Theatre aficionados would
define an ingénue as a young romantic female lead between the ages of
16-30. This definition would perhaps sum up most actresses in
the prime of their career, and further, might suggest to me, a two
dimensional character, designed to look good, and provide motivation to
far more interesting actors.
I might be a little off base in my
definition, however, suffice it to say, in the early forties, Teresa
Wright was being groomed in Hollywood for just such a role. The fact
that she could actually act was simply an added perk.
Wright received three Oscar
nominations during her career - remarkably for her first three
films. Her first nomination came in 1941, playing Bette
disapproving daughter in The Little Foxes. While she didn't win, the
performance got her noticed, and suddenly she was getting roles that other
actresses might only have dreamed of.
Wright's persona was that of a
sweet natured girl next door, and her studio, MGM, capitalized on that by
giving her plum roles in high profile films.
In 1942, with war on the horizon,
Wright played in two very relevant films. The first was Mrs.
Miniver, a story about a family struggling through the war in
England. When the film was released, American involvement in World
War II was just getting underway. The events made this film all the
more relevant. Wright was given a supporting role, playing the sharp
witted neighbor and love interest to Greer Garson's war-bound
Wright was also cast in a leading
role, starring opposite Gary Cooper in Pride of the Yankees, a biography
about Lou Gehrig. With baseball, the great American past time, taking a backseat to war,
the film served as a symbolic reminder of the American way of life, and
audiences loved it.
The 1942 Oscar's honored Wright in
both categories, giving her the leading Actress nomination for Pride of
the Yankees. While baseball was an American treasure, the war
was a gripping reality, and the Academy gave the Best Picture award to
Mrs. Miniver. Mrs. Miniver went on to sweep a host of other awards,
including the Best Actress Oscar for its star, Greer Garson. Wright
would carry the torch for double nominees that year, taking home the Best
Supporting Actress Oscar for her part in the patriotic