Eileen Heckart


Actor

About

Also Known As
Anna Eileen Heckart
Birth Place
Columbus, Ohio, USA
Born
March 29, 1919
Died
December 31, 2001
Cause of Death
Cancer

Biography

A celebrated character actress of stage, film and TV, Heckart's disarming laugh, almost gangly frame and large eyes have lent themselves to the portrayal of overbearing mothers, career women, villainous dames, and a host of sympathetic, beloved parts. Perhaps best remembered for her Broadway and film portrayal of Mrs. Daigle, the bereaved mother of Patty McCormack's first victim in "The ...

Family & Companions

John Harrison Yankee Jr
Husband
Insurance broker. Born on August 1, 1920; married from June 26, 1943 until his death on February 23, 1997.

Notes

Heckart was pledge president, rush chairperson and president of her sorority, Phi Beta, at Ohio State University.

She received an honorary doctor of laws from Sacred Heart University in 1973.

Biography

A celebrated character actress of stage, film and TV, Heckart's disarming laugh, almost gangly frame and large eyes have lent themselves to the portrayal of overbearing mothers, career women, villainous dames, and a host of sympathetic, beloved parts. Perhaps best remembered for her Broadway and film portrayal of Mrs. Daigle, the bereaved mother of Patty McCormack's first victim in "The Bad Seed" (1956), her Broadway and film portrayal of Mrs. Baker, the mother with overbearing concern for her blind son in the Broadway and film versions of "Butterflies Are Free" (1973) and her several appearances as Mary's "Aunt Flo" on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

Heckart has worked continuously in all three media since hitting New York in 1943. After understudying many roles on Broadway, playing small parts, and appearing with stage companies out of NYC during the 1940s, Heckart became a Broadway star by creating the role of Rosemary Sidney in "Picnic," for which she won an Outer Critics Circle Award. The next year, she created the role of Mrs. Daigle in the original stage production of "The Bad Seed." Heckart was brought to Hollywood by Warner Brothers to recreate the role in the 1956 film version for which she earned her first Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress. That same year she had also appeared in "Miracle in the Rain" and "Bus Stop."

While she had begun appearing on TV in its earliest days, and had worked in many episodes of live anthology series during the 50s, after "The Bad Seed," Heckart had more offers for both the big and small screen, but her heart still belonged to the theatre. "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs" (1957) firmed her place as a Broadway star; yet she squeezed in appearances in such films as "Hot Spell" (1958) and "Heller in Pink Tights" (1960), both for Paramount. In 1965, she created the role of Mrs. Banks in the Broadway production of "Barefoot in the Park," while also appearing in episodes of such TV series as "Gunsmoke" and "The FBI." "Save Me a Place at Forest Lawn" and "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds," both for PBS in 1966 won Heckart a host of television awards. She continued to create roles in Broadway comedies and dramas, including Mrs. Baker in "Butterflies Are Free" a 1969 effort which she recreated in the 1972 film version. As the overprotective mother of a blind son, Heckart held her own against Goldie Hawn and Edward Albert and was rewarded with a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. It was two years before Heckart appeared in her next film, "Zandy's Bride" (1974) but in between she starred in plays not only on Broadway, but in Connecticut and New Jersey.

Instant TV recognition for Heckart came in 1975 when she was cast as Mary Richards' Aunt Flo Meredith, a name-dropping, globe-trotting, groundbreaking female reporter on the "Mary Tyler Moore Show." Aunt Flo burst into the WJM newsroom and into the series' audience's hearts, especially when she had an on-again, off-again relationship with Lou Grant (Ed Asner) in subsequent seasonal appearances. Heckart's appearances on the Moore series triggered a spurt in her TV "Q" rating, and she was cast as a regular on "Out of the Blue," an ABC series in and as Eleanor Roosevelt in the NBC miniseries "Backstairs at the White House" (both 1979). Heckart's take on the First Lady was like none other audiences had seen -- uppercrust, to be sure, but urban, vibrant, buoyant, and with a rousing edge of middle-aged sexuality. It was perhaps the first time one could believe Eleanor Roosevelt had actually slept with Franklin, and not just been his saintly "eyes and legs." In 1980, Heckart reprised her role as Aunt Flo, but this time in a fully dramatic way, as a weary reporter on the press bus during a gubernatorial campaign on "Lou Grant" It was one of the first times a sitcom character had been used in a dramatic series on TV. Heckart again tried regular series TV with "Trauma Center" (ABC, 1983) and "Partners in Crime" (NBC, 1984) but with little luck. She was again in support of Mary Tyler Moore on the one-season "Annie McGuire" (CBS, 1988-89). Heckart waited several years before taking another stab at sitcom success as the sharp-tongued mother-in-law on "The Five Mrs. Buchanans" (CBS, 1994). Still, despite additional TV-movie and feature film appearances, and unlike many of her contemporaries who abandon theatre once past middle age for the easier workloads of TV and film, Heckart returned to the grease paint and the live audiences whenever she had a chance, including 1995's "Northeast Local" opposite Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Anthony LaPaglia.

