Known around the world as Ellie Ewing, the long-suffering matriarch of the affluent and combative Ewing clan on the highly popular primetime drama "Dallas" (CBS, 1978-1991), Barbara Bel Geddes was fam...
Actress Charlene Tilton has credited her late Dallas colleagues Larry Hagman, Barbara Bel Geddes and Jim Davis with saving her from falling victim to the child star 'curse'. Tilton enjoyed several TV and movie roles as a teenager before landing her big break as Lucy Ewing on the hit drama at the age of 20, and admits she felt vulnerable taking her place among the show's cast of acting veterans.
However, she managed to avoid the pitfalls of sudden fame that often overwhelm young stars, and thanks the older actors for keeping her grounded during her first eight years in Dallas.
Tilton tells UltimateDallas.com, "I did stay grounded at the time because the people I was working with - Jim Davis, Barbara Bel Geddes, Larry Hagman - everybody had such a stellar work ethic. They were always on time, they knew their lines, everybody was so professional. We had a lot of fun... They loved me and took care of me but I had to hold my own."
Bel Geddes, who played Ewing family matriarch Miss Ellie, died in 2005, and in the first Dallas broadcast since her passing, her screen son Bobby will be seen visiting the character's grave.
Viewers will be told Miss Ellie died in 2001.
Patrick Duffy, who steps back into his role as Bobby when the show relaunches in the U.S. in June (12), tells TVGuide.com, "Barbara is a big piece of our history, and it's important to me to honour her. To come back with Linda (Gray) as Sue Ellen and Larry (Hagman) in his J.R. hat, and then see the words ELLIE SOUTHWORTH EWING FARLOW on the gravestone made me think, 'Oh, that's right - she's gone.' It was hard to get through the dialogue."
Duffy reveals producers have also factored in a nod to Jim Davis, who played Miss Ellie's husband Jock Ewing until his death in 1981, by asking designer Richard Berg to paint a portrait of Jock and Miss Ellie which hangs in the family home at Southfork Ranch in the new series.
Duffy adds, "He captured Jim and Barbara in a look to each other that is unbelievable. That painting is actually alive and gives me a nice feeling that they're always there. Through the whole first season, I don't think an episode goes by that Mama is not mentioned in reference to Southfork and the land."
Gray and her fellow castmates were rumoured to have frequently argued onset, but the actress insists there were never any bust-ups - because the stars were so focused on their work.
She tells Britain's OK! magazine, "People don't like to read that we got along, it's more newsworthy that we hated each other and we were bitchy. But we weren't kids when we started, we were older - we didn't behave like that.
"We had home lives, children and responsibilities. We went to work like normal people go to work. It's nonsense that there was any bitchiness. I was very close to Barbara Bel Geddes, who played Miss Ellie. She was from New York, she was away from her family and she missed her home life and so we bonded.
"She was a very good friend. I knew Larry (Hagman) from watching him on I Dream of Jeannie and I thought, 'Oh it must be a comedy if he is in it, this Dallas show!' Well, we laughed so much it could have been a comedy."
Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones and Mel Gibson have now joined the list of names scrambling to play Jr. Ewing in an upcoming movie version of classic TV show Dallas. While the producer insists no casting decisions will be finalized until the script is rewritten, John Travolta has emerged as one of the favorites to play ruthless oil tycoon Ewing, originally portrayed by Larry Hagman. And sources say that Gibson is considering vying for the role, while Costner wants to see a rewrite first. The movie, to be directed by Robert Luketic, also has Jane Fonda named as the likely candidate to take on the role of the late Barbara Bel Geddes' matriarch Miss Ellie. The favorite to play Sue Ellen, originally portrayed by Linda Gray, is Catherine Zeta-Jones, but Demi Moore and Jennifer Lopez also want to nab the role, according to Daily Variety. For the role of Victoria Principal's Pamela, Drew Barrymore and Reese Witherspoon have been eyed, while Lucy, portrayed on the show by Charlene Tilton, has ignited hopes for Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore. Article Copyright World Entertainment News Network All Rights Reserved.
Former Dallas star Barbara Bel Geddes has died of lung cancer. She was 82.
The veteran actress, who played matriarch Miss Ellie Ewing on the classic
soap, passed away at her home in Northeast Harbor, Maine, on Monday.
Larry Hagman, who played her son J.R. Ewing on Dallas, says, "She was the rock
of Dallas. She was just a really nice woman and a wonderful actress. She was
kind of the glue that held the whole thing together."
Though best remembered for her TV work, she was also Oscar nominated for her
role as the narrator-daughter in 1948's I Remember Mama and was Tennessee
Williams' original sizzler, Maggie The Cat, in Broadway's Cat on a Hot Tin
Geddes, who also starred in Alfred Hitchcock's classic Vertigo, retired from
acting to take care of her husband, Windsor Lewis, after he fell ill with
cancer in 1966. After he died in 1972, cash-strapped Bel Geddes accepted a role
from Dallas producers - even though she considered TV a step down from Oscar-
and Tony-caliber roles.
