HAPPY BIRTHDAY LUCILE WATSON
(May 27, 1879 - June 24, 1962)
Born in Canada, she studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1900. Her first professional appearance was in The Wisdom of the Wise (1902) and she impressed Producer-Manager Charles Frohman who was responsible for her steady career in productions of high quality.
Several of the plays were written by the renowned dramatist Clyde Fitch whose play The City gave her a two-year run (1909-1911), which was astonishing at the time.
An early supporter of the Theatre Guild, she first appeared under its auspices as Lady Utterwood in George Bernard Shaw's Heartbreak House (1920).
Other important roles included Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts and Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. From 1934 when she made her film debut in J. M. Barrie's What Every Woman Knows, she alternated between stage and screen for seven years.
Some of the best known film roles occurred in A Woman Rebels (1936) starring Katharine Hepburn, the Garden of Allah (1936) starring Charles Boyer and Marlene Dietrich; and Waterloo Bridge (1940)
One of her best and most typical roles was as Norma Shearer's mother in
The Women (1939) an adaptation of Clare Boothe Luce's stage hit.
With the outbreak of World War ll in Europe (1939), Lucile Watson, along with
such notables as Josephine Hull, Rachel Crothers, Gertrude Lawrence, and
Antoinette Perry, became a board member of the American Theatre Wing
War Service. Watson was chairwoman of the workroom committee, thus in
no small way assisting the service to help sell war bonds, entertaining members
of the armed forces both in this country and abroad, and collecting food and
clothing for the war effort.
Lillian Hellman's expose of creeping fascism Watch on the Rhine. She delivered the play's most pungent line: "Well, we've finally been shaken out of the magnolias!" She recreated the role in the film version and received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress. There were other film roles but she returned to the stage in 1950 where she was featured in Christopher Fry's adaptation of Jean Anouilh's Ring Round the Moon. Three years later, she
announced her retirement. She led a quiet life in her New York brownstone and reflected that her parts were "high comedy, with feeling, with pathos, funny, gay, kind, tart, and naughty." In 1950, The New Yorker critic Wolcott Gibbs summed up her great ability as a comedy actress, "She is one of the most extraordinary comediennes in the theatre, impeccable in timing and delivery, getting her effects with a wonderful economy of gesture and admirable social restraint."
Reference: Notable Women in the American Theatre, 1989 edition