Saturday, November 13, 2010

Happy birthday, Madeline Sherwood!

I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit that today’s birthday person is best-known to me as the Mother Superior on the TV sitcom The Flying Nun.  (I even had to restrain myself from posting a photo of her from that show.)  And it’s all sorts of wrong, I know—Madeline Louise Hélène Thornton was born eighty-eight years ago on this date in Montreal, Quebec (that’s in Canada, you know) and has gone on to become one of the most respected stage, screen and television actresses (and directors) of her generation.  Her first appearance trodding the boards occurred at the age of four, when she appeared in a church passion play…but as she got older, she obtained work in a number of soap operas and dramas broadcast by the CBC.

Madeline Sherwood made her Broadway debut in The Chase shortly after moving to New York in 1950—and soon began to attract attention in such productions as Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.  But some of her best known performances were in a pair of plays written by Tennessee Williams—Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (in she played Mae) and Sweet Bird of Youth (Miss Lucy).  She was fortunate enough to be able to reprise those roles when the productions were adapted as films (Cat in 1958, Bird in 1962)—in fact, she is one of several performers profiled in a brand-spanking new book written by my esteemed blogging colleague and Facebook chum John DiLeo: Tennessee Williams & Company: The Essential Screen Actors.  (I promise to have more on this fantastic tome in a future post—I will say, however, that John admits that his familiarity with Sherwood was with The Flying Nun as well.)  Madeline’s other Williams connections include a brief appearance in the 1956 film Baby Doll (her feature film debut) and taking over for Bette Davis in the Broadway production of The Night of the Iguana.

Sherwood, because of her forward thinking and progressive politics, was blacklisted during the McCarthy era; during the 1960s, she was an active participant in the civic rights movement (meeting and working with Martin Luther King, Jr.) to the point where she was arrested during a Freedom Walk and received a jail sentence of six months hard labor for “endangering the customs and mores of the people of Alabama.”  She was equally active in the women’s movement, attending the First Women’s Sexual Conference at New York’s Barnard College in the 1970s.  In the 1980s, she—along with other actresses such as Cicely Tyson and Joanne Woodward—was one of the first actresses to receive a grant from the American Film Institute to direct short films (she wrote, directed and acted in a film called Good Night Sweet Prince).

So happy natal anniversary to the incredible Ms. Sherwood…oh, and these fine individuals as well…

Edwin Thomas Booth (1833-1893) – Nineteenth century stage actor many consider to be the finest American thespian of his time; older brother of John Wilkes, President Lincoln’s assassin

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) – Scottish novelist and poet whose works include Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Jimmy Swinnerton (1875-1974) – Cartoonist and landscape painter who created the comic strip Little Jimmy (among many others)

Hal Taliaferro (aka Wally Wales) (1895-1980) – Silent and sound film cowboy star whose specialty was B-westerns and serials

Vera Caspary (1899-1987) – American novelist and playwright who also wrote screenplays such as Lady from Louisiana, Bedelia and Three Husbands

Edward Buzzell (1900-1985) – Musical-comedy performer turned motion picture director whose oeuvre includes Virtue, The Luckiest Girl in the World, Song of the Thin Man and Neptune’s Daughter

Worthington Miner (1900-1982) – Film and television director-producer who made major contributions to such TV shows as Studio One and Medic

H.C. Potter (1904-1977) – Stage and screen producer-director whose films include Hellzapoppin’, Mr. Lucky and The Farmer’s Daughter

Hermione Baddeley (1906-1986) – British stage, screen and television actress best remembered as replacement housekeeper Mrs. Nell Naugatuck on the sitcom Maude

Gunnar Björnstrand (1909-1986) – Swedish actor seen in quite a few of Ingmar Bergman’s films including The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries and Through a Glass, Darkly

Alexander Scourby (1913-1985) – Stage, screen, radio and television actor seen in such films as The Big Heat and The Silver Chalice; also noteworthy for his narration of audiocassettes for the blind and various documentaries

Helen Mack (1913-1986) – Stage, screen and radio actress whose vehicles include She and His Girl Friday; during the 1940s was one of the only women directing radio shows (A Date With Judy)

Robert Sterling (1917-2006) – Stage, screen and television actor whose films include Ringside Maisie, Johnny Eager and Show Boat; also a regular on the TV sitcoms Topper and Ichabod and Me

Mary Beth Hughes (1919-1985) – B-movie/cult actress whose vehicles include Dressed to Kill, The Ox-Bow Incident and I Accuse My Parents…the latter which, of course, was lampooned on MST3K

Jack Elam (1920-2003) – TDOY character actor god who was b-b-b-bad to the bone; his films include High Noon, Kiss Me Deadly, Once Upon a Time in the West and Support Your Local Sheriff!

