Agnes Moorehead Reveals -
Beauty Secrets From the Bible
Her dressing room is done in soft shades of lavender. She wears as much of the lovely hue..."as I can 'safely' put on," she laughs. And, her manner - charming, yet with a note of noticeable 'notice me' authority in it, would have you believe that this is a woman who was very likely--'born to the purple.' But, the true 'nobility' in Agnes Moorehead's immediate lineage is the nobility of a heritage that always derived its strength and its luster from the most important element of all ..."If we give our lives over to God and dedicate ourselves to Him," she says, "we are then living life as it should be lived."
Agnes Moorehead is one of those rare creatures in show business. She is a living legend whose aura of stardom has never waned one bit from the first time this New England born daughter of a minister stepped out on a stage to win the hearts and adoration of millions of fans.
At one time she was part of the famous Mercury Theater the group founded by Orson Welles, and which included in its illustrious cast such stalwarts of the stage screen, radio and now TV as Joseph Gotten and the late Everett Sloane.
But, despite a glorious past and an equally impressive present, Miss Moorehead is not the sort of person likely to rest on her laurels, and between stints of Bewitched and other appearances, she teaches drama to a very select student body "which has had to keep up to certain standards I maintain," says, "because I feel so strongly about them that to compromise on any one of them would be, for me, an act of hypocrisy. And a teacher who is not true to his or her own values, is not a teacher at all."
Among the elements of conduct Miss Moorehead insists on is "neatness. I demand professionalism in my students, and will quickly weed out those whom I feel are not prepared to give themselves to the theater as they should if they want to follow this art as career. I also demand that they be personable and neat. I cannot believe that sloppiness of dress or person is necessarily an indication of talent. If anything," she smiles, "I believe a person who cares enough about how he or she looks will automatically care enough about how he or she will project to on audience.
"Neatness of person... of environment. . . of mind and body indicate to me, and, I feel to everyone else, a discipline that is absouteley vital in every area of life. After we are not meant to be undisciplined. Freedom is really a disciplined way to live; to live freely without disturbing the rights of others, for example."
As Agnes Moorehead speaks, Endora, the delighted witch of Bewitched (she plays Elizabeth Montgomery's mother in the hit TV series), seems far away from this obviously very down to earth lady. And, when we mention it she smiles ..."That simply proves the point I always stress to my students. Many of them feel they have to live a role before they can begin to play it. Nonsense. You just have to be disciplined in your craft; sure of what you are trying to do. Acting is the art of persuadingg an audience that you are, for the time you are playing before it, what you say you are. Really! Does one have to have murdered to play a murderer?"
It is difficult to believe that this remarkably vital and intense woman is a veteran of more than three decades in show business. Married once, she has an adult son .."with whom I maintain a very good relationship," she says, "without either of us ever trying to force it to be something other than what we want it to be. In other words," she went on, "I do not feel that a good mother Is necessarily one who hovers over her child constantly. In my estimation, a good mother is someone who teaches her child 'the way to go,' and as the Bible tells us ...'when he is old he will not depart from it.' "
It was the first time Agnes Moorehead had mentioned the Scriptures. Yet, a beautifully bound small copy of the Bible was close to her hand; lying on her dressing table, and the deep, glowing patina of that rich binding could only have come from constant caressing of a loving hand that has held it so many times and has opened it to passages which have given comfort and joy..."and," Agnes Moorehead added as we talked with her about it, "guidance, too.
"Oh," she said, "the people who think it's old-fashioned or simply not with the times when," her voice had a note of exasperation in it, "if ever there was a time to look for God's word, this is it!
"I know it's supposed to be fashionable to ignore Scriptures; even try to ignore God. But, from my own personal testimony, I can state that witnessing for Him is a joy that is timeless; the only joy, perhaps, that is truly Eternal."
As she spoke, a soft light shone in her eyes. Always a strikingly attractive woman, Agnes Moorehead looked even more beautiful now.
Perhaps, we thought, the lady had found something people have been searching for for eons. The perennial search for youth and beauty that has taken mankind and womankind along so many paths have always ended in detours of disappointment. Would it be wrong to suggest that there were beauty secrets in the Bible?
"Well." she said, "what is beauty? We all know how we have felt when we have seen someone with a magniticent face... a truly 'beautiful' person. And, then, we have all felt the disillusioning disappointment when that person has shown a streak: of ugliness within himself or herself; hate or stupidity or anything but the 'beauty' we thought we had found there.
