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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

O'DONNELL, CATHY (1923–1970).

Actor Cathy O'Donnell was born Ann Steeley in Siluria, Alabama, on July 6, 1923, to Harold and Ora Steely. A school teacher who also owned a movie theater, Harold Steely died in 1935. His wife relocated in Oklahoma City. Remarried to Charles Gentry, she raised her daughter Ann and her son Joe there, and Ann attended Harding Junior High School and Classen High School. After graduating, she took courses at Hill's Business College and attended Oklahoma City University, studying dramatics. Encouraged by her OCU dramatics teacher, Wayne Campbell, Ann moved to Hollywood in search of a career. She was discovered by an agent and promoted to Samuel Goldwyn, who sent her to study in New York at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. In 1946 she was cast in The Best Years of Our Lives as Wilma Cameron, the girlfriend of a wounded veteran. She usually played the girl-next-door type, even in her seven movies of the film noir genre, including They Live By Night (1949, with Farley Granger). Her filmography includes The Miniver Story (1950), The Man From Laramie (1955), and Ben Hur (1959, as Ben Hur's sister, Tirzah), her last film. In the 1960s she appeared in episodes of several television series, including The Detectives and Perry Mason. Married for twenty-two years to Robert Wyler, brother of producer William Wyler, O'Donnell died on April 11, 1970, of cancer.

Dianna Everett


Dianna Everett, "The Other Half: Oklahoma Women in the Movies," in Oklahoma @ the Movies, comp. Larry O’Dell (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 2012).

Leonard Maltin, Spencer Green, and Luke Sader, Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia (New York: Penguin Books, 1994).

Steely Family Collection, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Joseph Wechsberg, "Dear Mr. Goldwyn . . .," Los Angeles Times, 1 September 1946.


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Dianna Everett, “O'Donnell, Cathy,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=OD001.

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