She won an Emmy for her role in 1980 - and she remains the only night-time
soap winner to be honored in an acting category.
Bel Geddes was a heavy smoker, according to reports. Hagman says he had
encouraged Bel Geddes to give up the smoking habit, but it was doctors who got
her to quit after her heart attack.
She is survived by a daughter, Betsy.
Article Copyright World Entertainment News Network All Rights Reserved.
Returned to Broadway to co-star in "Finishing Touches"
Starred in TV series, "Dallas" (left in 1984 to have heart surgery; was replaced by Donna Reed for a season)
First stage appearance, walk-on role in summer stock production of "The School For Scandal" at Clinton Playhouse (Connecticut)
Last film appearances in "Summertree" and "The Todd Killings"
Originated the role of Maggie the Cat on Broadway in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"
Reunited with original cast of "Dallas" to film "Dallas Reunion: Return to Southfork"
Toured in production of Eugene O'Neill's "Ah, Wilderness!"
Toured military camps with USO production of "Junior Miss"
Broadway debut in "Out of the Frying Pan"
Garnered Oscar nomination for role in "I Remember Mama"
Last film role for ten years, "By Love Posessed"
Film acting debut in "The Long Night"
Returned to her role as 'Miss Ellie' on "Dallas"; stayed with the show for five years
Known around the world as Ellie Ewing, the long-suffering matriarch of the affluent and combative Ewing clan on the highly popular primetime drama "Dallas" (CBS, 1978-1991), Barbara Bel Geddes was familiar with the world of performing from her childhood, thanks to the behind-the-scenes Broadway success of her father, Norman Bel Geddes. After a stint at the Actors Studio and a handful of plays, she made her own name on the Great White Way with the controversial "Deep are the Roots" (1945-46) and was subsequently cast in other successful productions like "The Moon is Blue" (1951-53), "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1955-56), and "Mary, Mary" (1961-64). She also earned notable credits in the motion picture world, including "I Remember Mama" (1948), for which she received an Oscar nomination, "Panic in the Streets" (1950), and Alfred Hitchcock's suspense masterpiece "Vertigo" (1958). Her greatest notoriety, however, came via the small screen. Bel Geddes earned a footnote in television history with her turn as a sly murderess in "Lamb to the Slaughter," one of the most fondly remembered episodes of the darkly humorous "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (CBS/NBC, 1955-1962). However, it was that Emmy-winning stint on "Dallas" that brought Bel Geddes the most lasting recognition and when health issues forced her to drop out of the show, the public was unwilling to accept an actress of even Donna Reed's calibre in her place.<p>The daughter of celebrated Broadway scenic designer-producer-director and industrial design pioneer Norman Bel Geddes, Barbara Bel Geddes was born on Oct. 31, 1922 in New York City. Thanks to her father's profession, she came to know the theatre world quite well and began performing in her teens. Upon finishing private school, Bel Geddes joined the celebrated Actors Studio and made her Broadway debut in "Out of the Frying Pan" (1941). That led to roles in productions like "Little Darling" (1942), "Nine Girls" (1943), and "Mrs. January and Mr. X" (1944). However, it was Elia Kazan's highly successful interracial love story "Deep are the Roots" (1945-46) that really established the young actress. Bel Geddes was presented with a Theatre World Award for her performance and accepted a movie contract offer from RKO Radio Pictures. The company was so eager to have her, they agreed to Bel Geddes' request that she was only required to appear in one movie a year, an unusual concession during the contract player days when studio bosses ruled with an iron fist and only the top stars had any real say in their careers.<p>RKO first paired her with Henry Fonda in the film noir thriller "The Long Night" (1947). The picture was something of a disappointment, but many more moviegoers were able to see Bel Geddes in her next outing. George Stevens' "I Remember Mama" (1948) cast her opposite Irene Dunne in a superb adaptation of John Van Druten's moving drama about the trials and tribulations of a Norwegian family living in California during the early 20th century. Bel Geddes earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination and also appeared with RKO stalwart Robert Mitchum in the Western "Blood on the Moon" (1948), but when the studio was purchased by Howard Hughes, the eccentric millionaire let her go. The man who had become fixated by the likes of Jane Russell felt that Bel Geddes was "not sexy enough," so after appearances in the James Mason drama "Caught" (1949), Elia Kazan's "Panic in the Streets" (1950) and "Fourteen Hours" (1951) for other studios, she returned to the Great White Way with roles in "Burning Bright" (1950) and Otto Preminger's hugely successful adult comedy "The Moon is Blue" (1951-53). She also began to log time on the small screen, with guest appearances on programs like "Robert Montgomery Presents" (NBC, 1950-57), "Pulitzer Prize Playhouse" (ABC, 1950-52), and "Studio One" (CBS, 1948-1958).