Beatrice Whitney Straight (August 2, 1914 – April 7, 2001) was an American theatre, film, and television actress. In her role in the 1976 film Network, she was on screen for five minutes and forty seconds, the shortest perfomance ever to win an Academy Award for acting, in this case for best supporting actress. She also received an Emmy nomination for her role in The Dain Curse. Straight can also be recognized as Dr. Lesh in Poltergeist.
Born in Old Westbury, New York, Straight was the daughter of investment banker Willard Dickerman Straight and Dorothy Payne Whitney. She was four years old when her father died in France of influenza during the great epidemic while serving with the US Armyduring World War I.
Following her mother's remarriage to British agronomist Leonard K. Elmhirst in 1925, the family moved to England. It was there that Straight was educated and began acting in amateur theater productions.
Returning to the United States, she made her Broadway debut in 1939 in the play The Possessed. Most of her theatre work was in the classics, including Twelfth Night (1941), Macbeth, and The Crucible (1953), for which she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play.
From its inception, Straight was a member of the Actors Studio, attending the class conducted three times weekly by founding member Robert Lewis; her classmates included Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Jerome Robbins, Sidney Lumet, and about 20 others.
Straight was active in the early days of television, appearing in anthology series such as Armstrong Circle Theatre, Hallmark Hall of Fame, Kraft Television Theatre, Studio One, The United States Steel Hour, Playhouse 90, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents and dramatic series like Dr. Kildare, Ben Casey, The Defenders, Route 66, Mission: Impossible, and St. Elsewhere.
Straight worked infrequently in film, and is remembered best for her role as a devastated wife confronting husband William Holden's infidelity in Network (1976). She won theAcademy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance which, at five minutes and forty seconds, remains the shortest ever to win an Oscar.
Further film and television performances include the role of the mother of Lynda Carter's title character in the Wonder Woman series, and Marion Hillyard, the icy, controlling mother of Stephen Collins in The Promise. She also played the role of the paranormal investigator Dr. Martha Lesh in the film Poltergeist (1982), the most widely seen role of her film career.
Straight was married twice, first to Frenchman Louis Dolivet, a left-wing activist who became editor of United Nations World magazine and later a film producer. They divorced in 1949, and she immediately married film and Broadway actor/producer Peter Cookson, with whom she had two sons.
Straight reportedly suffered from Alzheimer's disease in her last years. She died from pneumonia in Los Angeles at age 86.