Dorothy McGuire, 85, a graceful and versatile film actress who appeared in more than 25 movies from 1943 until suffering a debilitating hip injury in the early 1990s, died of a heart ailment Sept. 13 in a hospital in Santa Monica, Calif.
Ms. McGuire was best known for her work in the 1940s and 1950s playing the weary wife of an alcoholic in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" (1945), the mute heroine in the thriller "The Spiral Staircase" (1946) and the romantic lead in "Three Coins in the Fountain" (1954).
She received an Academy Award nomination for best actress as the socialite girlfriend of Gregory Peck's crusading journalist in "Gentleman's Agreement" (1947), the Elia Kazan film version of Laura Z. Hobson's bestselling novel about anti-Semitism.
Ms. McGuire, who never saw herself as glamour girl, was often cast in matronly, introspective parts that catered to her heart-shaped face, warm eyes and soft voice. She was not paired with Gary Cooper in a sizzling love scene; instead, they were a devout Quaker couple during the Civil War in "Friendly Persuasion" (1956).
In the mid-1950s, she matured into character roles in such films as "Old Yeller" (1957), "A Summer Place" (1959), "Swiss Family Robinson" (1960) and "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965), in which she played the Virgin Mary.
She later turned to television, appearing as Mary Jordache in the 1976 miniseries "Rich Man, Poor Man," and helped found the La Jolla (Calif.) Playhouse. She continued performing on Broadway into the 1980s.
Dorothy Hackett McGuire began her career in her native Omaha in the early 1930s. She was a teenager when she appeared opposite Henry Fonda, a young Broadway actor who returned to his home town for a short engagement.
After summer stock, she began appearing on the New York stage in 1938. First an understudy to Martha Scott, she took over the lead role of Emily in Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama "Our Town."
In 1941, Ms. McGuire made a massive impression as the precocious yet insecure young bride in "Claudia," which called on her to portray a range of emotions for which she would later become known on screen.
McGuire repeated the role on film opposite Robert Young in her 1943 Hollywood debut. She and Young were paired in a sequel, "Claudia and David" (1946), and in the tender and tastefully directed weepie about a love affair between a homely girl and a facially scarred war veteran, "The Enchanted Cottage" (1945).
She said in a 1982 interview that she was a bit confounded by Hollywood casting decisions and never learned how to craft a more consistent screen image.
"I love my career, but I never felt much about it, about how to nurture it," she said. "See, I've always been rather shy and not very adventurous. . . . I had no image. So I found myself in a lot of things accidentally."
Her husband, Life magazine photographer John Swope, whom she married in 1943, died in 1979.
Survivors include two children.