Cathleen Nesbitt
Cathleen Mary Nesbitt, CBE (24 November 18882 August 1982) was an English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 stage and film actress
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...



Born in Cheshire
Cheshire is a ceremonial county in North West England. Cheshire's county town is the city of Chester, although its largest town is Warrington. Other major towns include Widnes, Congleton, Crewe, Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Macclesfield, Winsford, Northwich, and Wilmslow...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 in 1888, of Welsh and Irish descent, Nesbitt was educated in Lisieux
Lisieux is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France.Lisieux is the capital of the Pays d'Auge area, which is characterised by valleys and hedged farmland...

, France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, and at the Queen's University of Belfast
Queen's University of Belfast
Queen's University Belfast is a public research university in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The university's official title, per its charter, is the Queen's University of Belfast. It is often referred to simply as Queen's, or by the abbreviation QUB...

 and the Sorbonne
University of Paris
The University of Paris was a university located in Paris, France and one of the earliest to be established in Europe. It was founded in the mid 12th century, and officially recognized as a university probably between 1160 and 1250...

. Her younger brother, Thomas Nesbitt, Jr., acted in one film in 1925, before his death in South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 in 1927 from an apparent heart attack.

Her debut on the London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

 was in the revival of Arthur Wing Pinero
Arthur Wing Pinero
Sir Arthur Wing Pinero was an English actor and later an important dramatist and stage director.-Biography:...

's The Cabinet Minister (1910). She acted in countless plays after that. In 1911, Nesbitt joined the Irish Players, went to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and debuted on Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 in The Well of the Saints. She also was in the cast of John Millington Synge
John Millington Synge
Edmund John Millington Synge was an Irish playwright, poet, prose writer, and collector of folklore. He was a key figure in the Irish Literary Revival and was one of the cofounders of the Abbey Theatre...

's The Playboy of the Western World
The Playboy of the Western World
The Playboy of the Western World is a three-act play written by Irish playwright John Millington Synge and first performed at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, on January 26, 1907. It is set in Michael James Flaherty's public house in County Mayo during the early 1900s...

with the Irish Players when the whole cast was pelted with fruits and vegetables by the offended Irish American Catholic audience.

She became the love of English poet
English poetry
The history of English poetry stretches from the middle of the 7th century to the present day. Over this period, English poets have written some of the most enduring poems in Western culture, and the language and its poetry have spread around the globe. Consequently, the term English poetry is...

 Rupert Brooke
Rupert Brooke
Rupert Chawner Brooke was an English poet known for his idealistic war sonnets written during the First World War, especially The Soldier...

 in 1912, who wrote love sonnets to her. They were engaged to be married when he died during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. Nesbitt returned to the U.S. and appeared on Broadway in Quinneys (1915) and John Galsworthy
John Galsworthy
John Galsworthy OM was an English novelist and playwright. Notable works include The Forsyte Saga and its sequels, A Modern Comedy and End of the Chapter...

's Justice (1916) as John Barrymore
John Barrymore
John Sidney Blyth , better known as John Barrymore, was an acclaimed American actor. He first gained fame as a handsome stage actor in light comedy, then high drama and culminating in groundbreaking portrayals in Shakespearean plays Hamlet and Richard III...

's leading lady in his first dramatic stage role. After five other plays there, she returned to England. For the rest of the decade she performed in London; her roles included the title role in a revival of John Webster
John Webster
John Webster was an English Jacobean dramatist best known for his tragedies The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi, which are often regarded as masterpieces of the early 17th-century English stage. He was a contemporary of William Shakespeare.- Biography :Webster's life is obscure, and the dates...

's The Duchess of Malfi
The Duchess of Malfi
The Duchess of Malfi is a macabre, tragic play written by the English dramatist John Webster in 1612–13. It was first performed privately at the Blackfriars Theatre, then before a more general audience at The Globe, in 1613-14...


Her film debut was in the silent
Silent film
A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound, especially with no spoken dialogue. In silent films for entertainment the dialogue is transmitted through muted gestures, pantomime and title cards...

 A Star Over Night (1919). She then performed in The Faithful Heart (1922). She did not appear in a film again until 1930, when she played the role of Anne Lymes in Canaries Sometimes Sing
Canaries Sometimes Sing
Canaries Sometimes Sing is a 1930 British romantic comedy film, directed by Tom Walls. The film is a four-hander, starring Walls, Cathleen Nesbitt, Athole Stewart and Yvonne Arnaud...

, which was an early talkie
Sound film
A sound film is a motion picture with synchronized sound, or sound technologically coupled to image, as opposed to a silent film. The first known public exhibition of projected sound films took place in Paris in 1900, but decades would pass before sound motion pictures were made commercially...