Life Events

1943

Broadway debut as understudy and assistant stage manager, "The Voice of the Turtle"

1944

Member of the company, The Shorewood Players, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

1947

Made TV debut in now lost live program

1953

Co-starred as Rosemary Sidney in the Broadway production of "Picnic"

1954

Created the role of Mrs. Daigle in "The Bad Seed" on stage

1956

Film debut in "Miracle in the Rain"

1956

Earned Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination reprising her stage role in "The Bad Seed"

1957

Created role of Lottie Lacey in "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs"

1969

Played the featured role of Mrs. Baker in "Butterflies Are Free" on Broadway

1972

Won Oscar reprising her turn as the overprotective mother of a blind man in "Butterflies Are Free"

1972

TV-movie debut, "The Victim," ABC

1975

First appearance as Mary's Aunt Flo Meredith on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"

1976

Last film for a decade, "Burnt Offerings"

1977

Returned to Broadway in "Ladies at the Alamo,"

1979

Debut as TV series regular "Out of the Blue" (ABC)

1979

Portrayed Eleanor Roosevelt in NBC miniseries "Backstairs at the White House"

1980

Reprised role of Flo Meredith on episode of CBS' "Lou Grant"

1983

Played nurse Amy Drecker on the ABC medical series "Trauma Center"

1984

Series regular as mother-in-law to Lynda Carter and Loni Anderson on the short-lived "Partners in Crime" (NBC)

1986

Made one-shot return to films in "Heartbreak Ridge"

1988

Appeared regularly as Mary Tyler Moore's mother in "Annie McGuire" (CBS)

1994

Co-starred in the CBS sitcom as one of "The Five Mrs. Buchanans"

1996

Cast as Diane Keaton's mother in the film comedy "The First Wives Club"

2000

Returned to the Off-Broadway stage playing an elderly woman with Alzheimer's disease in "The Waverly Gallery"; announced this would be the last time she would act

Photo Collections

Butterflies Are Free - Movie Posters
Butterflies Are Free - Movie Posters

Videos

Movie Clip

Bus Stop (1956) -- (Movie Clip) Ignorant Hillbilly Virgil (Arthur O'Connell) is just arriving at the Blue Dragon, as Cherie (Marilyn Monroe, her first scene) shares her story with waitress friend Vera (Eileen Heckart), in Bus Stop, 1956, Joshua Logan directing, from the William Inge play.
Bus Stop (1956) -- (Movie Clip) I'm A Chanteuse Bo (Don Murray) has just rescued Cherie (Marilyn Monroe) from the rowdy cowboy audience at the Blue Dragon, sparks now flying between them, in Bus Stop, 1956, from the William Inge play.
Up The Down Staircase (1967) -- (Movie Clip) The Limitless Realm At lunch on the first day at her New York public high school, new teacher Sylvia (Sandy Dennis) with colleagues Ruth White, Eileen Heckart, Patrick Bedford as Barringer, early in Up The Down Staircase, 1967, from director and producer Robert Mulligan and Alan J. Pakula.
Up The Down Staircase (1967) -- (Movie Clip) There's One Every Year After a classroom standoff with delinquent-but-gifted student Joe Ferrone (Jeff Howard), novice Manhattan high school English teacher Sylvia (Sandy Dennis) meets him again in the stairwell, in Up The Down Staircase, 1967, based on the novel by Berlin-born former New York teacher Bel Kaufman.
Burnt Offerings (1976) -- (Movie Clip) Open, Underprivileged Child The opening, Oliver Reed as the English guy helming the station wagon, with spouse Karen Black and son Lee Montgomery, from Burnt Offerings, 1976, also starring Bette Davis.
Somebody Up There Likes Me -- (Movie Ciip) I See The Devil! Following the childhood vignette, Rocky (Paul Newman) still running from the cops, first with Ma (Eileen Heckart) then with his ex-fighter inebriate dad (Harold J. Stone), in Somebody Up There Likes Me, 1956, from Ernest Lehman's screenplay.
Miracle In The Rain -- (Movie Clip) Priceless Antique Following a Manhattan matinee, office girls Ruth (Jane Wyman) and Grace (Eileen Heckart), with their new friend, soldier Arthur (Van Johnson), happen by an auction, in Ben Hecht's Miracle In The Rain, 1956.
Burnt Offerings (1976) -- (Movie Clip) Our Mother Roz (Eileen Heckart) introduces brother Arnold (Burgess Meredith), who helps raise the subject of their mother, to potential renters Ben and Marian (Oliver Reed, Karen Black) in Burnt Offerings, 1976.
Miracle In The Rain -- (Movie Clip) Open, Our Story Opening credits, narration from Ben Hecht's original script, and introduction of the heroine Betty (Jane Wyman) and sidekick Grace (Eileen Heckart) from Miracle In The Rain, 1956, also starring Van Johnson.

Trailer

Family

Leo Herbert Heckart
Father
Divorced Heckart's mother c. 1921; son went to live with him.
Esther Heckart
Mother
Divorced from Heckart's father; retained custody of Heckart; remarried four additional times.
Mark Kelly Yankee
Son
Liquor salesman. Born c. 1952.
Philip Craig Yankee
Son
Stage manager. Born c. 1954; works on a cruise line stage managing theatrical presentations.
Luke Brian Yankee
Son
Director. Born c. 1960.

Companions

John Harrison Yankee Jr
Husband
Insurance broker. Born on August 1, 1920; married from June 26, 1943 until his death on February 23, 1997.

Bibliography

Notes

Heckart was pledge president, rush chairperson and president of her sorority, Phi Beta, at Ohio State University.

She received an honorary doctor of laws from Sacred Heart University in 1973.

Received an honorary doctorate from Ohio State University in 1981.

Received an honorary doctorate of fine arts from Niagra University in 1981.