Phyllis Thaxter

Phyllis St. Felix Thaxter (November 20, 1919 – August 14, 2012) was an American actress.

Phyllis Thaxter
Phyllis Thaxter in Bewitched trailer
Thaxter in Bewitched (1945)
Phyllis St. Felix Thaxter

November 20, 1919[1][2]
DiedAugust 14, 2012 (aged 92)
Years active1940–1992
Known forMa Kent in Superman,
Ellen Lawson in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

Early life

Phyllis St. Felix Thaxter was born in Portland, Maine, to Sidney St. Felix Thaxter, who would later become a Justice of the Maine Supreme Court, and his wife, Phyllis (Schuyler), a former actress and member of the Dutch American Schuyler family.[2]


Phyllis Thaxter in 1955
Phyllis Thaxter in a public press photo from 1955.

Prior to appearing in movies, Thaxter was on the stage. When Dorothy McGuire went to Hollywood, Thaxter replaced her in the Broadway play Claudia.[3] In 1944, she signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Her movie debut was opposite Van Johnson in the 1944 wartime film Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.[2] In the 1945 film-noir Bewitched, Thaxter played Joan Alris Ellis, a woman suffering from split personality. In 1948, she played a cattle owner's daughter alongside Barbara Bel Geddes in Blood on the Moon.

At MGM, she routinely portrayed the ever-patient wife to a number of leading men. She moved to Warner Brothers in the 1950s, but usually played the same type of roles.

Thaxter's career stalled after an attack of polio in 1952. She made a comeback in such television series as Rawhide, portraying Pauline Cushman in the episode "The Blue Spy" (1961), Wagon Train ("The Christine Elliott Story"), and "The Vivian Carter Story ", The Twilight Zone ("Young Man's Fancy"), and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. She also returned to Broadway, appearing in Take Her, She's Mine at the Biltmore in 1961.[4] In 1978, Thaxter was cast along with Glenn Ford, as Jonathan and Martha Kent in the blockbuster film Superman. The film was produced by her daughter Skye Aubrey's then-husband Ilya Salkind and his father Alexander Salkind.

Personal life

Patricia Bosworth, in her biography of Montgomery Clift, tells of Thaxter's close relationship with Clift in the early 1940s, writing that they "seemed so close that a great many people assumed they would eventually marry".[3] While at MGM, Thaxter married James T. Aubrey, Jr., who later became president of CBS-TV and MGM. They divorced in 1962. They had two children: Skye Aubrey, an actress; and James Aubrey.

A Republican, she supported the campaign of Dwight Eisenhower in the 1952 presidential election[5]. She adhered to Roman Catholicism[6].

In 1962, Thaxter married Gilbert Lea. They were married for 46 years until his death on May 4, 2008.[7]


Thaxter died on August 14, 2012, in Longwood, Florida, after an eight year battle with Alzheimer's disease.[2][8] She was 92 years old. In keeping with her wishes, she was cremated, some of her ashes were scattered at sea, the rest was interred at Saint Mary the Virgin Cemetery, in Falmouth, Maine[9].

Partial filmography

Selected television appearances

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Stars in the Air Christmas in Connecticut[10]
1953 Lux Radio Theatre Close to My Heart[11]
1953 Lux Radio Theatre The Bishop's Wife[12]
1955 Lux Radio Theatre The Bishop's Wife[13]


  1. ^ 1920 U.S. Census
  2. ^ a b c d Denise Grady (August 18, 2012). "Phyllis Thaxter, Actress Who Played Superman's Mother, Dies at 92". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
  3. ^ a b Patricia Bosworth (2004). Montgomery Clift: A Biography. Limelight Editions. p. 80. ISBN 978-0879101350.
  4. ^ Ken Bloom (2004). Broadway: Its History, People, and Places: an Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-415-93704-7.
  5. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 34, Ideal Publishers
  6. ^ Morning News, January 10, 1948, Who Was Who in America (Vol. 2)
  7. ^ "Obituary: Gilbert Lea". Town Topics. May 21, 2008. Retrieved 2015-10-16.
  8. ^ Mike Barnes (August 15, 2012). "Actress Phyllis Thaxter, Superman's Mom, Dies at 92". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Walter Kirby (March 16, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 44. Retrieved 2015-05-23 – via access
  11. ^ Walter Kirby (March 1, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 46. Retrieved 2015-06-23 – via access
  12. ^ Walter Kirby (May 10, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 50. Retrieved 2015-06-27 – via access
  13. ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 42 (3): 32. Summer 2016.

