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Elizabeth Wilson

Performer
( b. Apr 04, 1921 Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA - d. May 09, 2015 New Haven, Connecticut, USA ) Female
Elizabeth Wilson was an actress who distinguished herself onstage, on television and in films like "The Graduate" and "9 to 5" in supporting roles that were often meaty but rarely glamorous. Ms. Wilson knew from an early age that she wanted to be an actress, but she was never very interested in being a star. By all accounts, she was always content to be a character actress, more recognizable by face than by name. That face -- equally capable of projecting snobbery, sadness and a winning eccentricity -- was seen often in a career that lasted almost 70 years.

She won a Tony Award in 1972 for her portrayal of a blinded Vietnam War veteran's emotionally wounded mother in David Rabe's harrowing antiwar drama, Sticks and Bones. She won Obie Awards for her parts in Taken in Marriage in 1979 and Anteroom in 1986.

She was nominated for an Emmy for her role as the rich but helpless mother of a woman (Lee Remick) plotting to kill her father in the based-on-a-true-story mini-series "Nutcracker: Money, Madness and Murder" (1987).

Mothers were a particular specialty. There was something about her appearance and manner -- the fact that she stood an imposing 5-foot-10 may have had something to do with it -- that led directors to cast Ms. Wilson, who never had children, as mothers almost from the start of her career. She was still in her 20s when she first played a mother, in a production of Springtime for Henry that toured Japan after World War II under the auspices of the U.S.O.

On screen, she played the often befuddled mother of Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin Braddock in "The Graduate" (1967), the patrician mother of Ralph Fiennes's Charles Van Doren in "Quiz Show" (1994) and the scheming mother of an impostor (Christopher Lloyd) claiming to be Uncle Fester in "The Addams Family" (1991). (In the end the impostor is revealed as the true Fester.)

Onstage, her roles included Mrs. Peachum, whose daughter marries the notorious Mack the Knife, in a 1976 revival of The Threepenny Opera. Her last maternal role, as the mother of Bill Murray's Franklin D. Roosevelt in "Hyde Park on Hudson" (2012), was also her last role of any kind.

Probably her best-known film performance, and certainly her most substantial, was not as a mother but as Roz, the memorably untrustworthy office snitch and the nemesis of the downtrodden workers played by Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, in the 1980 hit "9 to 5."

Ms. Wilson's early film roles included the bitter personal secretary of a doomed movie star in "The Goddess" (1958) and a dowdy waitress in the Alfred Hitchcock classic "The Birds" (1963). She was a favorite actress of Mike Nichols, who after directing her in "The Graduate" cast her in his films "Catch-22" (1970), "The Day of the Dolphin" (1973) and "Regarding Henry" (1991), and on Broadway in his 1973 revival of Uncle Vanya.

Her first Broadway role was a spinster schoolteacher in Picnic in 1953. (She would play the same part in the movie version two years later.) Her last was a resident of a home for retired actresses in the 1999 revival of Noël Coward's Waiting in the Wings, which was also Lauren Bacall's Broadway farewell.

She played one of four aging sisters in the acclaimed 1980 production of Morning's at Seven and a woman fleeing an unspecified danger in the 1996 revival of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance, a performance that Vincent Canby of The New York Times called "simultaneously pathetic and menacing," adding, "You can't ask for more."

Source: The New York Times obituary 


ProductionsDate of Productions
Waiting in the Wings
[Play, Original]
  • Performer: Elizabeth Wilson [Bonita Belgrave]
Dec 16, 1999 - May 28, 2000
A Delicate Balance
[Play, Drama, Revival]
  • Performer: Elizabeth Wilson [Edna]
Apr 21, 1996 - Sep 29, 1996
Ah, Wilderness!
[Play, Comedy, Revival]
  • Starring: Elizabeth Wilson [Lily Miller]
Jun 23, 1988 - Jul 23, 1988
You Can't Take It With You
[Play, Comedy, Farce, Revival]
  • Starring: Elizabeth Wilson [Penelope Sycamore]
Apr 04, 1983 - Jan 01, 1984
Morning's at Seven
[Play, Comedy, Revival]
  • Starring: Elizabeth Wilson [Aaronetta Gibbs]
Apr 10, 1980 - Aug 16, 1981
The Importance of Being Earnest
[Play, Comedy, Revival]
  • Starring: Elizabeth Wilson [Lady Bracknell]
Jun 16, 1977 - Aug 28, 1977
Threepenny Opera
[Musical, Drama, Revival]
  • Performer: Elizabeth Wilson [Mrs. Peachum]
May 01, 1976 - Jan 23, 1977
Uncle Vanya
[Play, Drama, Revival]
  • Starring: Elizabeth Wilson [Sofya Alexandrovna]
Jun 04, 1973 - Jul 28, 1973
The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild
[Play, Comedy, Original]
  • Also Starring: Elizabeth Wilson [Helen Wild]
Nov 14, 1972 - Dec 02, 1972
Sticks and Bones
[Play, Original]
  • Performer: Elizabeth Wilson [Harriet]
Mar 01, 1972 - Oct 01, 1972
The Good Woman of Setzuan
[Play, Revival]
  • Performer: Elizabeth Wilson [Mrs. Shin]
Nov 05, 1970 - Dec 13, 1970
Sheep on the Runway
[Play, Original]
  • Performer: Elizabeth Wilson [Martha Wilkins]
Jan 31, 1970 - May 02, 1970
Plaza Suite
[Play, Comedy, Original]
  • Standby: Elizabeth Wilson [Karen Nash, Muriel Tate, Norma Hubley]
Feb 14, 1968 - Oct 03, 1970
The Little Foxes
[Play, Drama, Revival]
  • Standby: Elizabeth Wilson [Birdie Hubbard, Regina Giddens]
Oct 26, 1967 - Jan 20, 1968
Big Fish, Little Fish
[Play, Comedy, Original]
  • Performer: Elizabeth Wilson [Hilda Rose]
Mar 15, 1961 - Jun 10, 1961
The Tunnel of Love
[Play, Comedy, Original]
  • Performer: Elizabeth Wilson [Miss McCracken]
Feb 13, 1957 - Feb 22, 1958
The Desk Set
[Play, Comedy, Original]
  • Performer: Elizabeth Wilson [Miss Warriner]
Oct 24, 1955 - Jul 07, 1956
Picnic
[Play, Original]
  • Performer: Elizabeth Wilson [Christine Schoenwalder]
Feb 19, 1953 - Apr 10, 1954
1985 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Play
Elizabeth Wilson (for "Salonika") [nominee]
1980 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Ensemble Performance
nomineeMorning's at Seven [winner]
Starring: Elizabeth Wilson
1976 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Threepenny Opera [nominee]
Performer: Elizabeth Wilson
1972 Tony Award® Best Featured Actress in a Play
nomineeSticks and Bones [winner]
Performer: Elizabeth Wilson
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