Legacy Content

Toon Talk - Legacy: Dorothy McGuire
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by Kirby C. Holt (archives)
September 20, 2001
Kirby pays tribute to Dorothy McGuire from Old Yeller, Swiss Family Treehouse and Summer Magic. McGuire died on September 13, 2001.

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Picture courtesy A Dorothy McGuire Tribute

Dorothy McGuire

1918 - 2001

Recently, I have been preparing an article for my Toon Talk column focusing on actors from the Disney live action films. One of the first performers I knew would be on the list would be Dorothy McGuire.

Her heartfelt and honest portrayals of the mothers in Old Yeller (1957), Swiss Family Robinson (1963) and Summer Magic (1963) immediately sprang to my mind as representative of the hallmarks of what makes a performance in a Disney film great. In all three films, she played dignified women who, in the face of adversity, remain strong to their beliefs, rise to the occasion and are unequivocally loyal to their families.

I was saddened to learn of Miss McGuire's death last week at the age of 85. We here at LaughingPlace.com would like to pay tribute to one of Disney's favorite moms.

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Born on June 14, 1916 to theater-loving parents who encouraged her talents, McGuire's acting career began early. In her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, at the age of 13, she was cast opposite Henry Fonda in a local production of James Barrie's A Kiss for Cinderella.

Broadway soon followed, and she made her stage debut as Emily in Thorton Wilder's Our Town, followed by a co-starring role opposite John Barrymore in My Dear Children. Stardom came in 1941 with the title role in Claudia, which lead to a call from Hollywood.

Legendary MGM mogul David O. Selznick put her under contract, allowing her to be loaned to 20th Century Fox for the 1943 film version of Claudia, her film debut. More films followed, including such classics as A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (1945), The Spiral Staircase (1946) and Gentlemen's Agreement, Elia Kazan's 1947 Academy Award-winning Best Picture, which netted McGuire her one and only Oscar nomination, for Best Actress.

Even with her film success, McGuire maintained her theatrical roots: She, along with her Gentlemen's Agreement co-star Gregory Peck and fellow actor Mel Ferrer, founded the La Jolla Playhouse in La Jolla, California in 1947. The theater is still active and thriving.

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