Dorothy Mcguire

Dorothy Mcguire


Birth Place
Omaha, Nebraska, USA
June 14, 1916
September 13, 2001
Cause of Death
Heart Failure


While less showy than the most popular actresses of her day, Nebraska native Dorothy McGuire deserved the same degree of reverence. Lovely in an accessible, girl-next-door way, McGuire first earned notice on Broadway, where she found fame in the title role of "Claudia" (1941-43). When that story of a child bride and her life lessons was adapted for the silver screen in 1943, McGuire repr...

Photos & Videos

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Movie Poster
Old Yeller - Movie Poster
The Spiral Staircase - Movie Poster

Family & Companions

John Swope
Photographer. Born in 1908; married from July 1943 until his death on May 11, 1979.


While less showy than the most popular actresses of her day, Nebraska native Dorothy McGuire deserved the same degree of reverence. Lovely in an accessible, girl-next-door way, McGuire first earned notice on Broadway, where she found fame in the title role of "Claudia" (1941-43). When that story of a child bride and her life lessons was adapted for the silver screen in 1943, McGuire reprised her part and was simultaneously launched as the town's latest leading lady. She subsequently graced such notable productions as "The Enchanted Cottage" (1945), "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" (1945), "The Spiral Staircase" (1946), and the groundbreaking look at anti-Semitism, "Gentlemen's Agreement" (1947), for which she received an Academy Award nomination. McGuire specialized in playing women who were nice, grounded and dependable - qualities the actress also possessed off the screen. As she approached middle age, McGuire found her niche by embodying loving mothers, most famously in the classic Walt Disney tearjerker "Old Yeller" (1957), and even managed to effectively portray the Virgin Mary in "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965) at an age when some ladies had become grandmothers. A warm and appealing leading lady who became a fine character actress, McGuire provided the sort of consistently solid work that allowed her to find acting opportunities well into her golden years.

Dorothy Hackett McGuire was born on June 14, 1916 in Omaha, NE. Her first public performance came at age 13 in a community theatre production of "A Kiss for Cinderella," where she appeared opposite Henry Fonda, still a few years away from his own motion picture career. That desire to act stayed with her, so after initial schooling at Omaha Junior College, Ladywood Convent, and Pine Manor Junior College, McGuire set about establishing herself in the field. She gained experience doing summer stock and notched her first Broadway credit as a stand-in for Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" (1938), eventually taking over the character of Emily Webb from future star Martha Scott. This led to parts in a trio of other plays that proved short-lived. However, she finally found herself in a blockbuster via the lead role of "Claudia" (1941-43) and the smash comedy-drama about a child bride enjoyed a run of more than 700 performances. Plays with that degree of success were usually seen as naturals for film adaptation, so the property was acquired by producer David O. Selznick, who also put McGuire under contract. He ultimately opted not to proceed, but 20th Century Fox felt the commercial prospects were worth the risk and their motion picture incarnation of "Claudia" hit theatres in November of 1943.

The property found additional fame in this new medium and that same year, McGuire wed LIFE magazine photographer John Swope. The couple went on to have two children and remained partners until Swope's passing 36 years later. Now an established leading lady, McGuire reteamed with "Claudia" co-star Robert Young for a different kind of love story in "The Enchanted Cottage" (1945), which told of a homely woman and a disfigured man who find happiness together. McGuire toplined "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" (1945), the cinematic debut of gifted stage director Elia Kazan. McGuire was provided with many occasions to display her dramatic capacity in the film's compelling look at the life challenges faced by the occupants of a New York apartment building. McGuire and Robert Young reunited for the follow-up "Claudia and David" (1946), and she gave a remarkably effective performance as a mute woman terrorized by a killer in "The Spiral Staircase" (1946). While critics were often appreciative of her work, "Gentlemen's Agreement" (1947), an ahead-of-its-time study of anti-Semitism, provided the only occasion where McGuire was up for an award from her movie peers. For her fine turn as star Gregory Peck's girlfriend, McGuire received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, but did not win. While many performers would have capitalized on such publicity, McGuire instead decided to take time off to return to the stage. To that end, she co-founded the non-profit La Jolla Playhouse with Gregory Peck and Mel Ferrer, and over the next few years, McGuire would grace the La Jolla stage in such productions as "Petticoat Fever" (1949), "The Importance of Being Earnest" (1949), and "Summer and Smoke" (1950).

