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Beatrice Whitney Straight (August 2, 1914 – April 7, 2001) was an American theatremarker, film, and television actress.


Born in Old Westbury, New Yorkmarker, Straight is the daughter of investment banker Willard Dickerman Straight and Dorothy Payne Whitney. She was four years old when her father died in Francemarker of influenza during the great epidemic while serving with the US Army during World War I.

Following her mother's remarriage to Britishmarker agronomist Leonard K. Elmhirst in 1925, the family moved to Englandmarker. It was there that Straight was educated and began acting in amateur theater productions.

Returning to the United States, she made her Broadwaymarker debut in 1939 in the play The Possessed. Most of her theatre work was in the classics, including Twelfth Night (1941), Macbeth, and The Crucible (1953), for which she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play.

Straight was active in the early days of television, appearing in anthology series such as Armstrong Circle Theatre, Hallmark Hall of Fame, Kraft Television Theatre, Studio One, The United States Steel Hour, Playhouse 90, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents and dramatic series like Dr. Kildare, Ben Casey, The Defenders, Route 66, Mission: Impossible, and St. Elsewhere.

Straight worked infrequently in film, and is remembered best for her role as a devastated wife confronting husband William Holden's infidelity in Network (1976). She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance which, at five minutes and forty seconds, remains the shortest ever to win an Oscar.

Further film and television performances include the role of the mother of Lynda Carter's title character in the Wonder Woman series, and Marion Hillyard, the icy, controlling mother of Stephen Collins in The Promise. She also played the role of the paranormal investigator Dr. Martha Lesh in the film Poltergeist (1982), the most widely seen role of her film career.

Personal life

Straight was married twice, first to Frenchmanmarker Louis Dolivet, a left-wing activist who became editor of United Nations World magazine and later a film producer. They divorced in 1949, and she immediately married film and Broadway actor/producer Peter Cookson, with whom she had two sons.

She suffered from Alzheimer's disease in her later years. Straight died from pneumonia in Los Angelesmarker, California at age 86 and was cremated.


Year Film Role Notes
1952 Phone Call from a Stranger Claire Fortness
1956 The Silken Affair Theora
Patterns Nancy Staples
1959 The Nun's Story Mother Christophe (Sanatorium)
1964 The Young Lovers Mrs. Burns
1973 The Garden Party
1976 Network Louise Schumacher Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1979 Bloodline Kate Erling
The Promise Marion Hillyard
1980 The Formula Kay Neeley
1981 Endless Love Rose Axelrod
1982 Poltergeist Dr. Lesh
1983 Two of a Kind Ruth
1986 Power Claire Hastings
1991 Deceived Adrienne's Mother


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