- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Barbara Bel Geddes, the winsome actress who rose to stage and movie stardom but reached her greatest fame as Miss Ellie Ewing in the long-running TV series “Dallas,” has died. She was 82.

The San Francisco Chronicle said Miss Bel Geddes, a longtime smoker, died Monday of lung cancer at her home in Northeast Harbor, Maine.

Jordan-Fernald Funeral Home in Mount Desert, Maine, confirmed the death yesterday, but owner Bill Fernald said the family asked that no further information be given out.

Miss Bel Geddes was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress for the 1948 drama “I Remember Mama,” opposite Irene Dunne, and was the original Maggie the Cat on Broadway in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

But she was best-known as the matriarch of the rambunctious Ewing oil family on “Dallas,” which hurtled to the top of the ratings. She won an Emmy in 1980 as best lead actress in a drama series and remains the only nighttime soap star so honored.

“She was the rock of ‘Dallas,’” Larry Hagman, who played J.R. Ewing, told the Associated Press. “She was just a really nice woman and a wonderful actress. She was kind of the glue that held the whole thing together.”

Miss Bel Geddes called the show “real fun,” but it was also marked by tragedy. In March 1984, she had a major heart attack, and her character was played by Donna Reed for six months, until Miss Bel Geddes returned, remaining until 1990, a year before CBS canceled the show.

In 1945, Miss Bel Geddes made a splash on Broadway at 23 with her first important role in “Deep Are the Roots,” winning the New York Drama Critics Award as best actress.

She told a reporter: “My ambition is to be a good screen actress. I think it would be much more exciting to work for Frank Capra, George Cukor, Alfred Hitchcock or Elia Kazan than to stay on Broadway.” Her film career included work with Mr. Kazan (“Panic in the Streets”) and Mr. Hitchcock (“Vertigo”).

She retired to take care of her second husband, director Windsor Lewis. He fell ill with cancer in 1966 and died in 1972. Her earnings depleted by his illness, she found work scarce for a middle-aged actress and said she was “flat broke” in 1978 when she accepted the “Dallas” role.

Miss Bel Geddes married Carl Schreuer, an electrical engineer, in 1944, and they had a daughter, Susan. In 1951, she married Mr. Lewis and they had a daughter, Betsy.

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