When she did make herself available again for movie assignments, McGuire was freed from Selznick's contract and able to choose her roles more freely. However, films like "Mother Didn't Tell Me" (1950) and "Callaway Went Thataway" (1951) were a notable step down in quality and although she was courted to star in a television sitcom, McGuire decided that such a project would not be a good fit. Fortunately, offers of work continued to come in. She co-starred with Jean Peters and Maggie McNamara in the romantic travelogue "Three Coins in the Fountain" (1954) and was the matriarch of the Quaker family at the heart of the highly-praised drama "Friendly Persuasion" (1956). Her most famous maternal part came the following year in the Walt Disney tearjerker "Old Yeller" (1957), where she played a mother forced to maintain the family ranch as a single parent, while her husband (Fess Parker) was away for a prolonged period. The main focus, of course, was on the loveable mongrel of the title, but McGuire's warm performance did much to enhance her underwritten character. McGuire returned to the Great White Way in a pair of Broadway productions that ended rather quickly, leading to further movie assignments in middling pictures like "The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker" (1959), "This Earth is Mine" (1959), and "A Summer Place" (1959).

She began the 1960s with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and another Disney hit, "Swiss Family Robinson" (1960), in which she was joined by her "Old Yeller" co-stars Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran. Delbert Mann's "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs" (1960) proved to be a sturdier dramatic vehicle than some of the soapier efforts McGuire had graced in the previous decade and she gave a genuine performance as the emotional wife of irresponsible salesman Robert Preston. McGuire was also one of many familiar faces who turned up in the embarrassing biblical spectacle "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965). Cast as the Virgin Mary, despite being in her late forties, McGuire still managed to pull off the role and embarrassed herself far less than some of her co-stars. McGuire's movie output slowed from that point onward. The British family film "Flight of the Doves" (1971) and voiceover work on "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" (1973) provided her sole outings that decade, but she was more active on the small screen, appearing in a handful of telefilms and the blockbuster miniseries "Rich Man, Poor Man" (ABC, 1976) for which McGuire received a Primetime Emmy nomination. She also took a final bow on Broadway in a revival of Tennessee Williams' "The Night of the Iguana" (1976-77) and did further stage work in smaller-profile regional productions, including "I Never Sang for My Father." After completing the made-for-TV drama "The Last Best Year" (ABC, 1990), McGuire settled into retirement. Three weeks after falling and breaking her leg at age 85, she expired from heart failure on Sept. 13, 2001. In a very unfortunate and glaring slight, McGuire was inexplicably left out of the "In Memoriam" video tribute reel that aired during the 2002 Academy Awards ceremony.

By John Charles



Cast (Feature Film)

Caroline? (1990)
The Last Best Year (1990)
American Geisha (1986)
Ann Suzuki
Amos (1985)
Between Darkness and Dawn (1985)
Beryl Foster
Ghost Dancing (1983)
Sarah Bowman
The Incredible Journey of Doctor Meg Laurel (1979)
Effie Webb
The Runaways (1975)
Angela Lakey
Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973)
She Waits (1972)
Flight of the Doves (1971)
Mary Magdalene St. Bridget O'Flaherty
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
Summer Magic (1963)
Margaret Carey
Susan Slade (1961)
Leah Slade
The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960)
Cora Flood
Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
Mother Robinson
The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker (1959)
Ma Emily Pennypacker
This Earth Is Mine (1959)
Martha Fairon
A Summer Place (1959)
Sylvia Hunter
Old Yeller (1958)
Katie Coates
Friendly Persuasion (1956)
Eliza Birdwell
Trial (1955)
Abbe [Nyle]
Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
Miss Frances
Make Haste to Live (1954)
Crystal Benson, also known as Zena Hale Blackford
Invitation (1952)
Ellen [Bowker] Pierce
Callaway Went Thataway (1951)
Deborah Patterson
I Want You (1951)
Nancy Greer
Mister 880 (1950)
Ann Winslow
Mother Didn't Tell Me (1950)
Jane Morgan
Gentleman's Agreement (1948)
Kathy Lacy
Till the End of Time (1946)
Pat Ruscomb
Claudia and David (1946)
Claudia Naughton
The Spiral Staircase (1946)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)
Katie Nolan
The Enchanted Cottage (1945)
Laura Pennington
Claudia (1943)
Claudia Naughton

Cast (Special)

