Oscar Actors: Baxter, Anne–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography

Research in Progress (Jan 23, 2021)

Anne Baxter Career Summary:

Occupational inheritance: No

Social Class: upper middle class; father executive

Education: acting classes with Ouspenskaya; inspired by Helen Hayes

Stage debut: age 13

Broadway debut: age 13

Film debut: age 17

Oscar awards: 1 Supporting. Actress, “Razor’s Edge,” 1946; age 23

Oscar nominations: 1 Best Actress, “All About Eve,” 1950; age 27

Other awards:

Career span: over two decades.

Last film:

Marriages: 3; first husband, actor John Hodiak, 1946-1953;

Death: 1985; age 62.

Anne Baxter was born on May 7, 1923 in Michigan City, Indiana to Catherine Dorothy (née Wright) whose father was architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and Kenneth Stuart Baxter, an executive with the Seagram Company.

When Baxter was five, she appeared in a school play, and when her family moved to New York, when she was six, Baxter continued to act. She was raised in Westchester County, New York and attended Brearley.

Inspired by Helen Hayes

At age 10, Baxter attended a Broadway play starring Helen Hayes, and she was so impressed that she declared to her family that she wanted to become an actress.

By the age of 13, she had appeared on Broadway in “Seen but Not Heard.” During this period, Baxter learned her acting craft as a student of actress and teacher Maria Ouspenskaya.

In 1939, she was cast as Katharine Hepburn’s younger sister in the play “The Philadelphia Story,” but Hepburn did not like Baxter’s acting style, and she was replaced during the show’s pre-Broadway run. Rather than giving up, she turned to Hollywood.

At 16, Baxter screen-tested for the role of Mrs. DeWinter in “Rebecca,” but director Hitchcock deemed Baxter too young for the par.

She soon secured a seven-year contract with 20th Century Fox.

In 1940, she was loaned to MGM for her first film “20 Mule Team,” in which she was billed fourth after Wallace Beery, Leo Carrillo, and Marjorie Rambeau.

She worked with John Barrymore in The Great Profile (1940) and appeared as the ingénue in the Jack Benny vehicle Charley’s Aunt (1941).

She received star billing in “Swamp Water” (1941) and “The Pied Piper” (1942), which was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.

Baxter was loaned to RKO to appear in Orson Welles’ “The Magnificent Ambersons” (1942).

She was Tyrone Power’s leading lady in Crash Dive (1943), her first Technicolor film.

In 1943, she played a French maid in a North African hotel (with a French accent) in Billy Wilder’s Five Graves to Cairo, a Paramount production.

She became a popular star in World War II dramas and received top billing in The North Star (1943), The Sullivans (1944), The Eve of St. Mark (1944), and Sunday Dinner for a Soldier (1944), co-starring her future husband John Hodiak.

She was loaned to United Artists for the lead in the film noir Guest in the House (1944), and appeared in A Royal Scandal (1945), with Tallulah Bankhead and Charles Coburn; Smoky (1946), with Fred MacMurray; Angel on My Shoulder (1946), with Paul Muni and Claude Rains.

Baxter co-starred with Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney in 1946’s The Razor’s Edge, for which she won both the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. Baxter later recounted that The Razor’s Edge contained her only great performance, a hospital scene where the character Sophie “loses her husband, child and everything else.” She said she relived the death of her brother, who had died at age three.

She was loaned to Paramount opposite William Holden in Blaze of Noon (1947) and to MGM for a supporting role as Clark Gable’s wife in Homecoming (1948).

Back at 20th Century Fox, she played a wide variety of roles: a lawyer in love with Cornel Wilde in The Walls of Jericho (1948); Tyrone Power’s Irish romantic interest in The Luck of the Irish (1948); a tomboy in Yellow Sky (1948), with Gregory Peck and Richard Widmark; a 1920s flapper in You’re My Everything (1949), with Dan Dailey; and another tomboy in A Ticket to Tomahawk (1950), again with Dailey.

