankenstein for the good humour and camaraderie of her co-stars, Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone and Bela Lugosi.

Dorothy Stickney and Josephine Hutchinson as Emily and Mamie Baldwin
The Homecoming: A Christmas Story

Josephine Hutchinson was also featured in many classic television episodes including four episodes of Perry Mason, The Twilight Zone: I Sing the Body Electric, Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie. She created the role of Mamie Baldwin in Earl Hamner's The Homecoming: A Christmas Story in 1971 which became the popular series The Waltons. The Baldwin sisters, you will recall were fond of generously sharing their late Papa's "recipe". Helen Kleeb and Mary Jackson played the roles on the series.

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.

Josephine Hutchinson and John Hodiak
Somewhere in the Night

Miss Conroy is a lonely woman living in a dream world brought about by trauma equal to that of our hero. Does she know him? What secrets are locked in her mind? It is a heartbreaking and moving 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. It is the sort of performance that should come to mind when considering best supporting actress. Brava, Ms. Hutchinson.


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