Cathy O’Donnell was born in 1923 in Alabama. Although she did not make many movies, she has an unusually high number of great calibre of film among her credts – “The Best Years of Our Lives” in 1946, “They Live By Night” and “Side Street”, both opposite Farley Granger, “Detective Story” , “The Man From Laramie” with James Stewart and “Ben-Hur” in 1959. She died at the age of 46 in 1970.
She was in Alabama until age 12, Ann Steely attended high school and college in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, then worked as a stenographer to finance a trip to Hollywood, where fortune favored her with a contract at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer under Samuel Goldwyn. Recognizing her talent and appeal through a thick Southern accent, Goldwyn arranged rigorous voice & theatrical training at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and elsewhere, gave her an Irish-sounding stage name & cast her in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). This film’s success boded well for Cathy’s career, and soon she was starred in the now-classic They Live by Night (1948). However, her rise in films was checked when, on Sunday, April 11th, 1948, at age 23, she married 48-year-old Robert Wyler, older brother of famous M-G-M director, William Wyler, with whom Goldwyn was feuding. The irate Goldwyn abruptly canceled her contract; thereafter she had no lasting association with any studio or producer. Her most memorable roles of the 1950s were in classic film-noir such as Detective Story (1951), which typifies her sincere, believable performances as a sweet girl-next-door whose radiant inner beauty shone through an exterior not quite fitting the Hollywood glamor mold. Her last film and most famous, wasBen-Hur (1959), and then she worked in TV until 1961. Belying Goldwyn’s opinion, her marriage to Wyler proved happy though childless. Her death on their 22nd wedding anniversary, on Saturday, April 11th, 1970 followed a long struggle with cancer.
The above IMDB entry can also be accessed online here.