. In 1932 she was in the thriller The Frightened Lady as a domineering mother. She appeared in the 1938 film version of Pygmalion
Pygmalion (1938 film)
Pygmalion is a 1938 British film based on the George Bernard Shaw play of the same title, and adapted by him for the screen. It stars Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller....

as "a lady" who attends the Embassy ball. In the opening credits her first name was incorrectly spelled as "Kathleen", but as "Cathleen" at the end of the film.

Nesbitt's first Hollywood film was Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), in which she played the character role of La Principessa. This was followed that same year by Black Widow
Black Widow (1954 film)
Black Widow is a 1954 mystery color film noir, written, produced and directed by Nunnally Johnson and starring Van Heflin, Ginger Rogers, Gene Tierney, and George Raft.-Plot:...

, in which she played Lucia Colletti. She was Cary Grant
Cary Grant
Archibald Alexander Leach , better known by his stage name Cary Grant, was an English actor who later took U.S. citizenship...

's Grandmother Janou in 1957's An Affair to Remember
An Affair to Remember
An Affair to Remember is a 1957 film starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, and directed by Leo McCarey. It was distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation....

and, the following year, was part of the ensemble cast of Separate Tables
Separate Tables (film)
Separate Tables is a 1958 American drama film based on two one-act plays by Terence Rattigan that were collectively known by this name. It was directed by Delbert Mann, and adapted by Rattigan, John Gay and an uncredited John Michael Hayes. Mary Grant designed the film's costumes.The film took the...

. She also appeared in The Parent Trap (1961), and Promise Her Anything
Promise Her Anything
Promise Her Anything is a 1965 British romantic comedy film directed by Arthur Hiller. The screenplay by William Peter Blatty is based on a story by Arne Sultan and Marvin Worth.-Plot:...


Her other Broadway productions included Aunt Alicia in the original Anita Loos
Anita Loos
Anita Loos was an American screenwriter, playwright and author.-Early life:Born Corinne Anita Loos in Sisson, California , where her father, R. Beers Loos, had opened a tabloid newspaper for which her mother, Minerva "Minnie" Smith did most of the work of a newspaper publisher...

 adaptation of Gigi
Gigi (1951 play)
Gigi was a popular Broadway play based on Colette's 1945 novel of the same name, starring Audrey Hepburn in the title role.-Plot:The play's plot generally follows that of the original story, focusing on a young 19th century Parisian girl being groomed for a career as a courtesan. Gigi lives with...

(1951), Sabrina Fair
Sabrina Fair
Sabrina Fair is a romantic comedy written by Samuel A. Taylor. It ran on Broadway for a total of 318 performances, opening at the National Theatre on November 11, 1953. Directed by H. C...

(1953), and Anastasia (1954). In 1956, she played Mrs. Higgins in My Fair Lady
My Fair Lady
My Fair Lady is a musical based upon George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion and with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe...

starring Rex Harrison
Rex Harrison
Sir Reginald Carey “Rex” Harrison was an English actor of stage and screen. Harrison won an Academy Award and two Tony Awards.-Youth and stage career:...

. Nesbitt reprised the role in 1981, in her in 90s, in a Broadway revival, opposite Harrison, who was in his 70s.

She may be best-remembered by Americans for her role as Agatha Morley on the TV
Television program
A television program , also called television show, is a segment of content which is intended to be broadcast on television. It may be a one-time production or part of a periodically recurring series...

 series The Farmer's Daughter
The Farmer's Daughter (TV series)
The Farmer's Daughter is an American situation comedy series that was produced by Screen Gems Television and aired on ABC from September 20, 1963 to April 22, 1966. It was sponsored by Lark cigarettes and Clairol for whom the two leading stars often appeared at show's end promoting the products...

from 1963 to 1966, playing the mother of a Congressman (played by William Windom
William Windom (actor)
William Windom is an American actor. He is perhaps best known for his work on television, including several episodes of The Twilight Zone; playing the character of Glen Morley, a congressman from Minnesota like his own great-grandfather and namesake in The Farmer's Daughter; the character of John...

). She guest starred on such shows as The United States Steel Hour
The United States Steel Hour
The United States Steel Hour is an anthology series which brought hour-long dramas to television from 1953 to 1963. The television series and the radio program that preceded it were both sponsored by the United States Steel Corporation....

; Wagon Train
Wagon Train
Wagon Train is an American Western series that ran on NBC from 1957–62 and then on ABC from 1962–65...

; Naked City
Naked City (TV series)
Naked City is a police drama series which aired from 1958 to 1963 on the ABC television network. It was inspired by the 1948 motion picture of the same name, and mimics its dramatic "semi-documentary" format....

