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MOORHEAD, AGNES
(1900–1974). American actress.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: The Story of Mankind (Irwin ALLEN 1957);  The Bat (Crane Wilbur 1959); "Rapunzel" (1958), "The Land of Oz," "The House of the Seven Gables" (1960), episodes of Shirley Temple's Storybook; "The Invaders" (1961), episode of The Twilight ZoneHush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte (Robert Aldrich 1964); Bewitched (tv series) (1964-1972);  Alice Through the Looking Glass (tv movie) (Alan Handley 1966); "The Night of the Vicious Valentine" (1967), episode of The Wild Wild West; "He Wanted to Be a Square Shooter but He Found That His Barrel Was Round" (1969), episode of The Red Skelton Show; "Certain Shadows on the Wall" (1970), "Satisfaction Guaranteed," "Witches Feast" (1971), episodes of Night Gallery; "The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cove" (1971), two-part episode of The Wonderful World of Disney; Dear Dead Delilah (John Farris 1972); Charlotte's Web (animated; voice) (Charles A. Nichols and Iwao Takamoto 1973); Frankenstein: The True Story (Jack Smight 1973).
 
Agnes Moorhead was an intelligent young lady, with a college degree and teaching experience, and so she surely entered show business without any illusions: as a woman who did not meet conventional standards of beauty—oh, let's be politically incorrect and say she was homely—she would be doomed by the attitudes of her era to a career of playing spinsters, shrews, and schoolmarms. It is to her credit that she played these demeaning roles so well that she become a sought-after supporting actress in major Hollywood productions, earning four Academy Award nominations for her work, and thus was able for two decades to entirely avoid the then-downscale neighborhood of science fiction and fantasy film.

However, upon nearing the age of sixty, at a time when Hollywood was endeavoring to boost its ever-decreasing audiences by attracting teenagers with productions featuring as many young faces as possible, Moorhead was obliged to lower her standards; and it should come as no surprise to anyone that fantastic cinema welcomed this talented actress to the fold by repeatedly casting her as a wicked witch—in two episodes of Shirley Temple's Storybook, episodes of The Red Skelton Show and Night Gallery, and most famously in the television series Bewitched. Therein, as the meddling mother-in-law Endora who despises her mortal son-in-law, the veteran Moorhead effortlessly upstaged the hapless Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York, effectively made herself the true star of the series, and unquestionably represents the major reason why this unremarkable series remained popular for eight seasons. Even the great Shirley McLaine proved but a pale shadow of Moorhead in the muddled movie adaptation of the series, Bewitched (2005).

But Moorhead excelled in other roles as well. With a lifetime of experience in portraying old hags, she easily competed with former leading ladies Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland, who were newer to the parts, in the horrorfest Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, and proved a memorable villainess in an episode of The Wild Wild West. The highlight of her genre career, however, came in an episode of The Twilight Zone, "The Invaders," where without a word of dialogue Moorhead perfectly embodied the frustrating, lonely life of an elderly woman who regards tiny alien invaders as just another annoyance that must be dealt with before she is obliged to return to her other tedious chores.

As another reason for Moorhead to feel abused by Hollywood, she died before her time, like all members of the cast of John Wayne's Genghis Khan epic The Conqueror (1956), eventually succumbing to cancer caused by exposure to radiation from nuclear tests conducted during its location shooting in Utah. Still, even if she never had her name above the title and never got her man, Agnes Moorhead will remain alive in the popular imagination longer than many more attractive women as an object lesson in how to play the best possible hand with the cards you were dealt.

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