Barbara Bel Geddes Tribute Site and Photo Album

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Barbara Bel Geddes - A Personal Tribute


Barbara Bel Geddes has been my favourite actress since I was 13 years old.

When I first watched Dallas in 78, I watched it because I liked Patrick Duffy as Mark Harris in the “Man from Atlantis”.  I had never heard of the other cast members, other than Barbara who I recognised as “the blonde lady” from the Five Pennies, a film I liked as a child.


At first, Bobby and Pam were my favourite couple and Victoria my favourite actress, because she was married to beloved Bobby and was the pretty, sexy young female on the show.  Dallas was a show I watched every week, but was usually doing my homework at the same time.  By Barbecue, the homework was put to one side, Dallas was compulsive viewing!!


But by the first series, I think it was Bypass I suddenly realised that BBG was the best actress on the show and she could show more emotion with a smile, a raised eyebrow, a sad look, a knowing glance than anyone else. She didn't need words to act.


By the time S2 and Mastectomy was shown I was a fan. I thought that her acting was outstanding in those episodes, it was so realistic and you could imagine what she must have been feeling as Miss Ellie.



I cried my eyes out, and was astonished to read in the press the following day that she had undergone a radical mastectomy 8 years before and agreed to relive her real life experience "to help woman realise that it isn't the end of the world and you learn to live with it and are able to laugh again". 


She said that when the Producers asked if she would mind Miss Ellie finding a lump on her breast, she thought  “No, THIS time I wont mind.  It might be useful to somebody going through the pain and anguish. When I had mine it was still a very hush, hush thing.  You felt mortified, humiliated about telling anyone.  Recovery was not quick, at least for me, I still get funny on ladders and clothes problems are a pain in the neck. There is no sense in saying its a little itty bitty thing, it was a hell of a blow.  But you learn to live with it all. Thats how I'd like to help if I can by talking about it - to say there is HOPE and not to give up. You DO get well".


She said that she didn't think about it too much until she got the script then thought "Oh boy, this is going to be tough.  I guess I dreaded bringing up the past".


Barbara admits she didn't handle the situation as well as Miss Ellie.  "Ellie handles it a lot more intelligently than I did.  Self examination was a term I had never even heard of.  Even after I realised I had the lump, I ignored it until it became just too painful, at which point I went to see my Doctor who put me in hospital right away.  It just never occurred to me that I could have breast cancer.  I thought it was old age and I was getting lumpy.  Woman are a lot smarter about it today".


And at the time she underwent surgery she was nursing her husband who was dying of a brain tumour and had given up all stage work to care for him.  He sadly died the following year.


I think it made me admire her, her courage, and strength to relive a very painful episode in her own life and in front of a world wide audience.  She said that on Dallas Miss Ellie recovers "very quickly" but for her it was a slow process.  "It was a devastating thing to go through and a shock to your soul.  But what I want people to know is that while it takes a long time, you do get better eventually".  It was one of the few times Barbara gave extensive interviews and she was honored by various Cancer charities for her promotion of breast cancer awareness.


S2 turned me from a fan into a Dallas addict and I collected everything and anything on all the Dallas cast. BBG was the most elusive of cast members and kept a very low profile. Sadly a lot of press came about because of real life incidents such as Jim Davis dying of a brain tumour, same as her husband, and her heart attack and quadruple bypass op.

I often wished she was like the other cast members who appeared frequently in public but I respected the fact that she guarded her privacy.


When Barbara suffered a massive heart attack in March 1983, the press were full of stories asking "Will she live, will she return to Dallas??"  I cried and worried about her when she had life saving heart by pass surgery and rejoiced when she returned.  Fortunately she was well enough to return to Dallas, albeit with a limited shooting schedule from episode 12 onwards.


When she quit the show in 84 I was devastated and loathed her replacement, who simply wasn’t Miss Ellie.  I almost stopped watching the show.

When along with 1000s of others I wrote to Lorimar productions (twice!) to say Please bring back BBG, I couldn't believe it was true when she returned in 85.  I remember seeing the headlines on a newspaper at a train station and bought every paper that day. Dallas for me wasn't the same without her.  The glue that held the Ewing family together was missing.  She was the heart of Dallas and gave it credibility.


