Teresa Wright started a huge Hollywood feud by refusing to pose with a cocker spaniel

The Oscar-winning actor turned to TV after a famous film producer fired her.

In 1964, one of the Forties’ biggest rising stars Teresa Wright appeared in the Bonanza episode "My Son, My Son," playing a widow who almost marries Ben Cartwright.

It was a rare romantic storyline for Ben, who defends the honor of his soon-to-be wife by standing up for her son when he’s accused of murder.

Wright was an actor in the Forties who was positioned to become one of Hollywood’s brightest stars. Her first three movie roles earned her Oscar nominations, including rare two nominations in one year in both best actress and best supporting actress that led to a best supporting actress win for her role in Mrs. Miniver.

Because of this sudden acclaim, Wright was highly sought by studios, and out of everyone bidding on the actor, Samuel Goldwyn was most insistent that he had to have her on his roster.

Understanding that she had the upper hand in the situation, Wright did something a little playful and wrote into her contract a clause so audacious and just plain out there that it sparked a bitter feud with Goldwyn that she says inevitably led to her demise as a film star.

The clause begins with a somewhat reasonable demand that Wright not be asked to pose in a bathing suit when she is out of the water. But by the second item, you can practically imagine why the famous film producer’s eyes bugged out of his head reading Wright’s extreme set of conditions:

"Neither may she be photographed on the beach with hair flying in the wind. Nor may she pose in any of the following situations: in shorts; playing with a cocker spaniel; digging in a garden; whipping up a meal; attired in firecrackers and holding sky rockets for the Fourth of July; looking insinuatingly at a turkey for Thanksgiving; wearing a bunny cap with long ears for Easter; twinkling on prop snow in a skiing outfit while a fan blows her scarf; or assuming an athletic stance while pretending to hit something with a bow and arrow."

At the time, actors like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford had pushed back against studios somewhat, but few had acted so boldly when first signed by a major studio as Wright.

It’s said that though Goldwyn balked, he signed the contract because he wanted her to join his studio that badly, no matter the terms.

But ultimately, the terms did matter, and the story goes that Goldwyn never got over the bitterness he felt over Wright’s unreasonable demands. According to The Daily Telegraph in 2005, he never forgave Wright for poking fun at the system.

On the big screen, Wright didn’t play the kind of tough girl who treats a studio contract like a joke, although her characters did tend to show some grit. She was most often typecast as the nice girl, nearly always appearing as a natural beauty, not done up like more glamorous stars of the era.

Her feud with Goldwyn finally ended in 1948 when Goldwyn asked her to tour America to promote her latest film. She declined to go on tour, telling Goldwyn she was having health issues, but he didn’t believe her, and so it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Goldwyn fired her immediately saying that he was "sick and tired of what is going on in this town, where people have no respect for the company for which they work."

Through the Fifties, Wright continued appearing in movies, but by 1958, her film career stalled, and she decided to focus more on the stage and television.

While she took some time away from film, Wright appeared on hit shows like Bonanza and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, becoming dependable in dramatic roles from the late 1950s to the late 1980s and garnering three Emmy nominations.

Despite her feud with Goldwyn, she remained onscreen until her final role in 1997.

In 1969, Wright quashed a rumor that she had quit doing big-screen movies for good. Just as her contract with Goldwyn teased the common tropes of the day, she insisted she was still just waiting for a studio to give her something fresh to do.

"Indeed not!" Wright told the Philadelphia Daily News. "I haven’t given up my film work and don’t plan to. Motion-picture scripts and plays are being offered to me constantly, and I read every one of them. But there just aren’t any interesting parts being offered."

Watch Bonanza on MeTV!