I Never Sang For My Father (1988)
Margaret Garrison
Another Part of the Forest (1972)
Hollywood: The Selznick Years (1961)
The Philadelphia Story (1954)
Tracy Lord

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Little Women (1978)
Rich Man, Poor Man (1975)

Life Events


Made stage acting debut opposite Henry Fonda in the Omaha, Nebraska production. "A Kiss for Cinderella"


Was understudy for female roles in "Our Town"


Broadway debut as understudy in "Stop-Over"


Originated title role in the Broadway production of "Claudia"


Film debut reprising stage role in "Claudia"


Starred in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"


Headlined the sequel "Claudia and David"


Received an Oscar nomination as Best Actress for her role in "Gentleman's Agreement"


Toured as Alma in Tennessee Williams' "Summer and Smoke"


Co-starred with Gary Cooper and Anthony Perkins in "Friendly Persuasion"


Appeared on Broadway in "Winesburg, Ohio"


Had co-starring role in the film version of "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs"


Played the Virgin Mary in the biblical epic "The Greatest Story Ever Told"; last film for six years


Returned to features in "Flight of Doves"; last onscreen film performance


Returned to the stage playing Hannah Jelkes in Los Angeles production of Tennessee Williams' "The Night of the Iguana"; recreated role on Broadway in 1976


Won Emmy nomination as Mary Jordache, the mother of Rudy and Tom, in the ABC miniseries "Rich Man, Poor Man"


Portrayed Marmee in the NBC miniseries "Little Women"; reprised role in the short-lived 1979 series


Acted in the CBS daytime drama "The Young and the Restless"


Played opposite Kirk Douglas in the CBS TV-movie "Amos"


Last TV appearance, "The Last Best Year" (ABC)

Photo Collections

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Fox' A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), directed by Elia Kazan. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Old Yeller - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Disney's Old Yeller (1957). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
The Spiral Staircase - Movie Poster
Here is the American One-Sheet Movie Poster for The Spiral Staircase (1945), starring Dorothy McGuire. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Invitation - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are some photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Invitation (1952), starring Dorothy McGuire and Van Johnson.