Her part in Dallas was small from S8 onwards, but she was back and that was good enough for me. Although she must have choked at some of the awful scripts she was given! especially in its final years.  Howard Keel and Barbara deserved better scripts and plotlines than the ones they were given!


When I went to LA in 1983 and spent time on the Dallas set I asked everyone and anyone about her, and they all said the same thing:

A lovely lady, quiet, shy and reserved with a great sense of humour.

It was a thrill to be on the set, watching them film my favourite TV show, but I was disappointed that there was no BBG, who was still recuperating from heart surgery.  I guess I will always regret it, I was 2 weeks too early and I always thought “so near and yet so far”.


I have managed to aquire over 3000 articles on her and her career over the years and probably a lot of Dallas fans wont know about her earlier brilliant career in Theatre, and on the Broadway stage, which has always been her first love.  I think it would have been awesome to see her as Maggie in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” or in comedies such as "The Moon is Blue", "Mary, Mary" or even as a bored housewife turned prostitute in "Everything in the Garden".


The play that first brought her to the attention of Broadway audiences was as Genevra Longdon in “Deep are the Roots”.  She played a white girl who fell in love with a black soldier and was considered ahead of its time in a country where racial segregation still was a feature.  She received hate mail and was spat on by people as she left the Theatre.  Many believe it was the reason Howard Hughes sacked her in the 1950s from her RKO contract.


A lot of articles on Barbara have always commented on how she used to love to "Go home" to her farm in Putnam, NY state when each series was finished, to get away from glitz, glamour and the phonyness, which was Hollywood, and back to real life and her garden, wildlife and pets.


Dallas came along in her mid fifties, and she said she accepted the role as she was “flat broke” after caring for her terminally ill husband had wiped out their savings.


I think she was seriously underused in Dallas, and fact is SHE IS THE ONLY CAST MEMBER TO WIN AN EMMY AND GOLDEN GLOBE for her performance. Barbara Bel Geddes was the best actress I have ever seen and I loved her for her role as Miss Ellie.


Yes I wish I had a grandmother like BBG/ME! I think there was a lot of BBG in Miss Ellie and she had such a kind face, twinkling, sparkling eyes and warm smile that she would make anyone feel at ease. 


It was strange to me at first that a middle aged American actress could have SUCH an impact on me, and the more I read about her away from Dallas and pre Dallas, the more I wanted to know about her. I’m the first to admit she wasn’t the most stylish on the show, but that wasn’t important.


She was one of the more genuine, realistic characters on the show (along with Susan Howard). She was warm, caring and friendly and made Miss Ellie a believable character


She was the most beguiling of actresses, the fact that she didn't need a script to convey what she was feeling made her a class act and a cut above her co stars.  I would have loved to see her on Broadway, in the Theatre - her true love. And I guess I hoped she would return to the stage after she hung up her pearls and cardigans as Miss Ellie in 1990.  Sadly for fans that never happened as I think she would have been great, back treading the boards, and I would have been on the next flight to NY to see her.


I wish that I had met her and I am grateful to have met Hannah.  I will never forget our meeting in NY and I hope we will stay in touch.  Barbara has a beautiful, trendy granddaughter, with a lovely personality to match.


I always knew that one day Barbara would die - we all will - and I have always wondered how I would feel.  She was getting older, and doesn't appear to have enjoyed the best of health over the years. When I heard the news on August 10th I felt like I had lost a friend, someone I knew, loved and cared about, without ever having met her. I hope that in her final months she didn't suffer, I couldn't bear that, and that her pain was well controlled.  It doesn't seem fair that someone who had suffered before from breast cancer should die from lung cancer.

Thankfully she has left a wonderful legacy behind both on TV and film, and I'm sure many more generations will appreciate her talents.








A very special thanks to Arnaud for making me the top banner of the late, great Barbara Bel Geddes.
Barbara Bel Geddes
Born 31st October 1922 in New York City
Died 8th August 2005 at Northeast Harbor, Maine