Joseph Cotten


Actor
Joseph Cotten

About

Also Known As
Joseph Cheshire Cotten
Birth Place
Petersburg, Virginia, USA
Born
May 15, 1905
Died
February 06, 1994
Cause of Death
Pneumonia

Biography

Quietly intense, highly talented member of Orson Welles' Mercury Theater, a former drama critic who went to Hollywood with the director to act (as a drama critic) in "Citizen Kane" (1941) and stayed to enjoy success on screen, TV and stage alike over the next four decades. Tall, wavy-haired and gentlemanly, with a trace of a Southern drawl and attractive if unconventional features, Cotte...

Photos & Videos

The Killer is Loose - Lobby Card Set
Journey into Fear - Lobby Cards
The Third Man - Pressbook

Family & Companions

Lenore Kipp
Wife
Fashion editor. Married in 1931; died in 1960 of leukemia.
Deanna Durbin
Companion
Actor, singer. Reportedly had brief relationship in 1943 during filming of "Hers to Hold".
Patricia Medina
Wife
Actor. Married in 1960; formerly married to actor Richard Greene; survived him.

Bibliography

"Vanity Will Get You Nowhere"
Joseph Cotten (1988)
"Joseph Cotten: An Autobiography"
Joseph Cotten, Mercury House (1987)

Biography

Quietly intense, highly talented member of Orson Welles' Mercury Theater, a former drama critic who went to Hollywood with the director to act (as a drama critic) in "Citizen Kane" (1941) and stayed to enjoy success on screen, TV and stage alike over the next four decades. Tall, wavy-haired and gentlemanly, with a trace of a Southern drawl and attractive if unconventional features, Cotten developed great versatility during his 1930s stage work which would serve him well in one of the most impressive strings of performances any Hollywood actor achieved in the 40s.

Older than the conventional new find at age 36, Cotten combined a mature and sometimes cynical pragmatism with an inner idealism either challenged by emotional pressures and social circumstances, or else shown to give way to scheming menace or dangerous rage. Delicate work came in his wonderful performance as a rejected inventor in Welles' brilliant follow-up to "Kane," the study of family decay "The Magnificent Ambersons" (1942), and his chillingly ambiguous portrait of a kindly uncle who may be a murderer in Alfred Hitchcock's subtly unnerving "Shadow of a Doubt" (1943). A sensitive lead well-suited to romance, Cotten played a shell-shocked soldier on leave tentatively courting prisoner-on-leave Ginger Rogers in "I'll Be Seeing You" (1944) and his moody poet embraced the amnesiac Jennifer Jones in "Love Letters" (1945). One of his best performances came opposite Jones in William Dieterle's "Portrait of Jennie" (1948), as a painter involved with a mysterious waif from long ago. For his work in this poignant whimsy, Cotten, the kind of effortless performer who never wins awards, was named Best Actor by the Venice Film Festival.

Characterizations calling for sturdiness found Cotten loving Merle Oberon unrequitedly in "Lydia" (1941), helping Claudette Colbert through wartime misery in "Since You Went Away" (1944) and rescuing a victimized Ingrid Bergman in "Gaslight" (1944). The light touch Cotten displayed opposite Katharine Hepburn in Broadway's "The Philadelphia Story" (1939) returned in his work as a charming politician who supports maid-turned-Senator Loretta Young in "The Farmer's Daughter" (1947) and the determined romancer of Margaret Sullavan onstage in "Sabrina Fair" in the early 50s. He was also an effective hero in the wartime thriller "Journey Into Fear" (1943), set up by and co-starring Welles.