All About Eve

In 1950, Baxter was chosen to co-star in All About Eve largely because of a resemblance to Claudette Colbert, who originally was cast but dropped out and was replaced by Bette Davis. The original idea was to have Baxter’s character gradually come to mirror Colbert’s over the course of the film. Baxter received Best Actress nomination for the title role of Eve Harrington. She modeled the role on a bitchy understudy she had for her debut performance in the Broadway play “Seen but Not Heard,” at the age of 13 and who had threatened to “finish her off.”

Her next Fox film was”Follow the Sun” (1951), in which she starred with Glenn Ford, as champion golfer Ben Hogan, playing his wife Valerie.

She was top-billed in the western “The Outcasts of Poker Flat” (1950), with Dale Robertson, and was part of an ensemble cast in O. Henry’s Full House (1952), her last project for Fox. The comedy My Wife’s Best Friend, with MacDonald Carey, was her second and last Fox film released in 1952. Baxter left 20th Century Fox in 1953.

In 1953, Baxter contracted a two-picture deal for Warner. Her first was opposite Montgomery Clift in Hitchcock’s “I Confess”; the second was the Fritz Lang whodunit “The Blue Gardenia,” in which she played a woman accused of murder.

In 1956, Baxter played the part of the Egyptian princess and queen Nefertari in Cecil B. DeMille’s award-winning “The Ten Commandments.”

Baxter worked regularly in television in the 1960s. She appeared as one of the mystery guests on What’s My Line?. She also starred as guest villain Zelda The Great in episodes 9 and 10 of the “Batman” series. She appeared as another villain, Olga, Queen of the Cossacks, opposite Vincent Price’s Egghead in three episodes of the show’s third season. She also played an old flame of Raymond Burr on his crime series Ironside.

Baxter returned to Broadway during the 1970s in “Applause,” the musical version of “All About Eve,” but this time as Margo Channing (she succeeded Lauren Bacall).

In the 1970s, Baxter was a frequent guest and guest host on The Mike Douglas Show. She portrayed a murderous film star on an episode of “Columbo,” titled “Requiem for a Falling Star.”

In 1971, she had a role in Fools’ Parade as an aging prostitute who helps characters played by Jimmy Stewart, Strother Martin, and Kurt Russell escape from the villain (George Kennedy), before betrayal seals her fate.

In 1983, Baxter starred in the TV series “Hotel,” replacing Bette Davis after Davis became ill.

Baxter married actor John Hodiak on July 7, 1946, at her parents’ home in Burlingame, California. They had one daughter, Katrina, born in 1951. Baxter and Hodiak divorced in 1953; Hodiak died in 1955.

Baxter was a Republican active in the campaigns of Thomas E. Dewey and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In the mid-1950s, Baxter began a relationship with her publicist Russell Birdwell, who took control of her career and directed her in The Come On (1956).

In 1960, Baxter married her second husband Randolph Galt, an American owner of cattle station near Sydney, Australia, where she was filming “Summer of the Seventeenth Doll.” After the birth of their second daughter, Maginel, back in California, they moved to a ranch in New Mexico, and then Hawaii, before settling back in Brentwood, California. Baxter and Galt were divorced in 1969.

Baxter’s first daughter with Galt became an interior designer and then a business coach, speaker, and seminar provider. Maginel became a cloistered Catholic nun in Italy.

In 1977, Baxter married David Klee, a stockbroker, but the marriage was brief due to Klee’s unexpected death from illness. The newlyweds had purchased a sprawling property in Easton, Connecticut.  Although she maintained a residence in Hollywood, Baxter considered the Connecticut home as her primary residence.

Baxter suffered a stroke on December 4, 1985, while hailing a taxi on Madison Avenue in New York City. Baxter remained on life support for 8 days in Lenox Hill hospital, until family agreed that brain function had ceased.

She died on December 12, 1985; aged 62.

Oscar Context:

In 1946, Anne Baxter competed for (and won) the Supporting Actress Oscar with Ethel Barrymore in “The Spiral Staircase,” Lillian Gish in “Duel in the Sun,” Flora Robson in “Saratoga Trunk,” and Gale Sondergaard in “Anna and the King of Siam.”

In 1950, Baxter competed for the Best Actress Oscar with her peer Bette Davis in “All About Eve,” Judy Holliday who won for “Born Yesterday,” Eleanor Parker in “Caged,” and Gloria Swanson in “Sunset Boulevard.”