<p>Any regrets Bel Geddes might still have had regarding her experience in Hollywood were further diminished when she was given the lead role in another huge Broadway success, Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1955-56). Once again acting under the supervision of Elia Kazan, Bel Geddes gave a remarkable performance as "Maggie the Cat" in the steamy Southern Gothic, receiving a Tony Award nomination. As with "The Moon is Blue," Bel Geddes did not reprise her role in the subsequent film adaptation, but her return to the big screen came in one of the decade's finest productions. While not all critics were kind upon its original release, Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" (1958) was later considered to be among his most stylish and fascinating thrillers. While Kim Novak played the female lead, Bel Geddes provided excellent support as the loyal friend of James Stewart's troubled, acrophobia-plagued protagonist.<P>The actress' association with the Master of Suspense carried over to his popular television series, "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (CBS/NBC, 1955-62). Bel Geddes appeared in four episodes of the program, including the classic "Lamb to the Slaughter," in which she memorably portrayed a murderess who bludgeons her husband to death with a frozen leg of lamb and disposes of the murder weapon by cooking and serving it to the policemen investigating the case. She notched additional TV appearances on "Playhouse 90" (CBS, 1956-1960), "The United States Steel Hour" (ABC/CBS, 1953-1963) and "Riverboat" (NBC, 1959-1961), and also graced the superior Danny Kaye biopic "The Five Pennies" (1959), the World War II drama "5 Branded Women" (1960) and the Lana Turner vehicle "By Love Possessed" (1961). However, movie audiences soon had to do without Bel Geddes for an extended stretch, thanks to the knockout Broadway success of the comedy "Mary, Mary" (1961-64) for which she garnered a second Tony nomination. She also did stints as a replacement performer in the comedy hit "Luv" (1964-67) and Edward Albee's "Everything in the Garden" (1967-68), as well as a handful of guest spots to keep the money rolling in on shows like "CBS Playhouse" (CBS, 1967-1970) and "Daniel Boone" (NBC, 1964-1970).<p>In the wake of these successes, Bel Geddes decided to put her career on hold in 1966 when her husband, Windsor Lewis, was stricken with cancer. The cost of the required medical care took a toll on their finances and she went back to work in the movies "Summertree" (1971), an early vehicle for Michael Douglas, and the lurid psycho thriller "The Todd Killings" (1971). Following Windsor's death in 1972, she took a final Broadway bow opposite Robert Lansing in the comedy "Finishing Touches" (1973) and co-starred in a well-regarded made-for-TV remake of "Our Town" (NBC, 1977). Now in her mid-fifties, Bel Geddes reportedly did not care for much of what played on network television, so she must have been surprised when the part she was most famous for came courtesy of that medium.<p>Cast as Ellie Ewing, matriarch of a Texas family who made its fortune in the oil industry, Bel Geddes was arguably the most dependably impressive cast member of "Dallas" (CBS, 1978-1991). The primetime soap quickly became a cultural phenomenon and the "Who Shot J.R.?" cliffhanger episode from 1980 was the highest-rated program in television history up to that point, with an estimated 83 million viewers. Unfortunately, Bel Geddes experienced her own health crisis in 1984 when she suffered a major heart attack. She was replaced as Ellie for a six-month stretch by veteran movie and television star Donna Reed, but Bel Geddes had become so established in the part by that point, viewers never really accepted her. After Reed was rather unceremoniously dumped from the program, Bel Geddes rejoined to the cast when she well enough. Appearing in just under 300 episodes of the show, Bel Geddes won the 1980 Best Lead Actress Emmy Award and followed it up in 1982 with a Golden Globe.<p>Following 12 seasons on "Dallas," Bel Geddes retired in 1990, a year before the show left the air. She spent her time working on a line of greeting cards and writing a pair of children's books, but her many years of smoking brought about another health crisis. Bel Geddes was diagnosed with lung cancer and succumbed to the disease on August 8, 2005. In 2012, "Dallas" made an unexpected return to television screens via an updated version of the show on the TNT network. Although Bel Geddes had passed away almost a decade earlier, the producers of the new incarnation paid tribute to her and co-star Jim Davis, who had played Ellie's husband on the series until his death in 1981, via a painting of the couple, which was featured prominently on the Southfork Ranch set.<p><i>By John Charles</i>
Helen Bel Geddes
married from April 15, 1951 until his death
married on January 24, 1944; divorced in 1951
Buxton Country Day School
Inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1990
Bel Geddes has written and illustrated two children's books and has also designed greeting cards and stationery.