Working with Welles even as co-star seemed to bring out the best in Cotten, as in Carol Reed's masterful thriller of postwar black marketeering, "The Third Man" (1949), as the ingenuously American Cotten became disillusioned while skulking through the ruins of Vienna in search of an old buddy. Cotten himself may have been disillusioned during the 50s as his roles gradually declined. He still played leads, but the films were less important, the productions generally mediocre. The bizarre "Beyond the Forest" (1949) used him only as a glum sounding board for the explosive antics of Bette Davis. "September Affair" (1951) was a decent romance reuniting him with Dieterle, but "Under Capricorn" (1949) was one of Hitchcock's biggest misfires, "Half Angel" (1951) a cutesy reteaming with Young, and "Peking Express" (1951) a half-baked attempt to recreate 1932's "Shanghai Express." "The Killer Is Loose" (1955) was a solid, if minor Budd Boetticher thriller, and supporting Van Johnson in "The Bottom of the Bottle" (1956) provided one of his richer parts of that time. Cotten's best 50s part, though, came in "Niagara" (1953), Henry Hathaway's lurid but stunningly directed thriller, as the unstable husband driven crazy by the unfaithful schemings of Marilyn Monroe, in the role that clinched her stardom.

Cotten returned to the stage occasionally as the 50s progressed, and he lent his solid presence to TV's courtroom anthology "On Trial" (1956-57). His cameo as a drunken coroner was but one of many highlights of Welles's dazzling "Touch of Evil" (1958) and Robert Aldrich gave Cotten a classy if hammy villain role in "Hush...Hush Sweet Charlotte" (1964). Cotten was extremely prolific during the twilight years of his career, alternating shlocky U.S. and Italian-made melodramas and horror films ("Baron Blood" 1972, not one of Mario Bava's greatest; "The Hearse" 1980) with routine TV-movies ("Cutter's Trail" 1970), bland all-star Hollywood features ("Airport '77" 1977) and occasional worthy, offbeat films ("Petulia" 1968, "A Delicate Balance" 1973). Throughout he demonstrated solid if not always exciting professionalism regardless of the material, his slightly grim, firmly set yet still delicate visage always a welcome reminder of his halcyon days of yore.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Rambo Sfida la Citta (1982)
The Survivor (1981)
Casino (1980)
Heaven's Gate (1980)
The House Where Death Lives (1980)
The Hearse (1980)
The Fish Men (1979)
Guyana: Cult of the Damned (1979)
Screamers (1979)
Caravans (1978)
Return to Fantasy Island (1978)
L'Ordre et la securite du monde (1978)
Airport '77 (1977)
Sussuri Nel Buio (1977)
Twilight's Last Gleaming (1977)
The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case (1976)
Timber Tramps (1975)
A Delicate Balance (1973)
The Devil's Daughter (1973)
F for Fake (1973)
Himself
Soylent Green (1973)
Doomsday Voyage (1972)
Captain [John] Jason
The Screaming Woman (1972)
Lo Scopone Scientifico (1972)
Baron Blood (1972)
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
Dr. Vesalius
Assault on the Wayne (1971)
Lady Frankenstein (1971)
City Beneath The Sea (1971)
Do You Take This Stranger? (1971)
Latitude Zero (1970)
Capt. Craig McKenzie
The Grasshopper (1970)
Richard Morgan
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
Henry L. Stimson
Petulia (1968)
Mr. Danner
White Comanche (1968)
The Hellbenders (1967)
Jonas
Jack of Diamonds (1967)
Ace of Diamonds
In Saigon: Some May Live (1967)
Brighty of the Grand Canyon (1966)
Jim Owen
The Tramplers (1966)
Temple Cordeen
The Money Trap (1966)
Dr. Horace Van Tilden
The Oscar (1966)
Kenneth H. Regan
The Great Sioux Massacre (1965)
Major Reno
Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)
Dr. Drew Bayliss
The Last Sunset (1961)
John Breckenridge
The Angel Wore Red (1960)
Hawthorne
Touch of Evil (1958)
Coroner
From the Earth to the Moon (1958)
Victor Barbicane
The Halliday Brand (1957)
Daniel Halliday
The Bottom of the Bottle (1956)
Pat "P.M." Martin
The Killer Is Loose (1956)
Sam Wagner
Special Delivery (1955)
John Adams
A Blueprint for Murder (1953)
Whitney "Camera" Camera
Egypt by Three (1953)
Niagara (1953)
George Loomis
The Steel Trap (1952)
James Osborne
The Wild Heart (1952)
Opening narration
Untamed Frontier (1952)
Kirk Denbow
Othello (1952)
Venetian senator
Othello (1952)
September Affair (1951)
David Lawrence By arrangement with David O. Selznick
The Man with a Cloak (1951)
Dupin [assumed name of Edgar Allan Poe]
Half Angel (1951)
John Raymond, Jr.
Peking Express (1951)
Michael Bachlin
Two Flags West (1950)
Col. Clay Tucker
Walk Softly, Stranger (1950)
Chris Hale, previously known as Steve
Portrait of Jennie (1949)
Eben Adams
Under Capricorn (1949)
Sam Flusky By arrangement with David O. Selznick
Beyond the Forest (1949)
Dr. Lewis Moline
The Third Man (1949)
Holly Martins
The Farmer's Daughter (1947)
Glenn Morley
Duel in the Sun (1947)
Jesse McCanles
Love Letters (1945)
Alan Quinton
I'll Be Seeing You (1944)
Zachary Morgan
Gaslight (1944)
Brian Cameron
Since You Went Away (1944)
Lt. Tony Willett
Hers to Hold (1943)
Bill Morley
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Uncle Charlie [Oakley, also known as Mr. Spencer and Mr. Otis]
Journey into Fear (1942)
Howard Graham
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
Eugene [Morgan]
Lydia (1941)
Michael [Fitzpatrick]
Citizen Kane (1941)
Jedediah Leland/Man in projection room
Too Much Johnson (1938)

