Happy (early) birthday to Thelma Ritter, born February 14, 1902 in Brooklyn, New York!
Ritter got her acting start in high school plays before training at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Prior to her first bit role in Miracle on 34th Street, she worked on the New York stage and on the radio. Her role in that film was uncredited — she simply played a weary woman shopping for Christmas presents — but she made an impression, and went on to receive six Academy Award nominations throughout her career!
Ritter scored her first Oscar nomination for her role in the splendid melodrama All About Eve. She’s an absolute scene-stealer in her supporting performance as Birdie, a brash and outspoken woman. Reportedly, Joseph L. Mankiewicz wrote the role of Birdie specifically for Ritter because he was impressed after working with her on A Letter to Three Wives.
Ritter’s other Academy Award nominations came for The Mating Season, With a Song In My Heart, Pickup on South Street, Pillow Talk and Birdman of Alcatraz.
And on top of all of those Oscar noms, she received Golden Globe nominations for All About Eve, The Mating Season and Boeing Boeing; an Emmy nomination for The Catered Affair; and finally, she won a Tony Award for her work in New Girl in Town, which she was tied for with her co-star Gwen Verdon.
She didn’t always attend awards shows just for the nominations and potential wins. In 1954, Thelma had the privilege of co-hosting the Oscars alongside Bob Hope!
Of Ritter’s work in film and television, my favorite things are…
All About Eve
as Maude Young
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
as Lottie in “The Baby Sitter” (Season 1)