Teresa Wright started a huge Hollywood feud by refusing to pose with a cocker spaniel
The Oscar-winning actor turned to TV after a famous film producer fired her.
In 1964, one of the Forties’ biggest rising stars Teresa Wright appeared in the Bonanza episode "My Son, My Son," playing a widow who almost marries Ben Cartwright.
It was a rare romantic storyline for Ben, who defends the honor of his soon-to-be wife by standing up for her son when he’s accused of murder.
Wright was an actor in the Forties who was positioned to become one of Hollywood’s brightest stars. Her first three movie roles earned her Oscar nominations, including rare two nominations in one year in both best actress and best supporting actress that led to a best supporting actress win for her role in Mrs. Miniver.
Because of this sudden acclaim, Wright was highly sought by studios, and out of everyone bidding on the actor, Samuel Goldwyn was most insistent that he had to have her on his roster.
Understanding that she had the upper hand in the situation, Wright did something a little playful and wrote into her contract a clause so audacious and just plain out there that it sparked a bitter feud with Goldwyn that she says inevitably led to her demise as a film star.
The clause begins with a somewhat reasonable demand that Wright not be asked to pose in a bathing suit when she is out of the water. But by the second item, you can practically imagine why the famous film producer’s eyes bugged out of his head reading Wright’s extreme set of conditions:
"Neither may she be photographed on the beach with hair flying in the wind. Nor may she pose in any of the following situations: in shorts; playing with a cocker spaniel; digging in a garden; whipping up a meal; attired in firecrackers and holding sky rockets for the Fourth of July; looking insinuatingly at a turkey for Thanksgiving; wearing a bunny cap with long ears for Easter; twinkling on prop snow in a skiing outfit while a fan blows her scarf; or assuming an athletic stance while pretending to hit something with a bow and arrow."
At the time, actors like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford had pushed back against studios somewhat, but few had acted so boldly when first signed by a major studio as Wright.
It’s said that though Goldwyn balked, he signed the contract because he wanted her to join his studio that badly, no matter the terms.
But ultimately, the terms did matter, and the story goes that Goldwyn never got over the bitterness he felt over Wright’s unreasonable demands. According to The Daily Telegraph in 2005, he never forgave Wright for poking fun at the system.
On the big screen, Wright didn’t play the kind of tough girl who treats a studio contract like a joke, although her characters did tend to show some grit. She was most often typecast as the nice girl, nearly always appearing as a natural beauty, not done up like more glamorous stars of the era.
Her feud with Goldwyn finally ended in 1948 when Goldwyn asked her to tour America to promote her latest film. She declined to go on tour, telling Goldwyn she was having health issues, but he didn’t believe her, and so it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Goldwyn fired her immediately saying that he was "sick and tired of what is going on in this town, where people have no respect for the company for which they work."
Through the Fifties, Wright continued appearing in movies, but by 1958, her film career stalled, and she decided to focus more on the stage and television.
While she took some time away from film, Wright appeared on hit shows like Bonanza and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, becoming dependable in dramatic roles from the late 1950s to the late 1980s and garnering three Emmy nominations.
Despite her feud with Goldwyn, she remained onscreen until her final role in 1997.
In 1969, Wright quashed a rumor that she had quit doing big-screen movies for good. Just as her contract with Goldwyn teased the common tropes of the day, she insisted she was still just waiting for a studio to give her something fresh to do.
"Indeed not!" Wright told the Philadelphia Daily News. "I haven’t given up my film work and don’t plan to. Motion-picture scripts and plays are being offered to me constantly, and I read every one of them. But there just aren’t any interesting parts being offered."