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Georgia Backus
Georgia Backus in 1930
Born(1901-10-13)October 13, 1901
DiedSeptember 7, 1983(1983-09-07) (aged 81)
Occupation(s)Actress, radio writer, radio director, radio producer

Georgia Belden Backus (October 13, 1901 – September 7, 1983) was an American character actress on stage, radio and screen. She was also a writer, director and producer of radio dramas. In 1930 she was named dramatic director of the Columbia Broadcasting System, to guide the development of the new art of the radio play. A member of the repertory company presenting Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre radio programs, she played supporting roles in some 30 films during the 1940s and 1950s. Her first screen credit was Citizen Kane (1941), in which she played the severe assistant in the Thatcher library. Her career was ended by the Hollywood blacklist.


Georgia Belden Backus was born October 13, 1901, in Columbus, Ohio, [1] to a theatrical family. She was named for her uncle, George Backus, a light comedic actor who performed in Florenz Ziegfeld's original stage production of Way Down East. She earned a place in a local stock company at the age of 14. She attended Smith College, and as a student at Ohio State University she toured the state as leading lady and manager of the campus dramatic society. [2] After she received her degree she chose a career in the theatre. [3]

While living in New York Backus worked in stock theatre and on the Broadway stage, [4] and began to write plays and short stories. She was soon acting, writing and directing for radio. [2] In 1930 CBS put Backus in charge of all of the network's dramatic presentations, to guide the development of the new art of the radio play. [3] [5] She put together an innovative team and announced three experimental dramas, beginning with Behind the Words: A Drama of Thoughts (December 26, 1930). She then directed a series titled The Columbia Experimental Dramatic Laboratory (1931–32), which would lay the foundation for the historic dramatic series, the Columbia Workshop. [6] She was also an audition director for The March of Time [7] and was a member of the show's prestigious ensemble cast. [8]: 434  Backus was regularly featured on Arabesque, [8]: 37  Brenthouse, [8]: 118  The Eno Crime Club [8]: 232  and The Palmolive Beauty Box Theatre [8]: 532 

In 1935 Backus married Harmon J. Alexander, a radio writer whose credits include The Burns and Allen Show. [8]: 124  In 1938 they moved to California, [9] [10] In 1939 she joined Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre repertory company on radio when production was moved to Los Angeles, performing on episodes of The Campbell Playhouse including "There's Always a Woman", "A Christmas Carol", "Come and Get It", "Theodora Goes Wild", "The Citadel", "Rabble in Arms" and "Huckleberry Finn". [11]: 356–359  Her other regular roles on radio included A Date with Judy, [8]: 192  The Story of Holly Sloan [8]: 434  and NBC University Theatre. [8]: 481 

Backus was also playing supporting roles in motion pictures. Her first credited role was in Citizen Kane (1941), as Miss Anderson, the severe attendant at the library of Walter Parks Thatcher. [12] The following year she appeared in The Magnificent Ambersons and I Married a Witch. Her most widely noted role may have been as Mrs. Warren, the helpful neighbor with a garden in the film noir, Cause for Alarm! (1951). [13]

On September 19, 1951, Backus appeared under subpoena as an uncooperative witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was investigating Communism in the motion picture industry. [14]: 159  [9] At a HUAC hearing May 7, 1953, Backus was one of more than 50 people named as Communists by director-producer-writer Robert Rossen. [15] Her career was ended by the Hollywood blacklist. [16]: 102 

Georgia Backus Alexander died September 7, 1983, in Sun City, California, and was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park. [1]


Motion picture credits for Georgia Backus are listed by the AFI Catalog of Feature Films. [13]


  1. ^ a b California Death Index, 1940–1997 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2000.
  2. ^ a b "Georgia Backus". Radio Dial, May 28, 1931, page 3.
  3. ^ a b "Brunet Abandons Career On Stage to Guide New Art of Radio Drama". The Sedalia Capital, January 20, 1931, page 6.
  4. ^ "Georgia Backus". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2014-11-08.
  5. ^ "Georgia Backus". Chicago Tribune library photo held by MMG Photo Archive. Archived from the original on 2014-11-08. Retrieved 2014-11-08. Date stamp on reverse side of publicity photo announcing the appointment reads December 4, 1930.
  6. ^ "Columbia Workshop". The Digital Deli. Retrieved 2014-11-08.
  7. ^ Smith, Fred, "Keeping Up with the March of Time". Radio Digest, May 1931, page 24.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dunning, John, On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1998 ISBN  978-0-19-507678-3
  9. ^ a b "Communist Infiltration of Hollywood Motion-Picture Industry—Part 4. Hearing before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, September 19, 1951, pp. 1635–1638". Internet Archive. Retrieved 2014-11-08.
  10. ^ 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.
  11. ^ Welles, Orson, and Peter Bogdanovich, edited by Jonathan Rosenbaum, This is Orson Welles. New York: HarperCollins Publishers 1992 ISBN  0-06-016616-9
  12. ^ "Citizen Kane". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 2014-11-08.
  13. ^ a b "Georgia Backus". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 2014-11-08.
  14. ^ Vaughn, Robert. Only Victims: A Study of Show Business Blacklisting. New York: Limelight Editions, 1996. ISBN  9780879100810 Originally published New York: Putnam, 1972.
  15. ^ "Investigation of Communist Activities in the New York City Area—Part 4. Hearing before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, May 7, 1953, page 1480". Internet Archive. Retrieved 2014-11-08.
  16. ^ McBride, Joseph, What Ever Happened to Orson Welles? A Portrait of an Independent Career. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2006, ISBN  0-8131-2410-7

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