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Volume 77, Number 23 | November. 07 -,13 2007


Bella Jarrett, stage and screen actress, dies at 81

Bella Jarrett, an actress in regional, Off-Broadway and Broadway theater for 50 years, died Oct. 19 at her home in Greenwich Village. She lived on W. 13th St. for 40 years.

Born in Adairsville, Ga., on Feb. 9, 1926, Jarrett began her acting career at Wesleyan College in Macon, Ga., where she received Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees. 

In her half-century as a professional actress, she performed with some of the nation’s most distinguished acting companies — the Atlanta Alliance Theatre, the Alley Theatre in Houston, Boston’s Huntington Theatre, the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and the Indiana Repertory Theatre in Indianapolis.

In 1991, The New York Times said of her performance in a Pearl Theater Company production of Euripides’s classic “The Trojan Women,” “Bella Jarrett is a terrific Hecuba, a dangerous fury filled with contempt and sorrow, who knows how to make words caress, or lash and tear.” 

In the 1980s, Jarrett was a principal performer at the Indiana Repertory Theatre in Indianapolis. During her decade with the theater there, she performed in 40 roles, including that of Mary Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”; Sister Mary in “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You”; and Thelma in Marsha Norman’s “’Night, Mother.” In 1985, she was honored as Best Actress in a Drama, awarded by Indianapolis’s Outlook Magazine for her role in “ ’Night, Mother.” She received the Outlook Oration Award and was named Indianapolis’s Best Actress of 1989. Among her other acclaimed roles were Julia in “The Cocktail Party” and Stella in “Light Up the Sky.”

Jarrett’s Broadway appearances were as Miss Leighton in a revival of “Once in a Lifetime” in 1978, and as Constance Apple in Edward Albee’s “Lolita” in 1981. A sampling of her Off-Broadway performances included playing Mrs. Croaker in Goldsmith’s “The Good Natur’d Man” in 1993; Oenone in Racine’s “Phaedra” in 1993; as well as Mme. St. Pé in “The Waltz of the Toreadors.” Earlier, she played the nurse in “Welcome to Andromeda” in 1973.

Her talents ranged widely — from countless stage roles, to daytime television parts in “All My Children,” “Another World” and “One Life to Live,” to roles in such films as “Arthur,” “The Cotton Club,” “The Lonely Guy,” “Hellfighters” and in the Merchant Ivory production of “Jane Austen in Manhattan” in 1980. 

Jarrett had been a member of the Bedside Network, a group that read and performed for the chronically ill, and a volunteer through Call for Action, a WABC-related consumer-advocate program. She was a member of Mensa International, a little-known piece of information among her closest friends and associates. 

Jarrett published four romance novels, two under the pseudonym Belle Thorne, from 1979-1982. She was an advertising copywriter for Rich’s Department Store in Atlanta, and for Sterns and Abercrombie & Fitch in New York City. 

A frequent writer of letters to the editor, she criticized Ed Koch in a letter to The Villager for supporting President Bush and giving away the ending of “Million Dollar Baby” in a movie review.

She is survived by her nephews, John Brodie, of San Diego, Cal., and Wick Jarrett, of Adairsville, Ga.

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