Her 6'2" height and 230-pound frame often got her cast in sinister, villainous roles, particularly in film noirs. She earned an Academy Award nomination as the prison matron in Caged, and played a Spencer Tracy-tossing circus strongwoman in Adam's Rib.
She made her acting debut on Broadway and vaudeville stage in the 1920s and continued performing onstage into the 1930s.
She played a role in the 1950 film Caged.
She was born and raised in Hawarden, Iowa.
She earned an Emmy Award for her role in Peter Gunn, a series remembered for its Henry Mancini-written theme music.