View All

Watch It

In Theaters
  • The Magnificent Ambersons

  • Soylent Green

  • Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte

  • Citizen Kane

  • Gaslight

1 of 5
At Home
  • Jack of Diamonds

  • The Angel Wore Red

  • The Last Sunset

  • Love Letters

  • The Bottom of the Bottle

  • Twilight's Last Gleaming

  • The Steel Trap

  • The Magnificent Ambersons

  • Gaslight

  • The Killer Is Loose

1 of 10

Joseph Cotten Biography

  • Profession: Actor
  • Born: May 15, 1905
  • Died: Feb 6, 1994
  • Birth Name: Joseph Cheshire Cotten

Born to a well-to-do Southern family, Joseph Cotten studied at the Hickman School of Expression in Washington D.C., and later sought out theater jobs in New York. He made his Broadway debut in 1930, and seven years later joined [[Performer~P116368~Orson Welles~orsonwelles]]' progressive Mercury Theatre company, playing leads in such productions as Julius Caesar and Shoemaker's Holiday. He briefly left [[Performer~P116368~Welles~orsonwelles]] in 1939 to co-star in [[Performer~P31873~Katharine Hepburn~katharinehepburn]]'s Broadway comeback vehicle [[Feature~V38000~The Philadelphia Story~thephiladelphiastory]]. Cotten rejoined[[Performer~P116368~Welles~orsonwelles]] in Hollywood in 1940, making his feature-film debut as Jed Leland in [[Performer~P116368~Welles~orsonwelles]]' [[Feature~V9737~Citizen Kane~citizenkane]] (1941). As a sort of private joke, Jed Leland was a dramatic critic, a profession which Cotten himself had briefly pursued on the Miami Herald in the late '20s. Cotten went on to play the kindly auto mogul Eugene Morgan in [[Performer~P116368~Welles~orsonwelles]]' [[Feature~V30848~The Magnificent Ambersons~themagnificentambersons]] in 1942, and both acted in and co-wrote [[Feature~V26575~Journey Into Fear~journeyintofear]], the film that [[Performer~P116368~Welles~orsonwelles]] was working on when he was summarily fired by RKO. Cotten remained a close friend of [[Performer~P116368~Welles~orsonwelles]] until the director's death in 1985; he co-starred with [[Performer~P116368~Welles~orsonwelles]] in [[Performer~P107778~Carol Reed~carolreed]]'s [[Feature~V49491~The Third Man~thethirdman]] (1949) and played an unbilled cameo for old times' sake in the [[Performer~P116368~Welles~orsonwelles]]-directed [[Feature~V50538~Touch of Evil~touchofevil]] (1958). A firmly established romantic lead by the early '40s, Cotten occasionally stepped outside his established screen image to play murderers ([[Performer~P94487~Alfred Hitchcock~alfredhitchcock]]'s [[Feature~V44015~Shadow of a Doubt~shadowofadoubt]] [1943]) and surly drunkards ([[Feature~V51709~Under Capricorn~undercapricorn]] [1949]). A longtime contractee of [[Performer~P110766~David O. Selznick~davidoselznick]], Cotten won a Venice Film Festival award for his performance in [[Performer~P110766~Selznick~davidoselznick]]'s [[Feature~V38772~Portrait of Jennie~portraitofjennie]] (1948). Cotten's screen career flagged during the 1950s and '60s, though he flourished on television as a guest performer on such anthologies as [[Feature~V184518~Alfred Hitchcock Presents~alfredhitchcockpresents[tvseries]]], Fireside Theatre, The Great Adventure, and as host of [[Feature~V125301~The 20th Century-Fox Hour~20thcenturyfoxhour[tvseries]]] (1955), The Joseph Cotten Show (1956), On Trial (1959), and Hollywood and the Stars (1963). He also appeared in several stage productions, often in the company of his second wife, actress [[Performer~P48189~Patricia Medina~patriciamedina]]. In 1987, Cotten published his engagingly candid autobiography, Vanity Will Get You Somewhere. He died of pneumonia in 1994 at the age of 88. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi