She was educated at Pine Manor Junior College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
She came to the movies from the theatre, and Claudia (43, Edmund Goulding), her debut, was a repeat of her own Broadway success. Thereafter, she was best in soft focus, dreamy and benign, having to work against Fox’s grainy black and white: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (45, Elia Kazan); with Robert Young (costar in Claudia) in The Enchanted Cottage (45, John Cromwell); Claudia and David (46, Walter Lang); outstanding in a halting, understated love scene with Guy Madison in Till the End of Time (46, Edward Dmvtryk); rather stuffy in Gentleman’s Agreement (47, Kazan); Mister 880 (50, Goulding); Mother Didn't Tell Me (50, Claude Binyon); I Want You (51, Mark Robson); Callaway Went Thataway (51, Melvin Frank and Norman Panama); Invitation (52, Gottfried Reinhardt); Make Haste to Live (53, William A. Seiter); Three Coins in the Fountain (54, Jean Negulesco); Trial (55, Robson); the Quaker Mom in Friendly Persuasion (56, William Wyler); Old Teller (57, Robert Stevenson); This Earth Is Mine (59, Henry King); The Remarkable Mr Pennypacker (59, Henry Levin); A Summer Place (60, Delmer Daves); The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (60, Delbert Mann); Swiss Family Robinson (60, Ken Annakin); Susan Slade (61, Daves); Summer Magic (62, James Neilson); and Flight of the Doves (71, Ralph Nelson).
She was a voice in Jonathan Livingston Seagull (73, Hal Bartlett); and she has played on TV in The Incredible Journey of Doctor Meg Laurel (79, Guy Green); Ghost Dancing (83, David Greene); Amos (85, Michael Tuchner); American Geisha (86, Lee Philips); and Caroline? (90, Joseph Sargent).
So tolerant and sweet-faced, Dorothy McGuire was somehow secretly designed to play Disney mothers. Not even devoutness could take it amiss that she was cast as the Virgin Mary in The Greatest Story Ever Told (65, George Stevens), not after Linda Darnell had taken the part in Song of Bernadette. But in the middle 1940s, at Twentieth Century and RKO, she had been very winning as a wide-eyed romantic heroine, predisposed to smile against sadness. Her slightly staring humility was best used as the deaf-mute horribly menaced in The Spiral Staircase (45, Robert Siodmak).