External links

Act of Violence

Act of Violence is a 1949 American film noir directed by Fred Zinnemann and adapted for the screen by Robert L. Richards from a story by Collier Young, starring Van Heflin, Robert Ryan and Janet Leigh. The film was one of the first to address not only problems of returning World War II veterans but also the ethics of war.

Bewitched (1945 film)

Bewitched is a 1945 American film noir directed and written by Arch Oboler. The drama features Phyllis Thaxter and Edmund Gwenn.

Blood on the Moon

Blood on the Moon is a 1948 RKO black-and-white "psychological" western directed by Robert Wise, with cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca. The film, starring Robert Mitchum, Barbara Bel Geddes, and Robert Preston, has many film noir elements. It was shot in California, and some of the more scenic shots at Red Rock Crossing, Sedona, Arizona. The picture is based on the novel Gunman's Chance by Luke Short.

Close to My Heart

Close to My Heart is a 1951 Warner Bros. drama directed by William Keighley, written by James R. Webb (based on his novel A Baby for Midge), and starring Ray Milland and Gene Tierney.

Come Fill the Cup

Come Fill the Cup is a 1951 film starring James Cagney and Gig Young, directed by Gordon Douglas. Young's performance was nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe.

Cagney plays an alcoholic newspaperman. He has a memorable line, "Don't you see? I am home," in response to the query, "Why don't you go home?" at two points in the film, once near the beginning when he is drinking; once at the end when he is at work.

Fort Worth (film)

Fort Worth is a 1951 American Western film directed by Edwin L. Marin and starring Randolph Scott. It is Marin's final directing work, as he died two months before the release.

Jim Thorpe – All-American

Jim Thorpe – All-American (UK title: Man of Bronze) is a 1951 American biographical film produced by Warner Bros. and directed by Michael Curtiz, honoring Jim Thorpe, the great Native American athlete who won medals at the 1912 Olympics and distinguished himself in various sports, both in college and on professional teams.

The film starred Burt Lancaster as Thorpe and featured some archival footage of both the 1912 and 1932 Summer Olympics, as well as other footage of the real Thorpe (seen in long shots). Charles Bickford played the famed coach Glenn Scobey "Pop" Warner, who was Thorpe's longtime mentor. Bickford also narrated the film, which told of Thorpe's athletic rise and fall, ending on an upbeat note when he was asked by a group of boys to coach them. Phyllis Thaxter portrayed Thorpe's first wife. Warner Bros. used a number of contract players in the film, as well as a few Native American actors.

Living in a Big Way

Living in a Big Way (1947) is an American musical comedy film starring Gene Kelly and Marie McDonald as a couple who marry during World War II after only knowing each other a short time. This was director Gregory La Cava's final film.

Man Afraid

Man Afraid is a 1957 American film noir directed by Harry Keller and starring George Nader, Phyllis Thaxter and Tim Hovey.

No Man of Her Own

No Man of Her Own is a 1950 American film noir drama directed by Mitchell Leisen and featuring Barbara Stanwyck, John Lund, Phyllis Thaxter, Jane Cowl and Lyle Bettger.It was the second film Stanwyck made with director Mitchell Leisen and it was based on the Cornell Woolrich novel I Married a Dead Man. Woolrich is credited as William Irish in the film's opening credits.

Operation Secret

Operation Secret is a 1952 American drama film directed by Lewis Seiler and written by Harold Medford and James R. Webb. The film stars Cornel Wilde, Steve Cochran, Phyllis Thaxter, Karl Malden, Paul Picerni and Lester Matthews. The film was released by Warner Bros. on November 8, 1952. The film is based on the exploit of US Marine Corps Major Peter Ortiz.

