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Shirley Booth was an accomplished actress in theater, film, and television. She was one of a few actresses to win the highest honor in each medium: the Tony, Oscar, and Emmy awards. She first appeared professionally in The Cat and the Canary (1921) in Hartford. She made her Broadway debut in Hell's Bells (1925) with another newcomer, Humphrey Bogart. She was performing in Dorothy Parker skits at the Barbizon-Plaza Hotel in exchange for room and breakfast when George Abbott noticed her, As a result, she landed a Broadway role in Three Men on a Horse (1935). Booth appeared in around forty plays on Broadway, including The Philadelphia Story (1939), My Sister Eileen (1940), Good-bye My Fancy (1948, Tony winning performance), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1951), The Time of the Cuckoo (1952, Tony winning performance), and a revival of Hay Fever (1970). Her most acclaimed performance in William Inge's Come Back Little Sheba (1950) won her both a Tony on Broadway as well as an Oscar for the film version. Her other films include About Mrs. Leslie (1954) and Thornton Wilder's Matchmaker (1958). In addition to numerous television appearances, she played the title role on NBC's Hazel (Emmy winning performance) and was a regular on ABC's A Touch of Grace.
Photograph of Shirley Booth from the playbill Apple of His Eye, Bucks County Playhouse, 1947. Image courtesy of the Spruance Collection of the Bucks County Historical Society.
Education and Training
Shirley Booth attended public schools in Brooklyn and Hartford but dropped out at the age of fourteen to seek a stage career. She learned her craft by performing in sixty plays in stock companies before she appeared in some forty plays on Broadway.
Teachers and Influences
George S. Kaufman, director of My Sister Eileen on Broadway in 1940 and again at the Bucks County Playhouse in 1947
Humphrey Bogart, George Abbott
Connection to Bucks County
Shirley Booth lived in Bucks County on Route 413 in Newtown while married to her second husband, William H. Baker, Jr. From the late 1940s to 1950, they lived on Wind Race Estate, a remodeled stone farmhouse located on Doylestown Pike. She recreated her Broadway performance in My Sister Eileen (1947) at the Bucks County Playhouse and also appeared there in The Vinegar Tree (1948). She appeared in Justin Herman's short subject film Strawhat Cinderella, which was filmed at the Bucks County Playhouse. She left Bucks County after the death of her husband in 1951.
Colleagues and Affiliations
Mike Ellis, Margaret Mullen Root, George Kaufman, Leueen MacGrath, Moss Hart, and Oscar Hammerstein II.
Shirley Booth (1898-1992), My Sister Eileen, Bucks County Playhouse, 1947. Playbill courtesy of the Spruance Collection of the Bucks County Historical Society.
Hell's Bells, with Humphrey Bogart, 1925
Three Men on a Horse, produced by George Abbott, 1935
The Philadelphia Story, 1939
My Sister Eileen, directed by George Kaufman, 1940
Good-bye My Fancy, 1948
The Time of the Cuckoo, 1952
Come Back, Little Sheba, 1950
Come Back, Little Sheba, with Burt Lancaster, 1952
Main Street to Broadway, 1953
About Mrs. Leslie, 1954
Hot Spell, 1958
The Matchmaker, 1958
Playhouse 90: The Hostess with the Mostess, CBS, 1957
The Perry Como Show, NBC, 1958
The Dina Shore Chevy Show, NBC, 1958
The Gary Moore Show, CBS, 1960
US Steel Hour: Welcome Home, CBS, 1961
US Steel Hour: The Haven, CBS, 1961
Art Linkletter's House Party, CBS, 1961
Here's Hollywood, NBC, 1961, 1962
Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall, NBC, 1961
The Jack Paar Program, NBC, 1964
The Andy Williams Show, NBC, 1964
The Glass Menagerie, CBS, 1966
Hazel as a regular, NBC, 1961-1965; CBS, 1965-1966
CBS Playhouse: Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night, CBS, 1967
The Smugglers, NBC, 1968
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir: Medium Well Done, ABC, 1970
A Touch of Grace as a regular, ABC, 1973
The Year Without a Santa Claus, ABC, 1974
By the Beautiful Sea, 1950
Tony Award, Best Supporting Actress, Good-bye, My Fancy, 1949
Tony Award, Best Dramatic Actress, Come Back, Little Sheba, 1950
Tony Award, Best Dramatic Actress, Time of the Cuckoo, 1953
Emmy Awards, Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Series, Lead, NBC, 1961-1962, 1962-1963
Academy Award, Best Actress, Come Back, Little Sheba, 1952
Affiliations and Memberships
Bucks County Playhouse
Shirley Booth Playbill
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