Scott, Martha (1914—)

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Scott, Martha (1914—)

American actress who originated the role of Emily Webb in Our Town. Born Martha Ellen Scott on September 22, 1914, in Jamesport, Missouri; daughter of Walter Scott (a farmer and maintenance engineer) and Letha (McKinley) Scott; attended Westport High School, Kansas City, Missouri; University of Michigan, B.A., 1934; married Carleton Alsop (a radio and film producer), on September 16, 1940 (divorced 1946); married Mel Powell (a composer, pianist, and educator), in 1946; children: (first marriage) one son; (second marriage) two daughters.

Selected theater:

made Broadway debut as Emily Webb in Our Town (Henry Miller's Theater, 1938); appeared as The Girl in Foreigners (Belasco Theater, 1939), Mara in The Willow and I (Windsor Theater, 1942), Kate in Soldier's Wife (John Golden Theater, 1944); succeeded Margaret Sullavan as Sally in The Voice of the Turtle (Morosco Theater, 1945); appeared as Connie Frazier in It Takes Two (Biltmore Theater, 1947), Margaret in Design for a Stained Glass Window (Mansfield Theater, 1950); succeeded Sarah Churchill as Nancy Willard in Gramercy Ghost (Morosco, 1951); appeared as Sylvia in The Number (Bilt-more, 1951), Ellen Turner in the revival of The Male Animal (NY City Center, Music Box Theater, and tour, 1952–53), Mrs. Pennypacker in The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker (Coronet Theater, 1953), Mary Reese in Cloud 7 (John Golden Theater, 1958), Lucy Greer in A Distant Bell (Eugene O'Neill Theater, 1960), Nina in The Tumbler (Helen Hayes Theater, 1960), Fanny Lowe in The 49th Cousin (Ambassador Theater, 1960), Lillian Hudson in Future Perfect (Cape Playhouse, Dennis, MA, 1961); toured in stock as Mary in The Complaisant Lover (1962); appeared as Mattie Martin in Open Book (Pasadena Playhouse, 1963); toured as Pamela Pew-Pickett in Tchin-Tchin (1963); succeeded Maureen O'Sullivan as Edith in Never Too Late (Playhouse Theater, 1964); replaced Irene Dailey as Nettie Cleary in The Subject was Roses (Royale Theater and tour, 1964); appeared as Mrs. Antrobus in revival of The Skin of Our Teeth (Eisenhower Theater, JFK Center, Washington, D.C., and Mark Hellinger Theater, NY, 1975).

Selected filmography:

Our Town (1940); The Howards of Virginia (1940); Cheers for Miss Bishop (1941); They Dare Not Love (1941); One Foot in Heaven (1941); Hi Diddle Diddle (1943); (cameo) Stage Door Canteen (1943); In Old Oklahoma (1943); So Well Remembered (1947); Strange Bargain (1949); When I Grow Up (1951); The Desperate Hours (1955); The Ten Commandments (1956); Sayonara (1957); 18 and Anxious (1957); Ben-Hur (1959); Charlotte's Web (1973); Airport 1975 (1974); The Turning Point (1977); (co-prod. only) First Monday in October (1981); Doin' Time on Planet Earth (1988).

In one of the theater's true Cinderella stories, actress Martha Scott had only a few years of stock under her belt before landing the role of Emily Webb in the Broadway production of Our Town (1938). The Thornton Wilder play won a Pulitzer Prize and went on to become one of America's most famous and often-produced classics. In 1940, Scott reprised her role in the film version, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

Scott was born in 1914 in Jamesport, Missouri, and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1934. That year, she joined the Globe Theater at the Chicago World's Fair, appearing in abbreviated versions of Shakespearean plays, before moving on to stock companies in Detroit, Lansing, and Kalamazoo, Michigan. Following her breakthrough role in Our Town, she continued to appear on Broadway as well as in stock, combining her stage career with films and television. A solid, skillful actress, she made her mark in supporting roles and frequently succeeded or replaced the original star during a Broadway run or on tour. In 1969, the actress joined 30 of her colleagues to organize the Plum-stead Playhouse, which produced revivals of classic American plays, and of which she served as director. The Playhouse's inaugural production was a revival of Our Town.

Scott appeared on a number of radio serials during the 1930s, and from 1950 on was regularly seen on television. She was narrator and host on the daytime series "Modern Romances" (1954–57) and was seen on such popular series as "Omnibus," "Robert Montgomery Presents," "The F.B.I.," and "Ironside." She also had a recurring role as Bob Newhart's mother on "The Bob Newhart Show."

Scott was married to radio-film producer Carleton Alsop, with whom she had a son, and later to composer, pianist, and educator Mel Powell, with whom she had two daughters. Her last film appearance was in Doin' Time on Planet Earth (1988).


Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

McGill, Raymond, ed. Notable Names in the American Theatre. Clifton, NJ: James T. White, 1976.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Scott, Martha (1914—)

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