Springfield Rifle (film)

Springfield Rifle is a western film, directed by Andre DeToth and released by Warner Bros. Pictures in 1952. The film is set during the American Civil War and stars Gary Cooper, with Phyllis Thaxter and Lon Chaney Jr..

It is described as "essentially an espionage thriller that pits a Union intelligence officer (Gary Cooper) against a Confederate spy ring."

Stage 7

Stage 7 is the title of a United States TV drama anthology series that aired in 1955. This program premiered in December 1954 with the title Your Favorite Playhouse with all episodes being repeats from other series, but later featured original episodes. The program's 25 episodes showcased the talents of actors and actresses such as Dennis Morgan, Charles Bronson, Edmond O'Brien, Gene Barry, Phyllis Coates, Frances Rafferty, Macdonald Carey, and Phyllis Thaxter. Some directing was done by Quinn Martin. It appears at least some of the series has entered the public domain, with several episodes appeared on the Internet Archive.

Tenth Avenue Angel

Tenth Avenue Angel is a 1948 American film directed by Roy Rowland and starring Margaret O'Brien, Angela Lansbury, and George Murphy. It chronicles the life and family of Flavia Mills (Margaret O'Brien) in the late 1930s. Filming took place 11 March–15 May 1946, with retakes in April 1947. However, the film was not released until February 20, 1948.

The Breaking Point (1950 film)

The Breaking Point is a 1950 American film noir crime drama directed by Michael Curtiz and the second film adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway novel To Have and Have Not. It stars John Garfield (in his second to last film role before his death) and Patricia Neal. The earlier 1944 film starred Humphrey Bogart in the male lead.

The Sign of the Ram

The Sign of the Ram is a 1948 American film noir directed by John Sturges and written by Charles Bennett, based on a novel written by Margaret Ferguson. The drama features Susan Peters and Alexander Knox.

The World of Henry Orient

The World of Henry Orient is a 1964 American comedy film based on the novel of the same name by Nora Johnson, who co-wrote the screenplay with her father, Nunnally Johnson. It was directed by George Roy Hill and stars Peter Sellers, Paula Prentiss, Angela Lansbury, Tippy Walker, Merrie Spaeth, Phyllis Thaxter, Bibi Osterwald and Tom Bosley.

The original story was inspired in part by Nora Johnson's own experiences as a schoolgirl, as well as by a real-life incident involving singer Tony Bennett and two teenaged fans.

Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo is a 1944 American war film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It is based on the true story of the Doolittle Raid, America's first retaliatory air strike against Japan four months after the December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Mervyn LeRoy directed Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo and Sam Zimbalist produced the film. The screenplay by Dalton Trumbo was based on the 1943 book of the same name, by Captain Ted W. Lawson, a pilot on the raid. The film stars Van Johnson as Lawson, Phyllis Thaxter as his wife Ellen, Robert Walker as Corporal David Thatcher, Robert Mitchum as Lieutenant Bob Gray and Spencer Tracy as Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, the man who planned and led the raid.

In the book Lawson gives eyewitness accounts of the training, the mission, and the aftermath as experienced by his crew and others who flew the mission on April 18, 1942. Lawson piloted "The Ruptured Duck", the seventh of 16 B-25s to take off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. The film is noted for its accurate depiction of the raid and use of actual wartime footage of the bombing aircraft.

Women's Prison (1955 film)

Women's Prison is a 1955 film noir directed by Lewis Seiler and starring Ida Lupino, Jan Sterling, Audrey Totter, Phyllis Thaxter and Cleo Moore.The movie is noted today for the appearance of Moore, and for Lupino's performance as the aggressively cruel warden. In the 1980s this movie became rather popular, Sony Pictures subsequently released it in the boxed set Bad Girls of Film Noir: Volume II along with One Girl's Confession and Over-Exposed.

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