She was born in Seattle, Washington. Her mother, Leona Roberts, was an actress best-known for her role as "Mrs. Meade" in Gone with the Wind. Through her mother's connections, Hutchinson made her film debut at the age of thirteen in The Little Princess, starring Mary Pickford. She later attended the Cornish School of Music and Drama in Seattle, and then moved to New York City where she began acting in theater. By the late 1920s she was one of the actors able to make the transition from silent movies to talkies.
Hutchinson married Robert W. Bell, a stage director, in 1924. In 1926, she met the actress Eva Le Gallienne and became a member of Le Gallienne's Civic Repertory Theatre company. By 1927, the two women were involved in a lesbian affair, and Hutchinson and Bell, who separated in 1928, were divorced in 1930. The press quickly dubbed her Le Gallienne's shadow, a term which at the time meant lesbian. Both actresses survived the scandal in those heady days and carried on with their respective careers. (Picture: Eva Le Gallienne)
Under contract with Warner Bros., Hutchinson went to Hollywood in 1934, debuting in Happiness Ahead. She was featured on the cover of Film Weekly on August 23, 1935 and appeared in The Story of Louis Pasteur in 1936.
At Universal she played Elsa von Frankenstein in one of her most memorable roles alongside actor Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff in Son of Frankenstein (1939). She later played "Mrs Townsend" in North by Northwest (1959) and Love is Better Than Ever, starring Elizabeth Taylor.
Hutchinson continued to work steadily through the 1970s in film, radio, and television, establishing a solid career in supporting roles. She appeared on, among other television programs, Rawhide, The Twilight Zone, Perry Mason and Gunsmoke.
Hutchinson and Le Gallienne were intimately involved for a number of years, although Hutchinson was married three times. (Le Gallienne never married.) Hutchinson married James F. Townsend in 1935; they later divorced. She married, lastly, actor Staats Cotsworth in 1972; he died in 1979.
She died, aged 94, on June 4, 1998, at the Florence Nightingale Nursing Home in Manhattan. Her interment was in New York.
Eva Le Gallienne: A Biography by Helen Sheehy
Hardcover: 529 pages
Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (October 8, 1996)
Amazon: Eva Le Gallienne: A Biography
The extraordinary life of one of the great actors of the 20th century is viewed in this complex biography, including her protean career and courageous and controversial private life. The actress was dazzling on stage, touring at 18 with Ethel Barrymore and a major Broadway star at 21. The actress profoundly influenced the American theatre in her pioneering role as founder and head of the Civic Repertory Theatre (it became the model for Off Broadway) where she produced, directed, and starred in some 40 plays. 110 photos.
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