Dorothy Tree

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Dorothy Tree
File:Dorothy Tree.jpg
Dorothy Tree, 1939
Born Dorothy Estelle Triebitz
(1906-05-21)May 21, 1906
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died February 13, 1992(1992-02-13) (aged 85)
Englewood, New Jersey, U.S.
Other names Dorothy Uris
Occupation Actress, voice teacher
Years active 1927-1951
Spouse(s) Michael Uris (19??-1967; his death); 1 child

Dorothy Tree (May 21, 1906 – February 13, 1992) was an American actress, voice teacher and writer. She appeared in a wide range of character roles in at least 49 films between 1927 and 1951.

Her roles included Martha, mother of Knute Rockne in Knute Rockne, All American, and May Emmerich, the invalid wife of Louis Calhern in The Asphalt Jungle. After being blacklisted as a communist because of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings, she began a second career as a voice teacher in New York. Emphasizing good diction and clarity, and the subtleties of intonation, she published four books on the subject.[citation needed]

Early life and stage career

She was born in Brooklyn, New York, the eldest of three daughters of Herman Triebitz (1877–1943) and Bertha Hert (1885–1967). Her sisters were Sylvia Triebitz (1911–1949) and Mildred "Mimi" Triebitz (1918–?) Her parents were born in Austria, and immigrated to the United States.[1][2] Their native language was Yiddish. He was the proprietor of a shoe store in Brooklyn, and later sold shoes wholesale.[3]

Dorothy attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Taking the stage name Dorothy Tree, she began her acting career on the stage in 1926.[4] She appeared in six plays on Broadway, including her role as Jessica (Shylock's daughter) in The Merchant of Venice (1930).[citation needed]

Film career

Tree made her motion picture debut playing a department store employee in the Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount Pictures silent era romantic comedy It (1927) starring Clara Bow and Antonio Moreno. Tree next played a wife of Bela Lugosi's Dracula (1931); she also played a bride of Dracula in the Spanish language version of the same title, which was shot at night with a different cast using the same sets at Universal.

She married on 8 June 1928, in Manhattan, New York, screenwriter and story editor Michael Uris (March 25, 1902–July 17, 1967).[5] They had one son, Joseph M. Uris (born October 25, 1943).[6]

Tree attracted attention as a feminine menace on the screen as the hairdresser-spy, Hilda Kleinhauer, in the Warner Bros. drama Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939) starring Edward G. Robinson, which won the National Board of Review Award for Best Film – English Language. Her performance immediately won her the role as Reni Vonich, head of a spy ring attempting to steal the latest in technology, in Paramount's sci-fi drama Television Spy (1939). She was signed by RKO to portray the important role as Elizabeth Edwards, Mary Todd's sister, in Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940) starring Raymond Massey.[7]

She portrayed Martha Rockne in the Warners biopic Knute Rockne, All American, the mother of the famous football coach played by Pat O'Brien. The movie also stars Ronald Reagan and Gale Page. In MGM's film noir crime/drama The Asphalt Jungle Tree played May Emmerich, a bedridden woman who is the very ingenuous and frustrated wife of Alonzo Emmerich (played by Louis Calhern), a crooked lawyer and double-crosser who, although he truly loves May, is having an adulterous affair with the character played by Marilyn Monroe.

Tree also appeared as Aunt Martha Dale in a teleplay of the live television anthology series The Silver Theatre (1950), which was titled Minor Incident. Her last role on the theater screen was as Marie Elsner in Columbia's crime/drama The Family Secret (1951) starring John Derek and Lee J. Cobb.

Blacklist and new career

In 1952, Tree and her husband, Michael Uris, were branded as communists and blacklisted due to the HUAC testimony of playwright/screenwriter Bernard C. Schoenfeld.[8]

She then began a second career teaching voice and diction in New York. She specialized in singing in English at the Metropolitan Opera and the Mannes College of Music,[9] and also taught at the Manhattan School of Music, using her married name, Dorothy Uris. She was quoted as saying, "I left Dorothy Tree in Hollywood."

On November 4, 1956, an article written by Uris about English singing with good diction and its aiding a singer to clarify words for the listener was published in the New York Times.[10] She published four books, Everybody's Book of Better Speaking (1960); To Sing in English, a Guide to Improved Diction (1971); A Woman's Voice: A Handbook to Successful Private and Public Speaking (1975); and Say it Again: Dorothy Uris' Personal Collection of Quotes, Comment & Anecdotes (1979).

