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40s Actress – Margaret Sullavan

Margaret Brooke Sullavan (May 16, 1909 – January 1, 1960) was an American stage and film actress whose career began in 1929.
She made her screen debut in 1933 in ‘Only Yesterday’ is a drama about a young woman who becomes pregnant by her boyfriend before he rushes off to fight in World War I.


This scene is towards the end of the film, with Margaret and Jimmy Butler as her son.

Ms Sullavan preferred working on the stage and made only 16 movies, four of which were opposite James Stewart in a popular partnership (“Shop around the corner’ from 1940 is wonderful), and many of her films were war themed.

‘The Mortal Storm’ (1940) was the last movie Ms Sullavan and Stewart ever did together.  Set in 1933 Nazi Germany, she played a young German girl engaged to a confirmed Nazi (Robert Young). When she realizes the true nature of his political views, she breaks the engagement and turns her attention to anti-Nazi Stewart. Later, trying to flee the Nazi regime, Sullavan and Stewart attempt to ski across the border to safety in Austria. In the attempt Sullavan is gunned down by the Nazis (under orders from her ex-fiance). Stewart, at her request, picks her up and skis into Austria so she can die in a free country.

In this seen Freya (Sullavan) pleads for information about her father from Fritz (Young) , one time friend and lover, now ideological automaton.

Image via

At home Ms Sullavan did her own bit for the war effort.  Here she is tending her own Victory Garden in 1943.

Image via

Ms. Sullavan was married several times (Henry Fonda was her first husband, for a period of two months). In later life, she struggled with deafness and associated depression. She passed away in 1960 of a suspected accidental overdose. She was 50 years old.


About thewartimewoman

I love history, fashion, art and design, especially of the 1930s to the 1960s. I am also a mother, wife, interior decorator & a treasure hunter who wishes she could drive a 1933 Delage. I studied Architecture at Melbourne university, briefly, and completed a Diploma of Art in Interior Design at the Melbourne College of Decoration in 1991. I have worked on an off as a decorator ever since, in between stints as a florist, balloon artist, having my five children and helping my husband in his law firm. in my spare time I love researching history, blogging and gardening.

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