, Dr. Kildare
Dr. Kildare
Dr. James Kildare is a fictional character, the primary character in a series of American theatrical films in the late 1930s and early 1940s, an early 1950s radio series, a 1960s television series of the same name and a comic book based on the TV show, and a short-lived 1970s television series...

and Upstairs, Downstairs
Upstairs, Downstairs
Upstairs, Downstairs is a British drama television series originally produced by London Weekend Television and revived by the BBC. It ran on ITV in 68 episodes divided into five series from 1971 to 1975, and a sixth series shown on the BBC on three consecutive nights, 26–28 December 2010.Set in a...

(as Rachel Gurney
Rachel Gurney
Rachel Gurney was an English actress. She began her career in the theatre towards the end of World War II and then expanded into television and film in the 1950s. She remained active mostly in television and theatre work through the early 1990s...

's mother). In 1969 she again played Rex Harrison's mother in the film Staircase
Staircase (film)
Staircase is a 1969 film adaptation of a two-character play, also called Staircase, by Charles Dyer. The film, like the play, is about an aging gay couple who own a barber shop in the East End of London. One of them is a part-time actor about to go on trial for propositioning a police officer...


She played an elderly drug addict in French Connection II
French Connection II
French Connection II is a 1975 crime drama film starring Gene Hackman and directed by John Frankenheimer. It is a fictional sequel to the initially true story of the 1971 Academy Award winning picture The French Connection...

(1975). Her next film was Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood...

's Family Plot
Family Plot
Family Plot is a 1976 American dark comedy/thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, his fifty-third and final film. It stars Barbara Harris, Bruce Dern, William Devane, and Karen Black....

(1976), in which she played Julia Rainbird. She then appeared as the grandmother in Julia (1977). Her final film was Never Never Land (1980), in which she played Edith Forbes.

Personal life

In 1920 she married World War I Military Cross
Military Cross
The Military Cross is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces; and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries....

-winner and barrister turned actor Cecil Ramage
Cecil Beresford Ramage
Cecil Beresford Ramage, MC was a British barrister, actor and Liberal politician.Following education at the Edinburgh Academy, Ramage was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Scots at the outbreak of World War I...

. They had two children. She and Ramage were separated for many years but remained legally married until her death in 1982.

Nebsitt lived for many years in the United States, but returned to the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, where she was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...


Her autobiography
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

, entitled A Little Love and Good Company, was published in 1973. After a career spanning over eighty years, one of the longest in show business history, Cathleen Nesbitt died of natural causes at the age of 93 in London on 2 August 1982.

Selected filmography

  • The Passing of the Third Floor Back
    The Passing of the Third Floor Back
    The Passing of the Third Floor Back is a 1935 British drama film directed by Berthold Viertel and starring Conrad Veidt, Anna Lee, René Ray and Frank Cellier. The film is based on a short story by Jerome K. Jerome and depicts the various small-minded inhabitants of a building and the arrival of a...

  • The Lamp Still Burns
    The Lamp Still Burns
    The Lamp Still Burns is a 1943 British drama film directed by Maurice Elvey and starring Rosamund John, Stewart Granger, Godfrey Tearle and Sophie Stewart. An architect retrains as a nurse...

  • Fanny by Gaslight
    Fanny by Gaslight (film)
    Fanny by Gaslight was a 1944 British drama film, produced by Gainsborough Pictures, set in the 1870s and adapted from a novel by Michael Sadleir . It was one of its famous period-set "Gainsborough melodramas"...

  • The Agitator
    The Agitator (1945 film)
    The Agitator is a 1945 British drama film directed by John Harlow and starring William Hartnell, Mary Morris and John Laurie. A young socialist is forced to question his beliefs when he unexpectedly inherits a large firm. It was based on the novel Peter Pettenger by William Riley.-Cast:* William...

  • Men of Two Worlds
    Men of Two Worlds
    Men of Two Worlds is a 1946 British drama film directed by Thorold Dickinson and starring Robert Adams, Eric Portman and Phyllis Calvert. An African music student returns home to battle a witch doctor for control over his tribe.-Cast:...

  • Jassy
    Jassy (film)
    Jassy was a 1947 British film melodrama, based on a novel by Norah Lofts. It was a Gainsborough melodrama, the only one to be made in technicolour.-Plot:...

  • Madness of the Heart
    Madness of the Heart
    Madness of the Heart is a 1949 British drama film directed by Charles Bennett and starring Margaret Lockwood, Paul Dupuis and Kathleen Byron.-Cast:* Margaret Lockwood - Lydia Garth* Paul Dupuis - Paul de Vandiere* Kathleen Byron - Verite Faimont...

  • The Trygon Factor
    The Trygon Factor
    The Trygon Factor is a 1966 British-German comedy crime film directed by Cyril Frankel and starring Stewart Granger, Susan Hampshire and Robert Morley. Its German title was Das Geheimnis Der Weissen Nonne. It is based on the Edgar Wallace novel Kate Plus Ten.-Cast:* Stewart Granger - Supt...


External links

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