The delightful twinkle in her eye and that elderly mischievous look coming from the tiniest of frames were unmistakable traits in 1970s and 1980s lightweight films. One of a slew of popular elderly ladies getting their “fifteen minutes” at the time, character actress Paula Trueman was born in 1897 in New York City. She was the daughter of Joseph and Eva (Cohn) Trueman and was educated at Hunter College before preparing for the stage on a fellowship at the Neighborhood Playhouse.
Long trained in dance, Paula made her first stage appearance as a musical performer at the Hippodrome in a production of “The Thunderbird” in 1922. From there she appeared in revues, particularly the Grand Street Follies of 1924–staying with that annual show until 1929. Dramatic roles were not beyond her as she made her straight-acting debut in “The Little Clay Cart” in December of 1924. For the next four decades she was a theater presence to be reckoned with. Over the years she delighted audiences in such plays as “The Dybbuk (1927), “A Midsummer Night’s Dream (as Puck) (1932), “The Merchant of Venice” (1932), “You Can’t Take It With You” (1936), “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1949), “The Solid Gold Cadillac” (1954), “Wonderful Town” (1963), “The Music Man” (1965) and “Catsplay (1977).
She had an uncredited role in the Ben Hecht/Charles MacArthur crime feature Crime Without Passion (1934), but it did not lead to any other offers. Other than an unbilled part in One Foot in Heaven (1941), she did not appear again until the musical film version of Paint Your Wagon (1969) with Clint Eastwood. She then got on a roll and appeared as a number of feisty, dotty, careworn grannies. She co-starred in the cult movie Homebodies (1974) and Eastwood handed her a prime featured part in his western The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). For the next decade she continued to spring up in a number of comedies, albeit bit parts, including Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977) and Zelig (1983). This adorable little bundle of joy made her last film appearances with Sweet Lorraine (1987) and Moonstruck (1987). She died of natural causes in her beloved New York in 1994, aged 96.
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