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Teresa Wright

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Ex-Schoolgirl A Bit Dazed by Quick Success

Who Would Have Thought Two Years Ago, She Asks, She'd Be a Stage Hit?

The New York Herald-Tribune  June 9, 1940 page VI 2

A young lady, who was still in high school a year and a half ago and who now finds herself playing an important role in a Broadway success, can be forgiven if she is somewhat dazed, especially if the part is the first one she has ever had on the principal theater thoroughfare in the world.

The young lady in the highly becoming trance is Miss Teresa Wright. Brunette, hazel-eyed, weight about 105 pounds, she may be seen these evenings wearing bustled gowns and ingenious bonnets in "Life With Father" at the Empire Theater. On these occasions she lays aside her trance, and there is no trace whatever of any confusion in the way she plays the role of a pert, spirited miss of the 1880's enjoying the pangs of love at first sight.

In her doll-size apartment off Washington Square, she still receives a call every other day from her father in Morristown, N.J.  Mr. Wright takes a few minutes from his insurance business to ask expectantly, "What's new today?" He hasn't yet recovered from the succession of lightening strokes -- of luck, Teresa calls them -- which transformed his daughter in less than two years from a high-school girl into a Broadway actress.

Offstage, the young actress, to whom the first-night critics awarded special honors, might still be a high school girl. As a matter of fact, she hastily explains, she got through her high school late -- at eighteen -- not because she was below normal, really. It was only that she didn't get started to school until she was eight.

"Not that I was so very bright in school, even so," she confesses. "I used to like to dance, and grown-ups were always saying I was going to be an actress. I thought they said that because I was too dumb to be anything else, so I always said I wasn't going to be an actress at all."

But she really did want to go on the stage, and in her second year in the Columbia High School in Maplewood, N.J., she admitted it. Maplewood is only her adopted home town, because, unlike most of those who make a name in this particular big city, she was really born here, on 124th Street to be exact.

A high-school teacher got her into the Wharf Theater in Provincetown one summer, and the next she got in on her own merits, on scholarship. Back in New York that fall, a girl graduate ready to face the world, she got her first job, that of understudy for the part of Emily in "Our Town." She played the role in the road company last spring in Boston, Providence, New Haven, and best of all, Maplewood, where it was no small triumph to appear in a leading role with such actors as Walter Hampden and Eddie Dowling.

With summer came a happy season of work among the Barnstormers at Tamworth, N.H. And this was the brief sum of her experience when she came to read the part of Mary for Oscar Serlin last fall: two apprentice summers in Provincetown, one in summer stock, and one season in one part, mostly played backstage.

Serlin said thank you, but he was really looking for a blonde. Nevertheless he called her back to read four times more, for such critical listeners as the authors, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, hard-cooked theater men both, and Mrs. Clarence Day, who knew real life with the Day family and had a keen ear for any false note.

Nobody but Teresa was surprised when she won the part. She was even more surprised when she read the notices and discovered she was a "new find" of "uncommon charm as a person and willowy skill as an actress" and -- most of all -- "an actress of intelligence."

© 1940 The New York Herald-Tribune

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