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Phyllis Povah



One of the capable actresses of the interwar period in the 20th century, Phyllis Povah earned national recognition in the early 1920s. A native of Detroit, Michigan, who learned her craft playing in productions at the University of Michigan in 1914-1916, she secured her first professional role as a replacement in a production of "Seeing Things" playing in Baltimore in 1920. The excellence of her performance secured her a place in Henry Miller's Company based at the National Theatre in Washington D.C. performing the young widow in "Stepping Stones."

Povah had a character actress's talent of being able to play older on stage. Because Miller's troupe was filled with veteran performers, word of Povah's abilities made its way to New York. In 1921 the Theatre Guild engaged her in support of Laura Hope Crews in "Mr. Pim Passes By."

After the gig at the Theatre Guild she belonged to the short-lived cooperative, The Equity Players, in their 1922 production of "Hospitality." In early 1923 she played a rural New England innocent in Owen Davis's "Icebound" to some acclaim and later in the year returned to the Theatre Guild as the lead in Galsworthy's "Windows." 1924 brought Povah further success as Nettie, a daughter-in-law who suffers the thoughtless indulgences of the patriarch of a Jewish household in "Minick." In 1925 she appeared in Molnar's "A Tale of the Wolf" established now as an actress for whom modern drama held no fears.

Povah's career continued until the later 1930s, with her appearing in various Theatre Guild productions that had more intellectual heft than dramatic force. Then she featured in two classic women's dramas of the late 1930s and early 1940s: Clare Booth's "The Women" and "Let's Face It." She also appeared in the MGM film of the former, and in 1943 Paramount signed her for the cinema version of the latter. In the 1940s and '50s she appeared regularly in motion pictures as the mature woman with some grit. David S. Shields/ALS