Dorothy Tree Uris died at age 85 of heart failure at the Actors Fund of America Nursing Home in Englewood, New Jersey.

Partial filmography

Year Title Genre Role Other notes
1927 It romantic comedy Waltham employee uncredited role
1931 Dracula fantasy/horror Dracula's wife English-language version; uncredited
Dracula fantasy/horror Bride of Dracula (in catacombs) Spanish-language version; uncredited
1932 Life Begins drama Rita
1934 Side Streets drama Ilka
Here Comes the Navy romantic comedy Gladys
Madame Du Barry historical drama Adelaide
The Firebird murder mystery Mrs. Jolan Brandt
The Dragon Murder Case crime/mystery Ruby
The Case of the Howling Dog crime/mystery Lucy Benton
1935 The Woman in Red drama Mrs. Olga Goodyear
While the Patient Slept murder mystery/comedy Mittie Federie
Four Hours to Kill! drama Mae Danish
1936 Three Godfathers western Blackie Winter
Navy Born drama/romance Daphne Roth
1937 Marked Woman crime/drama woman in raid
The Great Garrick romantic comedy Mme. Moreau
1938 Having Wonderful Time romantic comedy Frances
Trade Winds comedy Clara
1939 Zaza drama Madame Dufresne
The Mystery of Mr. Wong mystery Valerie Edwards
Confessions of a Nazi Spy drama Hilda Kleinhauer
Television Spy science fiction/drama Reni Vonich
Charlie Chan in City in Darkness mystery Charlotte Ronnell
1940 Abe Lincoln in Illinois biopic/drama Elizabeth Edwards
Little Orvie comedy Clara Stone
Knute Rockne, All American biopic/sports Martha Rockne
1942 Nazi Agent drama Miss Harper
Hitler - Dead or Alive drama Else von Brandt
1943 Edge of Darkness war/drama Solveig Brategaard
Crime Doctor crime/drama Pearl Adams
1944 Casanova Brown comedy Nurse Clark
1950 The Asphalt Jungle crime/drama May Emmerich
The Men drama Harriet (Ellen's mother)
A Life of Her Own drama Caraway's secretary
1951 The Family Secret crime/drama Marie Elsner


  1. 1910 Kings Co., NY, U.S. Federal Census, Borough of Brooklyn, New York City, Ward 26, 173 Pitkin Ave., April 19, Enumeration Dist. 736, Sheet 9 B, Page 16 B, Line 68.
  2. 1920 Kings Co., NY, U.S. Federal Census, Borough of Brooklyn, 1734 Pitkin Ave., January 2, Enumeration Dist. 1499, Sheet 1 A, Page 189 A, Line 8.
  3. 1930 Kings Co., NY, U.S. Federal Census, Brooklyn Borough, Assembly Dist. 18, Block A, 1316 President St., April 3, Enumeration Dist. 743, Sheet 1 A, Page 163 A, Line 42.
  4. "Cherry Pie' Contains Some Amusing Skits --- Agnes Lumbard Carries Off Chief Honors in Simi-Professional Revue, With Attractive Tunes." New York Times. Apr. 15, 1926. p. 24.
  5. "Michael Uris Dies at 65; Ex-Screenwriter and Editor", New York Times. July 18, 1967, p. 38.
  6. California Birth Index, Name: Joseph Michael Uris, Birth Date: Oct. 25, 1943, Sex: Male, Mother's Maiden Name: Triebitz [sic], Birth County: Los Angeles.
  7. "Dorothy Tree Runs Wide Range of Characters." Los Angeles Times, Jan. 14, 1940. p. C 4.
  8. "Shocked Into Reds, Film Writer Says --- He Testifies He Joined in Grief at Roosevelt Death, Quit When Party Line Changed." New York Times. Aug. 20, 1952. p. 10.
  9. "Lisper Learns How at Mom's Knee." Los Angeles Times. Jun. 18, 1961 New York (UPI). p. N 1.
  10. Uris, Dorothy. "English Can Be Sung --- Good Diction in Speech Would Aid Singer to Clarify Words for Listener." New York Times. Nov. 4, 1956. p. 149.

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