Movie Clip

Summer Place, A (1959) -- (Movie Clip) Waiting To Be Kissed A version of the giant hit theme song by Max Steiner accompanies Johnny (Troy Donahue), son of the troubled couple that owns the resort, escorting Sandra Dee (as Molly), daughter of the VIP guests, with provocative talk and shots from writer-producer-director Delmer Daves in A Summer Place, 1959, from the novel by Sloan Wilson.
Summer Place, A (1959) -- (Movie Clip) We've Spoiled Two Lives Critical revelations as well-to-do Ken (Richard Egan), visiting the island inn owned by Sylvia (Dorothy McGuire) and her useless boozy husband Bart, steps in to fix the roof and revisit their implied but so-far not confirmed old romance, a big moment in Delmer Davis’ hit melodrama A Summer Place, 1959, also starring Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue.
Callaway Went Thataway (1951) -- (Movie Clip) What Would You Say To A Martini? Now in Hollywood, reluctantly convinced to pretend he’s the missing old-time singing cowboy who’s become a TV star, Howard Keel as Shep, impersonating “Smoky Callaway,” escorted by his de facto agents (Fred MacMurray, Dorothy McGuire) blunders with MGM celebrities (Elizabeth Taylor, Clark Gable) at Mocambo, then with the sponsor and wife (Fay Roope, Natalie Schaefer) in Callaway Went Thataway, 1951.
Callaway Went Thataway (1951) -- (Movie Clip) Open, All In A Day's Work Opening as it becomes apparent that Howard Keel is on TV, the dapper singing cowboy (the girl he rescues is not credited), known as “Smoky Callaway,” with more gags about sponsorship coming, in the Norman Panama/Melvin Frank MGM comedy, generally seen as a spoof on Hopalong Cassidy, Callaway Went Thataway, 1951, starring Fred MacMurray and Dorothy McGuire.
Callaway Went Thataway (1951) -- (Movie Clip) There Is No Smoky Callaway We’ve just met Fred MacMurray as TV ad-man Mike Frye, who introduces Dorothy McGuire as his partner, and through exposition we find out that the old movie singing cowboy they’ve turned into a TV star is missing, Jesse White as his old agent, in Callaway Went Thataway, 1951.
Callaway Went Thataway (1951) -- (Movie Clip) He Died With His Regiment Unable to find washed-up singing cowboy Callaway, who they’ve made a TV star using his old movie serials, Hollywood advertising partners Mike and Deb (Fred MacMurray, Dorothy McGuire) track down the real cowboy (Howard Keel, who also plays Callaway), who wrote to complain because he’s a dead-ringer for the guy, in MGM’s Callaway Went Thataway, 1951.
Gentleman's Agreement (1948) -- (Movie Clip) I Don't Care About The Jews Much talked about but just introduced Dave (John Garfield), a lifelong Jewish pal of writer Phil (Gregory Peck), now in New York after a tour abroad, hears about his friend's unorthodox approach to his assignment, Anne Revere the mom, in Gentleman's Agreement, 1948.
Trial (1955) -- (Movie Clip) He Talks White Supremacy Director Mark Robson shooting at an LA-area cemetery, Glenn Ford, Arthur Kennedy and Dorothy McGuire the legal team for their innocent client, at the funeral for the presumed murder victim, James Todd the minister, James Hoyt and Paul Guilfoyle the local racists demanding justice against the Latino perp, in writer Don Mankiewicz’s Trial, 1955.
Trial (1955) -- (Movie Clip) This Young Man's Voice Is A Mighty Weapon Glenn Ford as David Blake, law professor who signed on to gain trial experience, and is arguing the case for big time attorney Castle (Arthur Kennedy), grumbling about the publicity operation, which is illustrated with scenes at the LA Shrine Auditorium, with Katy Jurado, Barry Kelley et al, in Trial, 1955, from writer Don Mankiewicz and director Mark Robson.
Trial (1955) -- (Movie Clip) That Meant Me Keep Out! Everybody fighting over young suspect Angel (Rafael Campos) including lawyer Barney (Arthur Kennedy), professor David (Glenn Ford) and mom (Katy Jurado) in an early scene from director Mark Robson's Trial, 1955.
Till The End Of Time (1946) -- (Movie Clip) I'm Driving You Home Nice scene by director Edward Dmytryk, soldier-come-home Cliff (Guy Madison) meets barkeep Scuffy (Harry von Zell), pal Pinky (Loren Tindall) and the forward war-widow Pat (Dorothy McGuire) in Till The End Of Time, 1946.
Flight Of The Doves (1971) -- (Movie Clip) We Might Have Made It Disguised now in opposite genders, English runaways Finn and Derval (Jack Wild, Helen Raye) have evaded capture again but think they’re done for and will never reach their Irish grandmother, when good fortune strikes, Dorothy McGuire greeting them, near the climax in Flight Of The Doves, 1971.


Friendly Persuasion - (British Trailer) Gary Cooper plays a Quaker whose pacifism is tested during the Civil War in Friendly Persuasion, 1956, directed by William Wyler.
Gentleman's Agreement - (Academy Award trailer) Three Academy Awards went to Gentleman's Agreement (1947) an exposé of American anti-semitism starring Gregory Peck and John Garfield, directed by Elia Kazan.
Greatest Story Ever Told, The - (Original Trailer) The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) is an epic re-telling of the life of Christ, directed by George Stevens and starring Max Von Sydow, Dorothy McGuire, Claude Rains and many more
Mister 880 - (Original Trailer) A beloved old man is secretly Mister 880, an amateurish counterfeiter in Mister 880 (1950) starring Burt Lancaster as the agent out to get him.
Susan Slade - (Original Trailer) A pregnant teen (Connie Stevens) allows her mother to pass the baby off as her own in Susan Slade (1961).
Three Coins in the Fountain - (Original Trailer) Three American rommates working in Italy wish for the man of their dreams after throwing Three Coins in the Fountain (1954).
Enchanted Cottage, The - (Original Trailer) A scarred veteran and a homely woman are transformed by love in The Enchanted Cottage (1945) starring Dorothy McGuire and Robert Young.
Callaway Went Thataway - (Original Trailer) A real cowboy (Howard Keel) signs on to impersonate a faded western star for public appearances.
Summer Place, A - (Original Trailer) An adulterous couple discovers that their children, Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue, are sexually involved in the Warner Bros. pot-boiler A Summer Place, 1959.


Thomas Johnston McGuire
Isabel McGuire
Topo Swope
Actor. Survived her.
Mark Swope
Artist, photographer. Born in May 1953; survived her.


John Swope
Photographer. Born in 1908; married from July 1943 until his death on May 11, 1979.