Sunday, October 11, 2009

Underrated Performer of the Week: Spring Byington

Spring Byington (October 17, 1886 – September 7, 1971) was an American actress, best remembered for working as a key MGM contract player. At 28, the actress married Roy Chandler, a Broadway stage manager. The couple lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for three years, where she gave birth to daughters. Their marriage ended after four years and Byington returned to New York with her daughters. She started her successful career in Broadway.

In her last years of Broadway, she began work in films. The first was a short film titled Papa's Slay Ride in 1931 and the second, and most famous, was Little Women in 1933 as "Marmee" with Katharine Hepburn as her daughter "Jo". She became a household name during The Jones Family series of films and continued as a character actress in Hollywood for several years. In 1938, Byington was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for You Can't Take It With You.

During World War ll she worked in radio and decided to return when her film career began to fade. In 1952, she joined CBS Radio to become the lead role of the widowed Lily Ruskin in the sitcom December Bride. In 1954, Desilu Productions produced a pilot of the show for a television sitcom, also starring Byington. The pilot was successful and the new hit sitcom aired in its first two seasons after I Love Lucy. The series broadcast 111 episodes through 1959.

Throughout the 1960s, she was busy in television, She also co-stared in Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1960) as Alice Wagner in the episode "The Man with Two Faces." From 1961–1963, she appeared in the Western TV series Laramie. After it concluded its run, she guest starred in the following TV series:

Kentucky Jones (1964), in the episode "Feminine Intrusion", a comedy/drama.
Batman (1966) as J. Pauline Spaghetti in the episodes "The Catwoman Goeth" and "The Sandman Cometh."
I Dream of Jeannie (1967) as Larry Hagman's mother.
The Flying Nun (1968) as Mother General.

Spring Byington was an extremely intelligent and energetic woman her entire life. She spoke Spanish and also learned Brazilian Portuguese in her golden years. In July 1958, she had acquired a "small coffee plantation" in Brazil. In August 1955, she began taking flying lessons.
(information source, Wikipedia)
She did over 41 films. These are just few of my favorites:
Little Women (1933)

Mutiny on The Bounty (1935)
The Buccaneer (1938)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938)
Jezebel (1938)
You Can't Take It With You (1938)
Rings on Her Fingers (1942)
Heaven Can Wait (1943)
The Enchanted Cottage (1945)
Dragonwyck (1946)
In the Good Old Summertime (1949)
Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960)


Gilby37 said...

Great Choice! I just saw her in When Ladies Meet(1941 version).I also remember her in the rarely seen It's Love I'm After, an early Leslie Howard & Bette Davis comedy. She was a very familiar face for many years.

Rick29 said...

Dawn, thanks for shedding the spotlight on a winning supporting performer! I first saw Spring Byington in the Western TV series "Laramie" with Robert Fuller and John Smith. I didn't know about her lengthy film career...until I started seeing her all in kinds of movies. By the way, THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE is one of my faves.

Paul 2 said...

Dawn ,one of my favorites is as Nigel Bruce's wife In Charge Of The Light Brigade.

Tom said...

Also, I believe she also played Andy's mom in the first of the Andy Hardy movies. But for some reason, she didn't continue the part throughout the series.

Dawn said...

Spring, seemed to be popping up in several of my favorite movies. So i looked her up. I had a wonderful time learning more about her life.

sarkoffagus said...

I didn't know much about this actress. Thanks for an informative and well written write-up, Dawn!

toto2 said...

Spring Byington adds a touch of sweet classiness to the Underrated Performer selection, Dawn. She had an extensive resume in television as well as film and it seems she played a mother role frequently. Spring kept busy with the Jones Family movie series in the 1930s. Dawn, I appreciated your research and really enjoyed this entry!