Arguably best remembered for her role as Miss Ellie, the Ewing family matriarch on the long-running TV series Dallas (1978), Barbara Bel Geddes had earlier scored success on stage and screen long before gaining more lasting fame on television. She was born in New York City on Halloween Day 1922, the daughter of noted theatrical and industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes, who staged more than 200 plays. After growing up amidst the theatre, Bel Geddes began acting on stage at age 18 and soon moved on to Broadway. The silver screen also beckoned; she made her film debut in The Long Night (1947). She was quickly labeled a star, gracing the cover of Life magazine on April 12, 1948. Her third motion picture, I Remember Mama (1948), garnered Bel Geddes an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. Other notable films include Panic in the Streets (1950) directed by Elia Kazan; Alfred Hitchcock’s classic mystery-thriller Vertigo (1958) with James Stewart and Kim Novak; and The Five Pennies (1959) opposite Danny Kaye. Though she achieved immediate success in films, Bel Geddes also continued to tread the boards on Broadway, since theatre was her first love. In 1952, she received the prestigious Woman of the Year Award from Hasty Pudding Theatricals USA, America’s oldest theater company. She was nominated for Tony Awards as best dramatic actress for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1956 and for the lead in Mary, Mary in 1961. Bel Geddes made several TV appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955) and other programs in the mid 1950s, but her greatest television role came as Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow on Dallas (1978), which enjoyed a run of 13 years (1978-1991). She won the Emmy Award for best actress in 1980 and was nominated in the same category in 1979 and 1981. Bel Geddes left the show for health reasons during the 1984-85 season, with Donna Reed taking over the role of Miss Ellie. Bel Geddes returned for the 1985-86 season and continued on Dallas (1978) until 1990, when she effectively retired from acting. She did not appear in either of the two Dallas TV reunion movies. On August 8, 2005, she died following a long illness.
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