Writer (Feature Film)

Journey into Fear (1942)
Screenwriter

Special Thanks (Feature Film)

Jimmy Hollywood (1994)
Thanks

Director (Special)

Peter Hunter, Private Eye (1948)
Director

Cast (Special)

Orson Welles: What Went Wrong? (1992)
Notorious (1961)
Alex Sebastian
Hollywood: The Selznick Years (1961)
Broadway (1955)
Dan Mccorn
On Trial (1955)

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Aspen (1977)

Life Events

1930

Became assistant stage manager for David Belasco and understudied two productions: "Dancing Partner" and "Tonight or Never" in NY

1931

Acted in stock with the Copley Theater, Boston

1932

Broadway debut, "Absent Father"

1936

First collaboration with Orson Welles: the Federal Theater Project production of "Horse Eats Hat"

1938

First short film as actor, "Too Much Johnson"

1939

Left the Mercury Theatre to appear on Broadway in "The Philadelphia Story"

1941

Made feature film acting debut in "Citizen Kane"

1942

Signed to seven-year contract by David O. Selnick

1948

Directed "Peter Hunter, Private Eye", the earliest known syndicated pilot, starring Frank Albertson in the title role

1954

TV debut in General Electric Theater production "The High Green Wall"

1960

Went to Italy to film the Italian-American co-production "The Angel Wore Red/La Sposa Bella" toplining Ava Gardner and Dirk Bogarde

1961

Starred in an NBC-TV one-hour remake of Alfred Hitchcock's "Notorious"

1966

Began making films regularly in Italy with "I Crudeli/The Hellbenders" and "Gli Uomini del Passo Pesanti/The Tramplers"

1980

Last American-made films: "The Hearse", "The House Where Death Lives", "Heaven's Gate"

1981

Lost his voice after a stroke; regained it after undergoing therapy

1982

Played last feature acting role in the Italian-made "Rambo Sfida la Citta/Syndicate Sadists"

1985

Appeared as himself in the Italian-made feature documentary, "Hitchcock--Il Brivido del Genio/The Thrill of Genius"