"And, then, we all know how it is to be with someone whose facial features might not, perhaps, be 'ideally' beautiful in the sence of the word we commonly use; or someone beyond the first flush of youth. Yet, that person makes us want to stay with him or her. We feel warm and secure and confident; radiating, whether we know it or not, in that person's confidence in himself or herself. And, when we leave we know we have had a beautiful experience have been in the company of a beautiful human being.
"What have you heard during your experience with this person? Only words of love that have come from thoughts of love. And, true love," Agnes Moorehead continued, "comes only from God."
As we talked, Agnes Moorehead explained how she has been able to find the wisdom she has sought for her day to day living.
We asked her about her policy of applying strict standards of neatness, for example, to her students. And, we know that she demanded this of herself; in her person and in her surroundings. Was she not being guilty of vanity?
"On the contrary," she smiled. "Vanity is not love of oneself; rather it is a denial of love for God who loves us all, and a turning inward upon the transitory elements of our lives. While, on the other hand, neatness of person and surroundings are taught to us in the Bible. We are constantly shown how He looks with favor upon those who keep themselves clean - in thought, deed and action.
"I believe," she said, "that all of this sloppiness and dirt that is being passed off as freedom and casual livIng--as opposed to the stricter requirements of an earlier time--is merely an indication of sloppiness of thought and a laziness that denies our birthright's fruition. We are told, by Scriptures, that it is good to work and good to take pride in your work. The Bible tells us that it's not what you do but how you do your work that is important.
"A woman who runs her house well and looks after her family is considered 'above the price of rubies.' And, her husband will always find her more beautiful as each year passes--while a woman who neglects her duties or does them badly will become less pleasant in his eyes.
"But, most of all, it is the constant search and witness for God's truth that is the most rewarding journey any of us can take in life. And, whether we make our livings cleaning other people's homes, or painting great works of art, or writing magnificent poetry so long as we keep His word wiihin our hearts and share it with others as we learn more and more about Him, everything we do will have a beauty of its own; a 'depth and richness that will live long after the efforts of less dedicated people wither with age or crumble with its own built-in seeds of decay."
Agnes was ten years old when she first 'felt the call' to go on stage. "I know," she smiles, "that it must seem somewhat strange for most people to accept the fact that a minister's daughter sought out the 'wicked, wicked stage.' But," she went on·· smile broader and slightly mischievous gleam in her eyes, "there is nothing 'wicked' about the stage. A 'wicked' person can tarnish any field of endeavor, while," she continued, "someone who is true to his or her faith can only bring luster to it."
However, despite the very tender years of her debut, "I knew that if I were going to make it my life's work, I better learn all I could about it."
As a result, she worked with the St. Louis Municipal Opera Company at the same time as she appeared with other dramatic companies. She learned every facet of her chosen profession; from stagecraft to lighting.
Agnes Moorehead holds a master's degree in English and public speaking from the University of Wisconsin, and the lady with the five Oscar nominations and five Emmy nominations (plus one Emmy for a guest starring role on the TV series, Wild, Wild West in 1967) has more laurels than an other actress of our time. "But," she says, "I have never worked for an honor or a prize. If people have been kind enough to consider that I merit one, I am honored by that consideration. However, I work to please myself, and I know I cannot please myself unless I feel certain that I have done my very best. And," she smiled again, "of course, I work primarily to please Him, since it is His commandment that we are honest in all things that we do."
Agnes Moorehead is the owner of a lovely 15 room house in Beverly Hills. But, a few years ago she began commuting on a more regular basis (between acting assignments, teaching stints, appearances for charitable purposes, etc.! to her 320 acre farm in Ohio. This magnificent spread was a grant to her great grandparents, and the first deed was signed by President James Monroe; the second by President John Tyler. Over the years, she has begun moving her impressive collection of theatrical memorabilia from Beverly Hills to her Ohio home and admits that "as time goes on I find it more difficult to leave the farm for the return trip to Beverly Hills, and I look forward with more anticipation to the trips I take to Ohio. I suppose," she says, "I miss the marvelous communication one has with nature - and with God--in the relatively isolated farm. But," her voice is strong, "there really is no excuse at all not to commune with God even if you're in the middle of the most bustling metropolis in the world. He really is there if you seek Him out wherever you may be."
There are many more years ahead to afford Agnes Moorehead the opportunity to add continued luster to her already legendary place in the world of show business. But for this actress, for this woman, there really is only one book in which the ultimate glory has been indited. And, if it does sound somewhat old-fashioned-- so what. Perhaps the phrase,'old-fashioned' should be rewritten to indicate 'timelessness' ... And, as Agnes Moorehead believes, "it is incumbent upon all of us and each of us to witness for Him." And, her beauty of mind, soul and person is witness to her faith.
By Daisy Charles ...from TV Picture Life - September 1971
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