Oskar Werner (1922-1984) – German stage, screen and television actor whose vehicles include Decision Before Dawn, Jules and Jim, Ship of Fools and Fahrenheit 451

Jack Narz (1922-2008) – Television announcer and host of such game shows as Dotto and Concentration

Don Gordon (1926-     ) – TDOY character actor fave whose vehicles include Bullitt, Papillon and TV’s The Blue Angels

Fred Phelps (1929-     ) – Hate-spewing Baptist pastor whose anti-homosexual rages and disrespect for families of deceased soldiers makes him un major dickhead formidable

Adrienne Corri (1930-     ) – Scottish stage, screen and television actress whose vehicles include The River, Bunny Lake is Missing, A Study in Terror and A Clockwork Orange

Richard Mulligan (1932-2000) – TDOY actor fave whose films include One Potato, Two Potato and Little Big Man; best remembered as the wacky Burt Campbell on Soap…who only had to walk into a scene and my mother would be reduced to hysterical laughter

Buddy Killen (1932-2006) – Nashville record producer and music publisher who worked with the likes of Joe Tex, T.G. Sheppard and Ronnie McDowell

Garry Marshall (1934-     ) – Veteran comedy writer-producer who churned out a slew of successful TV sitcoms in the 70s like The Odd Couple, Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley; later became a motion picture director, helming such films as Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride

Peter Arnett (1934-     ) – Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and journalist fired from NBC in 2003 for being a little too frank about the U.S. invasion in Iraq

Tom Atkins (1935-     ) – Dependable film and television character actor whose vehicles include regular roles on Harry O, Serpico and The Rockford Files…and films like The Fog, Escape from New York, Night of the Creeps and Lethal Weapon

Jean Seberg (1938-1979) – Stage, screen and television actress who became an iconic figure in films like Saint Joan, Breathless and Airport; her ties with the Black Panther Party in the 1970s led to her being harassed by the FBI and her death in 1979 still remains a mystery

Dack Rambo (1941-1994) – Film and television actor best known for his roles on such TV series as The New Loretta Young Show, The Guns of Will Sonnett and Dallas; he shares a birthday with a twin brother, Dirk, who died in 1967

Beth Brickell (1941-     ) – Stage, screen and television actress remembered by legions of couch potatoes as Ellen Wedloe on TV’s Gentle Ben; later became a respected television director and also has interests in newspaper writing and politics

John Paul Hammond (1942-     ) – Blues singer and guitarist

Timmy Thomas (1944-     ) – Pop music songwriter/vocalist

Joe Mantegna (1947-     ) – Stage, screen and television actor whose vehicles include House of Games, The Godfather, Part III, Homicide and TV’s Criminal Minds

Tracy Scoggins (1953-     ) – Film and television actress best known for her roles on such TV series as The Colbys, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Babylon 5/Crusade

Chris Noth (1954-     ) – Film and television actor best known for his roles on the TV hits Law & Order/Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Sex and the City

Whoopi Goldberg (1955-     ) – Academy Award-winning actress, comedienne and talk show presence whom I wish would consider walking out on show business altogether

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Scott said...

I was in The Crucible (Deputy-Governor Danforth, thanks for asking) in high school, and was flabbergasted when I saw the credits for the original Broadway production (always printed in the front of any Samuel French script) and realized that the role of the seductive (and literal) piece of jailbait, Abigail Williams, was played by Mother Superior!

MST3K fans will also remember Mary Beth Hughes from her role as the tomboy cowgirl in The Last of the Wild Horses and Jack Elam, of course, for his performance as Best Supporting Pervert in the classic episode, The Girl in Lovers Lane.

Stacia said...

I love Madeleine so much.

I have said this for 2 years: I have a feeling that they're going to find Fred Phelps sitting dead at the dinner table a la "Rose for Emily". In fact, I kind of think that's why we haven't seen him recently.