Lizabeth Scott (1922-2015)

Agnes Moorehead
Lizabeth Scott

Lizabeth Scott was an American movie and stage actress, famous particularly for her femme fatale appearances in post-war films noirs such as 'The Strange Love of Martha Ivers' in 1946, and 'Too Late for Tears' in 1949.


She was born Emma Matzo on September 29, 1922 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the oldest of six children. Her parents were immigrants from Slovakia and her father was the owner of The Matzo Market in Scranton. (The market was not named after the family but after the Ukrainian Matzo flatbread.)

Scott attended Marywood Seminary, a local Catholic girls' school .She transferred to the Scranton Central High School where she performed in school plays.and began to develop a love for acting.

After graduating, she began broadening her acting education by joining a stock theater company in the nearby community of Newfoundland, Pennsylvania followed by acting at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia.

After briefly attending Marywood Seminary, a local Catholic girls' school, she opted for an acting career, initially against her parents' advice, and in 1939 went to the Alvienne School of Drama in New York. It was here that she adopted the stage name of "Elizabeth Scott" after reading "Mary of Scotland" by Maxwell Anderson, a play about Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I of England. She later dropped the "E" for her unique stage name.She eventually decided to legalize her stage name. Having been known professionally as "Lizabeth Scott" for almost seven years, she legally changed her name from Emma Matzo on September 14, 1949.

Her first professional engagement was due to her looks, not her acting talent. She joined the Hellzapoppin touring company where her only job was to appear in beautiful gowns in short comedy sketches during an 18 month tour.

She continued to have difficulty in finding acting work and whilst still a teenager she became a fashion model for Harper’s Bazaar. It was not until she was 20 in 1942 that she became an actress of sorts when she understudied Tallulah Bankhead in Thornton Wilder’s 'The Skin of Our Teeth' on Broadway. Even with this position she found it very difficult to get acting experience as Tallulah, who took a dislike to Lizabeth, never missed an appearance.

Hal B. Wallis

Lizabeth met top Warner Bros producer Hal B. Wallis, at a party in September, 1943. She made a film test and Wallis recognised her star qualities. In 1945 he put her in the comedy drama. 'You Came Along '. She was 22 and her film career was on its way.

In 1946 Wallis gave Lizabeth a substantial supporting role in 'The Strange Love of Martha Ivers ' with Barbara Srtanwyck, Van Heflin and Kirk Douglas. The movie was a major success and it cemented Lizabeth's new fame. Because of it she became the first Hollywood star to visit Britain since the end of WWII. When she returned: she was cast in 'Dead Reckoning' co-starring Humphrey Bogart. She didn't know it but it was the start of a career being typecast as the hard-boiled femme fatale in similar films noirs.

It is generally believed that Liizabeth had a romantic connection with Hal Wallis which did her career no harm at all. In 1948 Wallis cast her in the noir 'I Walk Alone' co-starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. Also in 1948 she co-starred with Dick Powell and Jane Wyatt in 'Pitfall ' followed by 'Too Late for Tears' with Dan Duryea. All three films are now regarded as noir classics. She acted more decadently than ever in Too Late for Tears (1949), having killed two husbands because she wanted “to move out of the ranks of the middle-class poor”.

Lizabeth received unusually disappointing reviews for her performance in 'Easy Living' in 1949 and in July of that year she returned to the stage in the title role of Philip Yordan's play 'Anna Lucasta' at Princeton University, New Jersey..

Later Career

In 1950 she played a nightclub singer who inhabits the fringes of the criminal world through her love for gambler Charlton Heston (playing in his first Hollywood role). There followed similar roles of a woman willing to change her louche ways, but doomed to find a worthwhile man to love her only when she had already passed the point of redemption.

She rarely appeared in comedies, and for that reason alone one of her favourite films was 'Scared Stiff ' in 1953 with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis

Lizabeth had a good singing voice and in 1957 she released an album of torch songs and romantic ballads titled "Lizabeth".

Her last major film, apart from appearing as an nymphomaniac princess in Mike Hodges’s 'Pulp' in 1972, was as a press agent who discovers country boy singer Elvis Presley in 'Loving You' in 1957.

There were also television appearances, on game shows and occasionally on drama series including “Studio 57,” “The 20th Century Fox Hour,” “Adventures in Paradise” and “The Third Man.” She also performed on radio shows like “The Lux Radio Theater”.


During the mid 1950s, the tabloid magazine "Confidential" published a front page story claiming that Lizabeth was a lesbian and that during a holiday in Paris she had begun an affair with Frede, the city’s well known lesbian entertainer. The story was a smear attempt invented by Howard Rushmore, the head of "Confidential," who despised Scott for her criticism of the Hollywood blacklist. Within a few months her lawyers sued "Confidential". She lost the case on the legal technicality that the magazine was based in New York and therefore could not be sued in California. The case ended in a mistrial.

Lizabeth was a very beautiful lady. She never married but her name was linked, romantically, to many different men including Hal Wallis, Van Johnson, James Mason, Peter Lawford, the Marquess of Milford Haven, and Burt Bacharach. In 1953, she was briefly engaged to architect John C. Lindsey and in 1967 she became engaged to oil executive William Dugger. There were rumors in the 1960s that she might marry Hal B. Wallis, the producer who discovered her and who remained devoted to her, but she remained single.

After retiring from moviemaking, Lizabeth led a quiet life. She helped raise funds for museums, art galleries and charities, including hemophilia research and hunger, and turned down many requests for interviews and guest appearances.

She continued to earn a living doing voice overs for commercials. She made the conscious decision to fulfill her full potential, both physically and mentally and she began regularly attending health clubs and studying literature, philosophy and languages. She was a good friend of the singer Michael Jackson.

Lizabeth Scott died of congestive heart failure on January 31, 2015. at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She was aged 93.

Lizabeth Scott Academy Awards

No Nominations

Lizabeth Scott Filmography

You Came Along
Dead Reckoning
Desert Fury
Variety Girl
I Walk Alone
Too Late for Tears
Easy Living