Joseph Cotten

Born May 15, 1905

Joseph Cheshire Cotten was an American film, stage and television actor. Cotten achieved prominence on Broadway, starring in the original stage productions of The Philadelphia Story and Sabrina Fair. He first gained worldwide fame in the Orson Welles films Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), and Journey into Fear (1943), for which Cotten was also credited with the screenplay.… Read More

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1905 Birth Joseph Cotten was born in 1905 in Petersburg, Virginia, the first of three sons born to Joseph Cheshire Cotten, Sr., an assistant postmaster, and Sally Willson Cotten. … Read More


1923 18 Years Old In 1923, when Cotten was 18, his family arranged for him to receive private lessons at the Hickman School of Expression in Washington, D.C., and underwrote his expenses. … Read More


1930 25 Years Old He worked as an advertising agent, and his work as a theatre critic inspired him to become involved in theatre productions, first in Virginia, then in New York City. Cotten made his Broadway debut in 1930.
1934 29 Years Old In 1934 Cotten met and became friends with Orson Welles, a fellow cast member on CBS Radio's The American School of the Air. … Read More


1937 32 Years Old In 1937 Cotten became an inaugural member of Welles's Mercury Theatre company, starring in its Broadway productions Caesar, The Shoemaker's Holiday and Danton's Death, and in radio dramas presented on The Mercury Theatre on the Air and The Campbell Playhouse.
1938 33 Years Old Cotten made his film debut in the Welles-directed short, Too Much Johnson, a comedy that was intended to complement the aborted 1938 Mercury stage production of William Gillette's 1890 play. … Read More
1939 34 Years Old Cotten returned to Broadway in 1939, creating the role of C. K. Dexter Haven opposite Katharine Hepburn's Tracy Lord in the original production of Philip Barry's The Philadelphia Story. … Read More
1943 38 Years Old In late 1943 Cotten visited Welles's office and said that producer David O. Selznick wanted to make two or three films with him, but that he wanted him under his own contract. … Read More


1949 44 Years Old As well as reuniting onscreen with Orson Welles in Carol Reed's The Third Man in 1949, he reunited with Hitchcock in Under Capricorn (1949) as an Australian landowner with a shady past. … Read More
1953 48 Years Old On the stage in 1953, Cotten created the role of Linus Larrabee, Jr., in the original Broadway production of Sabrina Fair, opposite Margaret Sullavan. … Read More


1956 51 Years Old In 1956, Cotten left film for years for a string of successful television ventures, such as the NBC series On Trial (renamed at mid-season The Joseph Cotten Show).
1957 52 Years Old Cotten was featured in Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Ronald Reagan's General Electric Theater. He appeared on May 2, 1957, on NBC's comedy variety series, The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. … Read More
1960 55 Years Old 1 More Event
He also appeared as Dick Burlingame and Charles Lawrence in the 1960 episodes "The Blue Goose" and "Dark Fear" of CBS's anthology series The DuPont Show with June Allyson. … Read More


1967 62 Years Old In 1967, he joined Karl Swenson, Pat Conway, and Dick Foran in the nostalgic western dramatic film Brighty of the Grand Canyon, about a burro who lived in the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River from about 1892–1922. … Read More
1968 63 Years Old In 1968 he made a guest appearance in a two-part episode of the series Ironside ("Split Second to an Epitaph"). … Read More
1981 76 Years Old 1 More Event
…  Cotten suffered a stroke in 1981 which caused him to temporarily lose his voice.
1985 80 Years Old In a phone conversation on October 9, 1985, Welles told his friend and mentor Roger Hill that Cotten had written a book, and Hill asked how it read. "Gentle, witty, and self-effacing, just like Jo," Welles replied. "My only complaint is that it's too brief."
1987 82 Years Old Welles died the following day. "Somewhere among his possessions is a manuscript of this book," Cotten wrote on the last page of his autobiography, published in 1987 under the title Vanity Will Get You Somewhere.
1990 85 Years Old In 1990, Cotten's larynx was removed due to cancer.
1994 89 Years Old He died on February 6, 1994, of pneumonia, at the age of 88. … Read More
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