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Teresa Wright

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Teresa Wright returns to movies in "The Rainmaker"

by Bob Thomas

The Associated Press  December 26, 1997

Among the notables in the cast of Francis Ford Coppola's "John Grisham's The Rainmaker" is one who can warm the hearts of longtime moviegoers: Teresa Wright.

During the 1940s she provided the essence of lovely young womanhood, whether as Gary Cooper's devoted wife in "The Pride of the Yankees" or Joseph Cotten's intended victim in Alfred Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt."

She also played Marlon Brando's sweetheart in his first film, "The Men."

Miss Wright captured Hollywood from the start, winning an Academy Award nomination as supporting actress in 1941 in her first movie, "The Little Foxes." The following year she scored a double: She was nominated for best actress in "The Pride of the Yankees" and as supporting actress in "Mrs. Miniver." The latter won her the Oscar.

At 69 [sic], the flawless beauty of her years as a leading lady still lingers in her face. In "The Rainmaker," she appears as Miss Birdie, an eccentric, warmhearted oldster who befriends the young lawyer portrayed by Matt Damon.

Miss Wright happened to be in Los Angeles when she received Coppola's script for the film. She read it on a flight back to her New York home and decided she wanted to do it.

"At first I thought if Miss Birdie went all the way through it might be too much for me," she said by telephone from her Manhattan apartment. "Then I found out we were going to rehearse, which was wonderful. We had a week's rehearsal at Francis' place in Napa (Valley in California). That was a great experience. Then we had another week in Memphis (Tenn.)."

The actress has been directed by such legends as Hitchcock and William Wyler. This was her first experience with Coppola. "Years ago I had met him when I read a part for 'Peggy Sue Got Married,'" she recalled. "That part wasn't something I really wanted to do.

"Hitchcock and Wyler were marvelous directors, and I enjoyed working with them. But Francis was quite unique. I heard Mickey Rourke saying on television, 'There was a lot of love going around on that set.' and there was.

"Francis enjoys actors, and he enjoys members of the crew and the story. He worked on the story all the way through. He worked late at night on he script. I have no idea when he slept. There must have been two hours somewhere. Nobody worked harder than he did."

She also had kind words for Damon, predicting he would be around for a long time.

New York-born Teresa Wright came to Hollywood in 1940 with excellent credentials. She had schooled at the Wharf Theater in Provincetown, Mass., understudied Martha Scott in "Our Town" and was appearing as an ingenue in "Life With Father" when Samuel Goldwyn signed her to a contract. Her beauty and dramatic intensity made her an ideal leading lady with Cooper, Brando, Dana Andrews, Robert Mitchum, David Niven and other stars.

After 1950, her career took a back seat to marriage, first to novelist-screenwriter Niven Busch ("Duel in the Sun"), then to playwright Robert Anderson ("Tea and Sympathy"), whom she married twice. She has a son and daughter and two grandchildren. "The Rainmaker" is Miss Wright's first movie since "The Good Mother" with Diane Keaton and Liam Neeson in 1988. But she has never retired, often appearing in TV movies and in the theater. Recently someone asked her: "Now that you're doing character parts, do you expect things to be different?"

Her reply: "I've been doing character parts since 1953. I just don't have to wear a gray wig anymore."

© 1997 The Associated Press

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