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Thelma Ritter

from the trailer for The Mating Season (1951)
Born February 14, 1902
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died February 5, 1969 (aged 66)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1947–1968
Spouse(s) Joseph Moran (1927-1969)

Thelma Ritter (February 14, 1902 – February 5, 1969) was an American supporting and character actress from the 1940s until her death in 1969.


Early life

Ritter was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1902.[1] After appearing in high school plays and stock companies, she trained as an actress at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She went on to establish a stage career but took a hiatus to raise her two children by her husband, Joseph Moran, an actor turned advertising-executive.


Ritter did stock theater and radio shows early in her career, without much impact. Ritter's first movie role was in Miracle on 34th Street (1947). She made a memorable impression in a brief uncredited part, as a frustrated mother unable to find the toy that Kris Kringle has promised to her son. Her second role, in writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's A Letter to Three Wives (1949), also left a mark, although Ritter was again not listed in the credits.

Mankiewicz kept Ritter in mind, and cast her as "Birdie" in All About Eve (1950), which earned her an Oscar nomination. A second nomination followed for her work in Mitchell Leisen's' classic ensemeble screwball comedy The Mating Season (1951) starring Gene Tierney and John Lund. Ritter enjoyed steady film work for the next dozen years. She also appeared in many of the episodic drama TV series of the 1950s, such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, General Electric Theater, and The United States Steel Hour. Later film roles were as James Stewart's nurse in Rear Window (1954) and as Doris Day's housekeeper in Pillow Talk (1959).

Although best-known for comedy roles, she played the occasional dramatic role, most notably in Pickup on South Street (1953) and The Misfits (1961).

Awards and nominations


Academy Awards

Nominated Best Actress in a Supporting Role for:

Emmy Awards

Nominated Emmy Best Actress in a Supporting Role for the Goodyear Television Playhouse production of The Catered Affair.

Golden Globe Awards

Nominated for Best Supporting Actress for:

Tony Awards

Awarded Best Actress (Musical) (1957) for New Girl in Town in a rare tie (with her co-star, Gwen Verdon)


During her career, Ritter was nominated for an Oscar six times, giving her the distinction of being one of the two actresses (tied with Deborah Kerr) most nominated for the award in an acting category without a win. The current record for all actors is Peter O'Toole with eight nominations without a win, followed by Richard Burton with seven nominations. Both Kerr and O'Toole have received honorary awards from the Academy, however. In 1954, Thelma Ritter co-hosted the Oscar ceremony, notably trading wisecracks with Bob Hope.


In February 1969, shortly after having made an appearance on The Jerry Lewis Show, Ritter suffered a heart attack, which claimed her life at age 66 (just nine days before her 67th birthday).



External links


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