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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 723

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This is the grave of Anne Revere.

Born in 1903 in New York City, Revere grew up wealthy. A direct descendant of Paul Revere, her father was a successful stockbroker. She went to Wellesley and graduated in 1926 with a theater degree. She followed that by going to acting school at the American Laboratory School. She made her Broadway debut in 1931 and had a good bit of success as a character actor. One of the most successful plays she was in Double Door and she went to Hollywood in 1934 to reprise that role. But she mostly remained on Broadway until 1940. However, in the 1940s, she became a significant Hollywood actor. Although she wasn’t that old, she had a superb maternalistic look and could play older than she was. So she became the go-to mother in this decade.

Revere’s first acclaimed film was The Song of Bernadette in 1943, for which she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. In this, she played Jennifer Jones’ mother. The next year, she played Elizabeth Taylor’s mother in National Velvet and won Best Supporting Actress for that. Angela Lansbury was also in that movie and I only mention that to note that she still lives and is the oldest surviving Academy Award nominee at age 95. Revere received her third Best Supporting Actress nomination for 1947’s Gentlemen’s Agreement, where she played Gregory Peck’s mother. She also played John Garfield’s mother in 1947’s Body and Soul and Montgomery Clift’s mom in A Place in the Sun in 1951.

However, Revere’s Hollywood career ground to an immediate halt when she refused to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, taking the Fifth Amendment during the ten minutes they kept her. It was Louis Bedenz who gave the FBI her name as a communist in 1950. Unwilling to be involved in this redbaiting, she resigned from the Actors’ Guild and returned to New York. She was a communist and proud of it, as she should have been despite the armchair redbaiting of later liberals who refuse to see these choices in the context of the time and what the CP meant in American activism at this time. Moreover, she supported Stevenson in 1952 so it’s not as if she was completely out of touch with American politics. We know that the FBI was following her around, reporting on her sponsorship of a modern art exhibit that was discussed in New Masses (the horror!) and signed a public statement for a New York Times ad to abolish HUAC. Ronald Reagan then told the FBI that he thought Revere was a communist who opposed his recommendation that the SAG not support a strike.

She was able to get work on Broadway but was one of the many actors who we lost great work to remember from due to this horror. She won a Tony in 1960 for her work as an aging spinster in Lillian Hellman’s Toys in the Attic, which also starred Jason Robards and Maureen Stapleton.

Revere came off the blacklist in 1962, when Joseph Hardy fought to have her cast in his television soap opera A Time for Us. She had a second Hollywood career working in soap operas, none of which I really am familiar with except for Ryan’s Hope and Search for Tomorrow. She also acted in a couple of films later in life, but really became a commonly cast older woman on television. Revere died of pneumonia in 1990. She was 87 years old.

Anne Revere is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

If you would like this series to visit other winners of Best Supporting Actress, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Anne Baxter, who won for The Razor’s Edge in 1946, is in Wyoming, Wisconsin, and Josephine Hull, who won for Harvey in 1950, is in Newton, Massachusetts. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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