Monday - Saturday at 2 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
 
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

37 Comments

Post a comment
RonMadara 27 days ago
She was so believable as Myrna Loy's daughter in The Best Years Of Our Lives.
Shatner1 9 months ago
She had a brilliant start of a career--especially her role in one of Alfred Hitchcock's best Shadow of a Doubt! However, a lot was expected (and given) to the 20's-40's movie stars. It sounded like she wasn't prepared for the give and take of old Hollywood!
obectionoverruled 9 months ago
In a land judged only with superlatives, Hollywood’s Teresa Wright earned a lot of them, and deservedly so. Her role as the little homewrecker in The Best Days of Our Lives changed the image of ‘the other woman’ forever in the movies. Up until then (post WW II) such gals were killed off or consigned to hellish outcomes, just to show those frisky American girls in the theatres what happens to a woman who seduces a married man, theretofore unapproachable and the pinnacle of all that is strong and good in society. Actually the scene near the end of the film, at Homer’s wedding, where Dana Andrews as best man peeks over at the forbidden fruit who’s standing in a crowd across the room, and she returns his wanton stare, is one of the best camera jobs in all of movie history, IMO. Stunning video work, no words muttered, until the part has moved on and the pair commit themselves to each other for life. ‘It’s going to be tough, there’s no money, we’ll have some difficult times ahead, he tells her. Smitten, she casts her cares aside to embrace the man she has loved since she met him after his return from the war, with battle fatigue and uncertainty tatooed all over him. That movie is probably one of the top 5 post war time period dramatic movies made that include Going My Way, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and The Big Sleep.
Homewrecker? Virginia Mayo was his wife in the film and she was more of a homewrecker than Miss Wright was. Home rescuer might be a better term.
MikefromJersey 9 months ago

She was wonderful in The Pride of the Yankees. That movie had one of the all
time great endings, I defy one not to get misty watching it.
LoveMETV22 9 months ago
Good for her. Wright had her principles and had the backbone to stick to them. I wonder if Goldwyn's decision was his alone, as MGM was formed by then. That could be a whole other article(s) just on MGM alone.
Goldwyn departed from MGM soon after as I recall, as he could not exist in the same room with Louis B. Mayer. One too many egos there.
Goldwyn departed just after the studio was formed in 1924. However it could have been ego vs ego.
Jeremy 9 months ago
My favorite Teresa Wright films are "Shadow Of A Doubt" and "The Best Years Of Our Lives."
CarolKelley Jeremy 9 months ago
I can't think of a role that I didn't love her in. One of her final roles was in an episode of Picket Fences and she was great in the "Mr Penroy's Vacation" episode of Murder, She Wrote. I think Joan Leslie was also on the episode.
WGH Jeremy 9 months ago
As a disabled veteran myself, the best years of Our Lives is my favorite movie of all time. RIP Harold Russell. I have his book and he autographed it. It's my most treasured possession
Mannixishot 9 months ago
Teresa was amazing in an episode of "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour". Episode is called "Lonely Place" and also features an incredible performance from Bruce Dern.
WGH Mannixishot 9 months ago
Is that the one where Bruce gets in trouble for staring at a lady in a bathing suit? A bathing suit where she is lying by the pool and obviously not in the water? LOL
Doreet WGH 9 months ago
I thought she refused to be filmed in a bathing suit, not in the water?So what changed?Just her boss changed?--Alfred was ok to say "yes" to?--Lots of women were rumored to have said "yes" or "no" to Alfred. and some never worked again.
Mike Mannixishot 9 months ago
For The Record:

-In "Lonely Place", Teresa Wright is the put-upon wife of Pat Buttram; Bruce Dern is a farmhand who puts moves on her, with bad results.
- "Night Caller" was the bathing suit story; the lady in white was Felicia Farr, who was married in real life to Jack Lemmon - but that's another story ...
- By the way, Teresa Wright's other major Hitchcock appearance was in "Three Wives Too Many"; she found out her husband was a bigamist, and proceeded to get back big at him (MeTV ran that one not too long ago).

