Thursday, July 31, 2008

Adeline De Walt Reynolds

Adeline De Walt Reynolds, who had a bit part in the previously posted “Witness to Murder” (1954), was one of those remarkable character actresses whose real lives out shown any part they happened to play.

Born in 1862 as the nation struggled through the early years of the Civil War, she lived through to just shy of her 99th birthday, in 1961, having spanned the years from Antietam being all the news to Sputnik being all the news. We may imagine that life in the late 19th century contained for her its share of adventure, but what we know about her old age in the mid-20th century is amazing.

After the loss of her husband in the 1905 San Francisco Earthquake, Mrs. Reynolds found new and unlikely professional pursuits. She began college in the 1920s and graduated in 1932 from the University of California at the age of 70. Her bio in the IMDb website informs us that she began her screen career at the age of 78.

Most of these bit parts called for her to be a grandma. We see her as such in “Since You Went Away” (1944) where she is the lady on the train, holding in her arms a sleeping Shirley Temple. She tells Claudette Colbert that her granddaughter was a nurse at Corregidor, and is now missing.

In “Going My Way” (1945) she is one of the neighbor ladies, “Mrs. Fitzgibbon,” and in “Here Comes the Groom” (1951) she is the chuckling Aunt Amy. In “Witness to Murder” she is one of the inmates of a hospital psychiatric ward, pathetically and persistently mumbling to herself, as if lost in a trance of happier days.

Her last role was on television’s “Playhouse 90” when she was about 98 years old. None of her roles were large, in depth, or required much more of her than filling out a scene. But what a kick to see her in the crowd.


Bacall said...

Just goes to show you are never too old for anything. Not only did she start late in life in Hollywood, but she entered college in her 60's and graduated with a BS degree at that.

I have to try and catch her in the crowd.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Hi, Bacall, thanks for stopping by. Yep, the lady's an example for us all. Terrific spirit.

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