Family & Companions
Born the daughter of a Shakespearean actress and a Supreme Court justice for the state of Maine, Phyllis Thaxter had the love of performing arts and an impeccable sense of poise instilled in her at an early age. She followed in her mother's footsteps with her Broadway debut in Henry Aldrich's play "What a Life!" at 17. She made her film debut a few years later with a supporting role in the Spencer Tracy World War II drama "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo." In 1947, she would costar with Tracy again, playing his and Katharine Hepburn's onscreen daughter in the melodrama "The Sea of Grass." It was around this time that Thaxter befriended film star Montgomery Clift. The two were inseparable, with rumors floating that they were sure to marry; they did not wed but maintained a friendship for years. Though the talented ingénue appeared in a number of films, often snagging roles as the even-tempered wife or girlfriend, Thaxter was deemed less glamorous than her peers and never reached star status. In the 1950s, a case of temporary paralysis ended her contract with Warner Brothers. While she recovered from this form of infantile paralysis, her film career did not. Thaxter tenaciously moved into television, where she appeared in nearly 50 different programs before she retired in the early 1990s.