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Janet Beecher

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Janet Beecher
Janet Meysenburg

(1884-10-21)October 21, 1884
DiedAugust 6, 1955(1955-08-06) (aged 70)
Years active1903-1943
Spouse(s)Harry R. Guggenheimer (?-1919) (divorced)
Richard H. Hoffman (?-1935) (divorced)
Children1 (a son, with Hoffman)

Janet Beecher (born Janet Meysenberg; October 21, 1884 – August 6, 1955) was an American stage and screen actress.

Early years

The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Von Meysenburg,[1] Beecher was born in Jefferson City, Missouri.[2] Her sister was actress Olive Wyndham.[3] The sisters were related to Harriet Beecher Stowe on their mother's side.[4]

Her father's work as a vice-consul for Germany led to her growing up in Chicago.[5]


Beecher was a supporting player and lead on the Broadway stage between the 1900s and 1940s. Her Broadway debut came in The Education of Mr. Pipp (1905).[6] Her final Broadway play was The Late George Apley (1944).[5] Other notable plays she appeared in included The Lottery Man (1909), The Concert (1910), The Purple Road (1913), Fair and Warmer (1915), The Woman in Room 13 (1919), Call the Doctor (1920), A Bill of Divorcement (1921),[7] The Love Child (1922), A Kiss in a Taxi (1925), and Courage (1928).

Between 1915 and 1943, she appeared in about motion pictures. She remains perhaps best-remembered as a character actress during Hollywood's golden age, often seen in roles as "firm but compassionate matriarchs".[8] She was known for her roles as Ginger Rogers' mother in The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), Tyrone Power's mother in the adventure film The Mark of Zorro (1940), and Henry Fonda's mother in Preston Sturges' screwball comedy The Lady Eve (1941). She retired from film business in 1943, but managed to play a role in the television series Lux Video Theatre in 1952.

Personal life

Beecher was married twice: first to Harry R. Guggenheimer and then to Richard H. Hoffman. She had a son named Richard.[9][10][11][12]

"Automatic writing" controversy

Automatic writing played a pivotal role in Beecher's divorce from Hoffman. Beecher's mother, Mrs. Oral J. Wyndham, produced messages that she said were sent by spirits, but which Hoffman said were created by Wyndham's subconscious mind. After six years of marriage, both Beecher and Hoffman filed suit for separation, based on both the contentious messages and a disagreement about religion's influence in raising their son. Beecher, her sister, and their mother were members of the Unity Scientific Christianity Association. The judge who granted the divorce wrote, "both the practice of spirit writing and the content of the messages undoubtedly affected the family society. The plaintiff was frankly hostile to the practice, while some of the writings criticized his character and behavior in unmistakable terms."[3]


On August 7, 1955, Beecher died at her sister's home in Washington, Connecticut, at age 70.[13]


Year Title Role Notes
1915 Fine Feathers Jane Reynolds
1933 Gallant Lady Maria Sherwood
1934 The Last Gentleman Helen Barr
1934 The President Vanishes Mrs. Mary Stanley
1934 The Mighty Barnum Nancy Barnum
1935 Let's Live Tonight Mrs. Routledge
1935 So Red the Rose Sally Bedford
1935 Village Tale Amy Somerville
1935 The Dark Angel Mrs. Shannon
1936 Love Before Breakfast Mrs. Colby
1936 I'd Give My Life Governor's wife
1936 The Longest Night Mrs. Briggs, Carl's Mother
1937 The Good Old Soak Matilda Hawley
1937 The Thirteenth Chair Lady Crosby
1937 Between Two Women Miss Pringle
1937 Big City Sophie Sloane
1937 My Dear Miss Aldrich Mrs. Sinclair
1937 Beg, Borrow or Steal Mrs. Agatha Steward
1937 Rosalie Miss Baker
1938 Judge Hardy's Children Miss Budge, Suzanne's Tutor
1938 Yellow Jack Miss Macdade
1938 Woman Against Woman Mrs. Holland
1938 Say It in French Mrs. Carrington
1939 I Was a Convict Mrs. Martha Harrison
1939 The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle Mrs. Foote
1939 Man of Conquest Mrs. Sarah Lea
1939 Career Mrs. Amy Cruthers
1939 Laugh It Off Mary Carter
1939 Slightly Honorable Mrs. Cushing
1940 All This, and Heaven Too Miss Haines
1940 The Mark of Zorro Senora Isabella Vega
1940 Bitter Sweet Lady Daventry
1941 The Lady Eve Mrs. Pike
1941 The Man Who Lost Himself Mrs. Milford
1941 Men of Boys Town Spokeswoman (scenes deleted)
1941 West Point Widow Mrs. Graves
1941 For Beauty's Sake Miss Merton
1941 A Very Young Lady Miss Steele
1941 The Parson of Panamint Mrs. Tweedy
1942 A Tragedy at Midnight Third Mrs. Charles Miller Uncredited
1942 Reap the Wild Wind Mrs. Mottram
1942 Men of Texas Mrs. Sam Houston
1942 Hi, Neighbor Hattie Greenfield
1942 Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch Mrs. Olcott
1942 Silver Queen Mrs. Laura Forsythe
1943 Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour Mrs. Eloise Lowry Uncredited
1952 Lux Video Theatre Kate Walburn 1 episode, (final appearance)


  1. ^ "Janet Beecher, Actress, Passes". Democrat and Chronicle. New York, Rochester. Associated Press. August 8, 1955. p. 9. Retrieved February 26, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  2. ^ Fisher, James; Londré, Felicia Hardison (2009). The A to Z of American Theater: Modernism. Scarecrow Press. p. 52. ISBN 9780810870475. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  3. ^ a b "How Spooks Wrecked the Doctor-Actress Threesome". Hamilton Evening Journal. Ohio, Hamilton. July 10, 1926. p. 20. Retrieved February 25, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  4. ^ Tildesley, Alice L. (June 30, 1935). "How to keep from growing old". The Nebraska State Journal. Nebraska, Lincoln. p. 33. Retrieved February 26, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  5. ^ a b Hischak, Thomas S. (2003). Enter the Players: New York Stage Actors in the Twentieth Century. Scarecrow Press. pp. 26–27. ISBN 9780810847613. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  6. ^ "("Janet Beecher" search results)". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on 25 February 2018. Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  7. ^ (7 August 1955). Janet Beecher, Actress is Dead - Star of Stage aad' Screen Played Her Last Role in 'The Late George Apley', The New York Times (paywll)
  8. ^ Janet Beecher profile, Allmovie.com; accessed April 28, 2017.
  9. ^ Obituary Billboard magazine, August 20, 1955; mentions surviving family, her sister Olive Wyndham and son Richard
  10. ^ Who Was Who in the Theatre 1912-1976; originally published annually by John Parker, 1976 editions by Gale Research
  11. ^ Silent Film Necrology 2nd edit. by Eugene M. Vazanno c. 2001
  12. ^ Janet Beecher profile, alexanderstreet.com; accessed April 28, 2017.
  13. ^ "Janet Beecher, Ex-Actress, Dies at 70". The Courier-Journal. Kentucky, Louisville. Associated Press. August 8, 1955. p. 8. Retrieved February 25, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
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