Here's How Agnes Moorehead's Father's Favorite Method of Discipline Affected Her Career
Agnes Moorehead became a household name during the 1960s as the quick-witted witch mother, Endora in the comedy, “Bewitched.” Her numerous successes made easier, in part, by how her father disciplined her as a child.
Born to singer Mary McCauley and husband, John Henderson Moorehead, a Presbyterian clergyman on December 6, 1900, in Clinton, Massachusetts, Agnes practically grew up in her father’s church.
After they moved to St. Louis, Missouri, Agnes’s ambitions to become an actress grew “very strong.” She and her younger sister Peggy indulged their active imaginations and often imitated their father’s parishioners.
Agnes had her first public performance at church as a soloist when she sang, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” while accompanied by her mother on the organ. Her performance stunned parishioners, and the first taste of recognition had Agnes wanting more.
Growing up as a preacher’s child had its advantages to Agnes later in life. In a biography written about her, I Love the Illusion: The Life and Career of Agnes Moorehead by Charles Tranberg, he wrote about the events that shaped Agnes’s life.
“When it came to discipline, her father’s favorite method would be to sit the girls up on a shelf of books and give them a psalm to memorize, which they would later have to recite back to him by memory,” he wrote.
The actress later credited her father’s way of discipline as the main reason she became a quick study at memorizing scripts and other material.
While Agnes had more the outgoing personality of her mother, she worshipped her more serious and shy father, John. In various interviews through the years, Agnes described her father as “inspirational,” “brilliant,” “spellbinding,” and “amazing.”
Her father didn’t discourage her from an acting career, but he insisted that she obtain a formal education. So in 1923, she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Muskingum College in Ohio and received an honorary doctorate in literature from the same college in 1947.
Before Agnes got cast as Endora, a role that would define her throughout the remainder of her career, she starred in 24 television productions and 60 feature films, including the 1956 movie, “The Conqueror.”
On April 30, 1974, Agnes died of uterine cancer in Minnesota, aged 73. A disease that she and fellow co-stars believed to have contracted during the filming of the movie.
Shot in St. George, Utah, a year after atomic bombs got tested close by, it got said that radioactive material still covered the area at dangerous levels during that time.
Of the 220 cast and crew members that worked on “The Conqueror,” 91 contracted cancer. Which is apparently what Agnes Moorehead’s last words to her best friend pertained to on her deathbed.