Bio Bits  2

In the mid-30s, Cotten took on radio shows in addition to his theatre work. At one audition he met a man 10 years his junior who would become a life-long friend and have a major impact on Cotten's career - his name was Orson Welles.

One rehearsal for CBS radio put an end to any possibility of Welles and Cotten being hired to work together. In the show, which took place on a rubber tree plantation, was a line that Welles and Cotten could not get past - every time they came to say "Barrels and barrels of pith..." they would explode into snorts and chokes of laughter. Their director was not pleased and used words like 'school-children' and 'unprofessional'. The two actors were considered an unreliable influence, and it wasn't until Welles formed his own company, The Mercury Theatre Players, that Cotten would work with him on stage and radio - and, of course, the movies.

Welles and Cotten
with Orson Welles

Cotten's Hollywood film debut was none other than Welles' 1941 "Citizen Kane" - a cinematic masterpiece
that is thought by many to be the greatest American film ever made.

with wife and Welles
At the Stork Club in 1943
Cotten with his first wife, Lenore,
Orson Welles, and a magician friend

Following "Kane", Cotten and Welles would collaborate in 1942's Journey into Fear and The Magnificent Ambersons, as well as 1949's The Third Man. Cotten also had an unbilled appearance as a wacky coroner in Welles' 1958 classic
A Touch of Evil.

Cotten would later describe his friend: "Exasperating, yes. Sometimes eruptive, unreasonable, ferocious, yes. Eloquent, penetrating, exciting, and always - never failingly even at the sacrifice of accuracy and at times his own vanity - witty. Never, never, never dull."

Cotten signed a contract with producer David O. Selznick in 1943 and his career flourished throughout the decade.
His status as romantic lead was firmly established opposite such leading ladies as Ingrid Bergman, Ginger Rogers,
Loretta Young, Bette Davis, Claudette Colbert and, most frequently, Jennifer Jones (Mrs. David O. Selznick - the Selznicks
were Cotten's closest friends for decades, until David O.'s death in 1965.)

in 1949

By the 1950's, Cotten's best film work was behind him, although he continued to star opposite top actresses such as Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Fontaine, and Marilyn Monroe.

He returned to the theater as well, most successfully in 1953's Sabrina Fair, as Linus Larabee. (A role that went to Humphrey Bogart in the 1954 film version.)

relaxing at home, 1946
with Patricia Medina

<< Cotten married British actress Patricia Medina in 1960.Theirs would be an extremely happy union, lasting 34 years.

Although his film career drifted into foreign-made science fiction and low-budget horror movies, the location filming gave the Cottens the opportunity to indulge their love of travel - they lived often in London, Paris and Rome.

Cotten fared well in the new medium of television during the 1950s-60s: he hosted and narrated the long-running "Hollywood and the Stars", was guest performer in many episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "The 20th Century-Fox Hour," and had his own "The Joseph Cotten Show" in 1956.

 

Cotten continued to work in both films and television throughout the '70s in such productions as Soylent Green, Airport '77, and Return to Fantasy Island.
In 1981 he suffered a stroke which severely impaired his speech. Several years of therapy restored him, and he devoted himself to his favorite hobby of gardening and entertaining friends.

His engaging autobiography "Vanity Will Get You Somewhere"
was published in 1987.

He and his wife Patricia lived happily at their homes in Palm Springs and Los Angeles for the last decade of his life.

After a long battle with cancer, Joseph Cotten died of pneumonia
on February 6, 1994.

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