Agnes Robertson Moorehead, born 6 December 1900, Clinton, Massachusetts, USA. RR: XAA (time of birth unknown). Sy Scholfield [copyright] cites data from birth certificate, courtesy of Pat Taglilatelo.
FEATURES: PERSONALIZED PLANETS: Gemini PLUTO (conjunct Moon, opposite Sun), Scorpio MERCURY (conjunct North Node). PATTERNS: SAGITTARIUS STELLIUM (Uranus, Sun, Jupiter, Chiron). SHAPE: SEE~SAW. CHINESE SIGN: METAL RAT. NUMEROLOGY: "10" LIFEPATH.
Agnes Robertson Moorehead (December 6, 1900 – April 30, 1974) was an American actress.
Although she appeared in more than 70 films (beginning with "Citizen Kane") and on dozens of television shows during a career that spanned more than 30 years, Moorehead is probably most widely known to modern audiences for her role as the witch Endora in the television series Bewitched. While rarely playing leads in films, Moorehead's skill at character development and range earned her one Emmy Award and two Golden Globe awards in addition to four Academy Awards and six Emmy Award nominations. Moorehead's transition to television won acclaim for drama and comedy. She could play many different types, but often portrayed haughty, arrogant characters.
Moorehead's early career was unsteady, and although she was able to find stage work she was often unemployed and forced to go hungry. She later recalled going four days without food, and said that it had taught her "the value of a dollar." She found work in radio and was soon in demand, often working on several programs in a single day. She believed that it offered her excellent training and allowed her to develop her voice to create a variety of characterizations. Moorehead met the actress Helen Hayes who encouraged her to try to enter films, but her first attempts were met with failure. Rejected as not being "the right type," Moorehead returned to radio.
She met Orson Welles and by 1937 was a member of his Mercury Theatre Group, along with Joseph Cotten. She appeared in his radio production Julius Caesar, had a regular role in the serial The Shadow and was one of the players in his The War of the Worlds production. In 1939, Welles moved the Mercury Theatre Group to Hollywood, where he started working for RKO Studios. Several of his radio performers joined him, and Moorehead made her film debut as his mother in Citizen Kane (1941). She also appeared in his films Journey into Fear (1943) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). She received a New York Film Critics Award and an Academy Award nomination for her performance in the latter film.
Moorehead from the trailer for Johnny Belinda (1948)Moorehead played another strong role in The Big Street (1942) with Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball, and then appeared in two films that failed to find an audience, Government Girl with Olivia de Havilland and The Youngest Profession with Virginia Weidler.
By the mid 1940s, Moorehead joined MGM, negotiating a $6,000-a-week contract with the provision to also perform on radio, an unusual clause at the time. Moorehead explained that MGM usually refused to allow their actors to play on radio as "the actors didn't have the knowledge or the taste of the judgment to appear on the right sort of show."
She skillfully portrayed puritanical matrons, neurotic spinsters, possessive mothers, and comical secretaries throughout her career. Moorehead was part of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre on the Air radio program in the 1930s and appeared in Broadway productions of Don Juan in Hell in 1951-1952, and Lord Pengo in 1962-1963. She played Parthy Hawks, wife of Cap'n Andy and mother of Magnolia, in MGM's hit 1951 remake of Show Boat. She was in many important films, including Dark Passage and Since You Went Away, either playing key small or large supporting parts.
During the 1940s and 1950s, she was one of the most in demand actresses for radio dramas, and in 1943 starred in the legendary Suspense play Sorry, Wrong Number, written by Lucille Fletcher. Moorehead played a selfish, neurotic woman who overhears a murder being plotted via crossed phone wires who eventually realizes she is the intended victim. She recreated the performance many times on the radio (always using her original, dog-eared script), recorded an album of the drama in 1952, and performed scenes from the story in her one-woman show in the 1950s.
Sorry, Wrong Number also inspired writers of the television series The Twilight Zone to script an episode with Moorehead in mind. In "The Invaders" (broadcast 27 January 1961) Moorehead played a woman whose isolated farm is plagued by mysterious intruders. In "Sorry, Wrong Number" Moorehead offered a famed, bravura performance using only her voice, and for "The Invaders" she was offered a script where she had no dialogue at all.
In 1964, Moorehead accepted the role of Endora, in the situation comedy Bewitched. She later commented that she had not expected it to succeed and that she ultimately felt trapped by its success. However, she had negotiated to appear in only eight of every 12 episodes made, therefore allowing her sufficient time to pursue other projects. She also felt that the television writing was often below standard and dismissed many of the Bewitched scripts as "hack" in a 1965 interview. The role brought her a level of recognition that she had not received before as Bewitched was in the top 10 programs for the first few years it screened.
Moorehead received six Emmy Award nominations, but was quick to remind interviewers that she had enjoyed a long and distinguished career. Despite her ambivalence, she remained with Bewitched until its run ended in 1972. She commented to the New York Times in 1974, "I've been in movies and played theater from coast to coast, so I was quite well known before Bewitched, and I don't particularly want to be identified as a witch." Later that year she said that she had enjoyed playing the role, but that it was not challenging and the show itself was "not breathtaking" although her flamboyant and colorful character appealed to children. She expressed a fondness for the show's star, Elizabeth Montgomery, and said that she had enjoyed working with her. Co-star Dick Sargent had a more difficult relationship with Moorehead, and described her as "a tough old bird...very self-involved."
Moorehead married actor John Griffith Lee in 1930, and they divorced in 1952. Moorehead and Lee adopted an orphan named Sean in 1949, but it remains unclear whether the adoption was legal, although Moorehead did raise the child until he ran away from home. In 1954, she married actor Robert Gist, and they divorced in 1958. In the years since her death, rumors about Moorehead's being a lesbian have been widespread (most notoriously in the book Hollywood Lesbians by Boze Hadleigh, whose source for the alleged lesbianism was Paul Lynde). However, Moorehead biographer Charles Transberg (I Love the Illusion: The Life and Career of Agnes Moorehead, 2005) interviewed several of the actress's closest friends, including some who are openly gay, who all stated the rumor is untrue. Debbie Reynolds explicitly denied to film historian Robert Osborne that her "best friend" Moorehead was gay.
Moorehead was a devout Presbyterian (Reynolds described her as "terribly religious") and, in interviews, often spoke of her relationship with God. Erin Murphy stated that the actress would read Bible stories to the children affiliated with Bewitched. Shortly before her death, Moorehead, who embraced her Reformed Calvinist roots, sought conservative causes to benefit after her death through her estate. This angered some of her Hollywood colleagues and has been postulated as the reason for the rumors of lesbianism.