Photo Collections

The Killer is Loose - Lobby Card Set
The Killer is Loose - Lobby Card Set
Journey into Fear - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Journey into Fear (1942). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Third Man - Pressbook
Here is the campaign book (pressbook) for The Third Man (1949). Pressbooks were sent to exhibitors and theater owners to aid them in publicizing the film's run in their theater.
I'll Be Seeing You - Publicity Stills
I'll Be Seeing You - Publicity Stills
Soylent Green - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills from Soylent Green (1973). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Shadow of a Doubt - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Shadow of a Doubt (1943), directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Portrait of Jennie - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from Portrait of Jennie (1949). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. Also included is a card from the 1950 release of the film, as Tidal Wave.
Since You Went Away - Movie Poster
Here is an "advance" One-sheet movie poster for Since You Went Away (1944). The poster copy touts the previous successes of producer David O. Selznick.
The Third Man - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from The Third Man (1949). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Magnificent Ambersons - Norman Rockwell Art
RKO hired noted illustrator Norman Rockwell to paint portraits for the main ad art for The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). Here in black-and-white are some of those portraits and the poster art compiled using them.
Jack of Diamonds - Color Scene Stills
Here are some color scene stills from MGM's Jack of Diamonds (1967), starring George Hamilton and Joseph Cotten.
Love Letters - Lobby Cards
Here are a few lobby cards from Love Letters (1945), starring Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Farmer's Daughter - Lobby Cards
Here are a number of Lobby Cards from The Farmer's Daughter (1947), starring Loretta Young, Joseph Cotten, and Ethel Barrymore. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
The Magnificent Ambersons - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a number of photos taken behind-the-scenes during pre-production and shooting of Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons (1942).
The Angel Wore Red - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for The Angel Wore Red (1960), starring Ava Gardner and Dirk Bogarde. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
The Man with a Cloak - Lobby Cards
Here are several Lobby Cards from MGM's The Man with a Cloak (1951), starring Joseph Cotten, Barbara Stanwyck, and Leslie Caron. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Gaslight - Movie Posters
Here is a group of American movie Posters from Gaslight (1944), starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotten.
Soylent Green - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Soylent Green (1973). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Gaslight - Lobby Card
Here is a Lobby Card from Gaslight (1944). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Journey into Fear - Publicity Stills
Here are some Publicity Stills from Journey into Fear (1943). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.

Videos

Movie Clip

Blueprint For Murder, A (1953) - Don't Touch My Feet! The opening from independent writer, producer and director Andrew L. Stone finds Joseph Cotten racing to the bedside of a niece, meeting Jean Peters as the stepmother, the widow of his late brother then, when the emergency subsides, with his nephew (Freddy Ridgeway), in A Blueprint For Murder, 1953, distributed by 20th Century-Fox.
Blueprint For Murder, A (1953) - It All Adds Up Delicate business as Jean Peters, as young stepmother Lynn Cameron, is grilled by police detectives (Jack Kruschen, Barney Phillips and Charles Tannen) who have reluctantly concluded she poisoned her stepdaughter, and her brother-in-law Cam (Joseph Cotten) dares not let on that he agrees, in Andrew L. Stone’s A Blueprint For Murder, 1953.
Blueprint For Murder, A (1953) - The Same Kind Of Convulsions This is how we learn that the young niece of Joseph Cotten, as visiting businessman “Cam” Cameron, died the evening before after a second unexplained seizure, as we meet his friends, Gary Merrill and Catherine McLeod, as lawyer Fred and freelance reporter Maggie, discussing her father’s earlier death, in A Blueprint For Murder, 1953.
Journey Into Fear (1943) - Dearest Stephanie Star Joseph Cotten narrates from a letter to his wife (Ruth Warrick) from the screenplay he co-wrote with co-star Orson Welles from an Eric Ambler novel, meeting local arms rep Kopeikin (Everett Sloane) in WWII Istanbul, and singer Josette (Dolores del Rio), in Journey Into Fear, 1943.
Journey Into Fear (1943) - A Crazy Man Just Shot At Me From the climax on the ledge of a Black Sea hotel, Graham (Joseph Cotten) chased by an assassin and spy (Jack Moss, Eustace Wyatt), his wife (Ruth Warrick) downstairs, Turkish officer Haki (Orson Welles, in a scene he never quite took credit for directing) rescuing, in Journey Into Fear, 1943.
Journey Into Fear (1943) - I Like The Turks Hustled onto a steamer out of Istanbul by officials who insist he’s in danger, American engineer Graham (Joseph Cotten), narrating from a letter to his wife, with acquaintances on board, singer Josette (Dolores del Rio), Kuvetli (Edgar Barrier) and Haller (Eustace Wyatt), in Journey Into Fear, 1943.
White Comanche (1968) - He's The One! Having survived a bar fight, "half-breed" Johnny Moon (William Shatner) takes fire from the showgirl (Rosanna Yanni) recently raped by his Indian twin-brother, then is rescued by Sheriff Logan (Joseph Cotten) in the Italian-Spanish spaghetti Western White Comanche, 1968.
White Comanche (1968) - I Know My Responsibilities Sheriff Logan (Joseph Cotten) meets Johnny Moon (William Shatner) then comes to the aid of Kelly (Rosanna Yanni) who's just been assaulted by Moon's evil twin (also Shatner) in the low-rent spaghetti Western White Comanche, 1968.
Journey Into Fear (1943) - C'est Mon Couer Opening features Banat (Jack Moss), whom we will learn is a freelance assassin in WWII Istanbul, and an an unattributed recording of an old French song, in Journey Into Fear, 1943, screenplay by star Joseph Cotten and supporting player Orson Welles, from an Eric Ambler novel.
Since You Went Away (1944) - The Eternal Also-Ran Anne (Claudette Colbert) meets divorcee Emily (Agnes Moorehead) for a drink, social commentary overheard, and Tony (Joseph Cotten) appearing, in David Selznick's home-front saga Since You Went Away, 1944.
Since You Went Away (1944) - I Wish I Were Twenty-Seven Jane (Jennifer Jones) is at first compassionate toward Corporal Smollett (Jones' then-husband Robert Walker) then swooning before officer Tony (Joseph Cotten) in David Selznick's Since You Went Away, 1944.
Niagara (1953) - As Long As He's A Man Troubled George (Joseph Cotten) from manic to depressive phase, vampy wife Rose (Marilyn Monroe) seeming to like it that way, in Niagara, 1953, original screenplay by Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch and Richard Breen.

