Did you know that the 1930's – 1950's actress Margaret Sullavan attended Chatham's own Chatham Hall? Ms. Sullavan was born Margaret Brooke in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1911. She graduated from Chatham Hall in 1927 and promptly joined a Massachusetts theater group called the University Players (which boasted members Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda). Despite her parents' reservations about her working as an actress, she went on to work in plays on Broadway, and eventually on to Hollywood where she performed in almost twenty films.
Margaret Sullavan's first film was 1933's Only Yesterday, in which she played an early 20th-century Southern belle with an illegitimate child. Margaret also played a Southern belle in So Red the Rose, a Civil War drama. When not being cast as a Southerner, Margaret was often cast as German, Hungarian, Eastern European, or Jewish. She took on very serious roles as well as comedies, and a disproportionate number of her roles seemed to end with her untimely demise — usually from some awful illness.
Margaret was nominated for an Academy Award in 1938 for her role in Three Comrades, the screenplay for which was written in part by F. Scott Fitzgerald. (The three comrades in the title were played by Robert Young, Robert Taylor, and Franchot Tone; evidently the movie was something of a tearjerker, as Margaret's character Pat Hollman was dying of tuberculosis.)
Today Margaret Sullavan is perhaps best remembered for one of her later roles, The Shop Around the Corner, in which she appeared with Jimmy Stewart. (I personally have seen that movie, and I would never have thought that the Budapest shop clerk Klara Novak was actually being played by a Virginia girl!) Margaret also appeared opposite Jimmy Stewart in Next Time We Love, Shopworn Angel, and The Mortal Storm.
Ms. Sullavan was married several times (Henry Fonda was her first husband). In later life, she struggled with deafness. She passed away in 1960.
Clement: History of Pittsylvania County
Fitzgerald: Pittsylvania: Homes and People of the Past
Hurt: Eighteenth Century Landmarks of Pittsylvania County
Hurt: An Intimate History of the American Revolution in Pittsylvania County
Dodson: Footprints from the Old Survey Books
Byrd: Histories of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina
Melton: Pittsylvania's Eighteenth-Century Grist Mills
Melton: Pittsylvania's Nineteenth-Century Grist Mills
Melton: Thirty-Nine Lashes, Well Laid On
Melton: Pittsylvania County's Historic Courthouse
Jones: Tales About People in a Small Town
This article is posted by Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House as part of an effort to document Pittsylvania County, Chatham, and Danville, Virginia.
Copyright © 2005 Sarah E. Mitchell.