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Joseph Cotten
Joseph Cotten in 1942
Joseph Cheshire Cotten Jr.

(1905-05-15)May 15, 1905
Died February 6, 1994(1994-02-06) (aged 88)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Burial place Blandford Cemetery, Petersburg, Virginia
Occupation Actor
Years active 1930–1981
Awards Volpi Cup for Best Actor:
1949 Portrait of Jennie

Joseph Cheshire Cotten Jr. (May 15, 1905 – February 6, 1994) was an American film, stage, radio 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 three Orson Welles films: Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), and Journey into Fear (1943), for which Cotten was also credited with the screenplay. He went on to become one of the leading Hollywood actors of the 1940s, appearing in films such as Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Love Letters (1945), Duel in the Sun (1946), Portrait of Jennie (1948), The Third Man (1949) and Niagara (1953). One of his final films was Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate (1980).

Early life

Cotten was born in Petersburg, Virginia on May 15, 1905. 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., he earned spending money playing professional football on Sundays, for $25 a quarter. After graduation, he earned enough money as a lifeguard at Wilcox Lake to pay back his family's loan for his education, with interest.

Cotten worked as an advertising agent, and then as a theatre critic, which inspired him to become involved in theatre productions, first in Virginia, then in New York City. He made his Broadway debut in 1930.

Illness and death

On June 8, 1981, Cotten experienced a heart attack followed by a stroke that affected his brain's speech center. He began years of therapy which in time made it possible for him to speak again. In 1990, Cotten's larynx was removed due to cancer. He died on February 6, 1994, of pneumonia, at the age of 88. He was buried at Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg, Virginia.

Joseph Cotten received a Venice Film Festival Award for Best Actor for his work in Portrait of Jennie. In the film, Me and Orson Welles (2008), Cotten is portrayed by James Tupper, also in the first season of the television series Feud (2017), Cotten is portrayed by Matthew Glave.

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