Trailer

Petulia - (Original Trailer) A divorced doctor (George C. Scott) has an affair with a young wife (Julie Christie) hiding a dark secret in Petulia (1968).
Walk Softly, Stranger - (Original Trailer) A small-time crook (Joseph Cotten) on the run is reformed by the love of a crippled woman (Alida Valli).
Last Sunset, The - (Original Trailer) A sheriff (Rock Hudson) finds the outlaw (Kirk Douglas) he's hunting leading a cattle drive and decides to help him before arresting him in Robert Aldrich's The Last Sunset (1961).
Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte - (Academy Preview Trailer) Heads will roll as Bette Davis fights to keep her family's secrets in Robert Aldrich's Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964).
Soylent Green - (Original Trailer) Future cop Charlton Heston uncovers the deadly secret behind a mysterious synthetic food in Soylent Green (1973).
Man with a Cloak, The - (Original Trailer) A mystery man (Joseph Cotten) tries to help a young innocent (Leslie Caron) escape a murderous housekeeper (Barbara Stanwyck).
Heaven's Gate - (Original Trailer) A Wyoming sheriff (Kris Kristofferson) tries to protect immigrant farmers from ruthless ranchers in Heaven's Gate (1981).
Magnificent Ambersons, The - (Original Trailer) A possessive son's efforts to keep his mother from remarrying threaten to destroy his family in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942).
Jack Of Diamonds - (Original Trailer) Gentlemen crook Joseph Cotten trains George Hamilton to become master thief Jack of Diamonds (1967).
Money Trap, The - (Original Trailer) A cop with financial problems turns crooked in The Money Trap (1966) starring Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth.
Angel Wore Red, The - (Original Trailer) A priest (Dirk Bogarde) and a prostitute (Ava Gardner) fall in love during the Spanish Civil War in The Angel Wore Red (1960).
Gaslight (1944) - (Re-issue Trailer) A newlywed fears she's going mad when strange things start happening at the family mansion in Gaslight (1944), starring Ingrid Bergman.

Family

Joseph Cotten Sr
Father
Assistant postmaster.

Companions

Lenore Kipp
Wife
Fashion editor. Married in 1931; died in 1960 of leukemia.
Deanna Durbin
Companion
Actor, singer. Reportedly had brief relationship in 1943 during filming of "Hers to Hold".
Patricia Medina
Wife
Actor. Married in 1960; formerly married to actor Richard Greene; survived him.

Bibliography

"Vanity Will Get You Nowhere"
Joseph Cotten (1988)
"Joseph Cotten: An Autobiography"
Joseph Cotten, Mercury House (1987)