Judith Anderson's multi honoured career in film and on stage starts with the Adelaide Repertory

Judith Anderson in her Academy Award-nominated role as Mrs Danvers in Alfred Hitchcock's film Rebecca (1940).

Frances Margaret Anderson, who made her acting debut as a teenager with the Adelaide Repertory Theatre, went on to an international career in stage, film and television that was honoured with two Emmy awards, a Tony award, and nominations for a Grammy and an Academy award (for her role in Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca) under her stage name: Judith Anderson.

Born in Adelaide in 1897 and educated at Rose Park, she made her professional acting debut, aged 17, as Francee Anderson at Sydney’s Theatre Royal. American actors in the company convinced Anderson to try her luck in the USA.

Three years later, unable to get work in Los Angeles despite a letter of introduction to Cecil B. De Mille, she moved to New York and worked with the Emma Bunting Stock Company at the Fourteenth Street Theatre. She made her Broadway debut, as Frances Anderson, in On the stairs in 1922. By 1924, she became known as Judith Anderson and her first Broadway success was in The cobra.

In 1927, Anderson toured Australia with three plays. During the 1930s, built her theatre reputation in Eugene O'Neill's Mourning Becomes ElectraThe Mask and the Face (opposite Humphrey Bogart) and Hamlet (opposite John Gielgud). Anderson played Lady MacBeth in notable productions with the Old Vic Company in London opposite Laurence Olivier and in New York opposite Maurice Evans. She featured in two TV versions of MacBeth and was the first actress to receive Emmys for the same role in separate productions. Further noteworthy performances included Olga in Chekhov's Three Sisters (1943), John Brown's Body directed by Charles Laughton (1953) and Madame Arkadina in Chekhov's The Seagull (1960).

In 1948, Anderson won a Tony award for best actress as the lead in Medea with John Gielgud. She toured this production to Australia in 1955-56. In 1966, Anderson was a special guest of the Festival of Arts in Adelaide where she appeared in excerpts from Medea and MacBeth. 

At 73, Anderson played Hamlet in a production that toured the USA. In 1982, she was nominated for a Tony award for a supporting role in Medea.

Anderson started her film career with a supporting role in Blood money (1933), followed by Rebecca (1940), Otto Preminger's Laura (1944), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), A man called Horse (1970) and Star Trek III (1982). She was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for Rebecca. Anderson was nominated for a Grammy award for her work on a recording of Wuthering heights. From 1984 she appeared on the television soap opera Santa Barbara.

An Off-Broadway theatre was named after Anderson in 1984. She was given a Living Legacy Award by the Women's International Centre in 1986 and made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in 1991.

Her ashes are buried at the Adelaide Festival Centre.

 

 

 

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