Oscar Actors: Whitty, May Dame (Night Must Fall, Mrs. Miniver)

Born Mary Louise Webster in Liverpool on June 19, 1865, May Whitty was an accomplished, multi-Oscar-nominated British stage and screen actress.

Whitty made her first stage appearance in Liverpool in 1881, later moving to London’s West End. She married actor-manager Ben Webster in 1892, and in 1895 appeared on Broadway.

In 1910, morphing to middle-aged and elderly characters, she played Amelia Madras in Harley Granville-Barker’s comedy The Madras House.

In 1918, she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DCOBE), in recognition of her charitable work in WWI. She became the first film and stage actress to receive a damehood.

Whitty’s first major Hollywood film recreated her stage role in Night Must Fall (1937), which also starred Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell.  She received a Best Supporting Actress for it.

She later played the titular part, Miss Froy, in Hitchcock’s 1938 train thriller, The Lady Vanishes.

Whitty moved permanently to Hollywood in 1939 and appeared both on stage and film, usually playing wealthy dowagers.

Her Lady Beldon in William Wyler’s 1942 Oscar winning Mrs. Miniver garnered a second Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

She continued to act for the rest of her life, succumbing to cancer on May 29, 1948, at age 82.