The Hitchcock shows like to use actors in different parts over the years; it kept things interesting ...
StrayCat Mike 9 months ago
Hitchcock trashed Tippi Hedren's career (or at least tried to) after she spurned his advances.
Mike StrayCat 9 months ago
For The Record:
The Hitchcock TV shows were run by Joan Harrison and Norman Lloyd; Hitch himself had little to do with the day-the-day part.
Andybandit 9 months ago
Poor doggies. I don't understand the story why she wouldn't pose with the dogs.
CarolKelley Andybandit 9 months ago
Cocker spaniels have a reputation for being nippy.
WGH CarolKelley 9 months ago
We have a Cocker Spaniel and he's never nipped or bit anyone. Extremely good dog. Easy to train. Affectionate. Used to be one of the most common family pets. And then people started talking them down for dumb reasons
Doreet CarolKelley 9 months ago
NO, its just that cute, sweet, fem with cockers, was not her idea of an actress .On the other hand, a certain actress in a poster, in a full red bathing suit, not even a bikini, who smiled so sexily that the poster made her really famous, did not refuse bathing suits, that I can remember, or ever completely take off her clothes(maybe a part of clothes).--and she was such a sex symbol that her hair style got very famous. That poster got so printed over and over--But it was her SMILE that made her so sexy!!--not her wild sexuality. Actually, she was thin and athletic, played tennis well, and even skate-boarded. Was Wright ever athletic? Just wonderin.--Plenty women got fired for refusing a bathing suit, as "acting." Jane Mansfield got very famous for losing her bath-suit while swimming and being photographed--there's an interesting character.
Catman Andybandit 9 months ago
One suspects, after reading the paragraph, that some of these "demands" were meant to mock the system, rather than being actual deal breakers. " Attired in firecrackers and holding sky rockets for the Fourth of July; looking insinuatingly at a turkey for Thanksgiving" are difficult to take seriously.
Catman CarolKelley 9 months ago
So do I.
Catman Andybandit 9 months ago
In her own words "The types of contracts standardized in the motion picture industry between players and producers are archaic in form and absurd in concept. I am determined never to set my name to another one ... I have worked for Mr. Goldwyn seven years because I consider him a great producer, and he has paid me well, but in the future I shall gladly work for less if by doing so I can retain my hold upon the common decencies without which the most glorified job becomes intolerable"
teire 9 months ago
She was lovely, and judging by this article, sharply funny.
KawiVulc 9 months ago
Maybe the cocker spaniels didn't want to pose with her either.
Coldnorth KawiVulc 9 months ago
Yeah, they should have the right to say no. German Shepherds aren’t going to pose with JUST ANYBODY. Who would argue with a Shepherd. Just having fun with my answer. It’s 6:18 am est and can’t sleep so I’m a little slap happy. And I had a German Shepherd. Sorry if I offended the Spaniels. Okey going back to sleep now hopefully.
Moverfan Coldnorth 8 months ago
Nighty-night (from 10:34am EST).
Peter_Falk_Fan 9 months ago
That "Best Actress in a Leading Role" nomination was for playing Lou Gehrig's wife in my favorite baseball movie "The Pride of the Yankees". She lost to her "Mrs. Miniver" co-star Greer Garson, who played Mrs. Miniver (good movie BTW).
teire Peter_Falk_Fan 9 months ago
Yes, both very good movies.
Runeshaper 9 months ago
Ok, her list is pretty odd. At the same time, yes, Goldwyn didn't have to sign her up.
daDoctah 9 months ago
That list of conditions sounds like a catalog of classic Gil Elvgren pinups.
justjeff daDoctah 9 months ago
...and that's most likely what she was trying to avoid...being just another pinup rather than an established actress. She believed in her talent. Goldwyn believed in cheesecake. In the long run, she won out for her principles... despite the lack of film rolls.
WGH justjeff 9 months ago
Julia Roberts was similar. Didn't want to ever pose in a swimsuit and definitely refused to do any nude scenes. Watch your movies and you'll see that she never does. Reportedly her father was a preacher and she stuck to her moral principles. You have to give her props for that.
Doreet WGH 9 months ago
Didn't she show tiny nipples in the bath, in her most famous role, as the young prostitute who drove Richard Gere's exotic car??when he couldn't drive it?He picked her up off the street.--and took her home with him. She was a real prostitute, from the book, yet the director wanted to CHANGE THE ENTIRE FILM from the way it was written. It was supposed to be a serious drama.--with a character like a real, world-weary prostitute. Instead she was "a nice girl" trying to get out of the Biz,--and fell in love with Gere's character.--A guy who has lotsa money, and likes picking up working-girls. Yeah, THAT'S a great person to get married to. --A working=girls' fan. A great movie for teeny-boppers who don't think much.heh heh.
MikefromJersey WGH 9 months ago
WGH,
I seem to remember her now husband was happily married with children.
He was a tech on one of her movies and caught her eye, they had an affair
and Julia complained to one and all that his unfeeling wife wouldn't give
him his freedom. She famously wore custom shirts with printed messages
telling the scorned wife to "let him free, he's mine now", "he's getting caviar,
he ain't going back for frozen fish sticks".
Those tossed aside kids and their Mom should have showed up at Julia's church
every Sunday, in the front pew to remind everyone what a good Christian Julia
is, and what a good job her preacher Dad did raising her, he must be proud.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?