Frances Hyland

Frances Hyland OC (April 25, 1927 – July 11, 2004) was a Canadian stage, film and television actress.

Frances Hyland
Born(1927-04-25)April 25, 1927
DiedJuly 11, 2004(2004-07-11) (aged 77)

In 1964, Hyland was in the CBC's drama series, "Festival," and she was one of the first actresses in Canada to achieve this career objective.  She starred in many movies, television shows, and famous plays, which in turn, was a major accomplishment for a Canadian woman during this time. Not only did Hyland act in a variety of media, her roles were also vastly different. While acting in film, she played a farmer's wife who aged from 30 to 60 over the course of the movie. In "Festival" she played a Salvation Army officer whose life became complicated by love, and on the stage she played the queen of Egypt. [1]

Hyland studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, making her professional debut in London as Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, opposite John Gielgud. In 1954, she returned to Canada, becoming a regular at the Stratford Festival in Ontario. Her roles there included Isabella (in Measure for Measure), Portia (in The Merchant of Venice), Olivia (in Twelfth Night), Perdita (in The Winter's Tale), Desdemona (in Othello) and Ophelia in (in Hamlet).[2] She appeared in movies such as The Changeling (1980), The Hounds of Notre Dame (1980), Happy Birthday to Me (1981), The Lotus Eaters (1993) and Never Talk to Strangers (1995), and on television, including a role on Road to Avonlea.[3]

Hyland was considered to be one of the highest-ranked Shakespearean actresses of her time. In Canada, she and her close friend, Kate Reid, were acknowledged to be two of the greatest actresses, as stated by Weekend Magazine. [1]

Along with being a well-established actress, Hyland has also co-starred with many actors who have gone on to find fame in the USA, such as Christopher Plummer and Robert Goulet. However, as stated earlier, Hyland remained in Canada, even though it was harder for actresses to succeed. She was often questioned as to why she decided to stay in Canada, because other countries held greater career opportunities for her. [1]

Personal life and awards

Hyland was born in 1927 in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, a small town south-west of Swift Current, to Jessie (née Worden), a teacher, and Thomas Hyland, a salesman. She lived there until her parents divorced when she was one year old. She was raised by her mother's family in Ogema, Saskatchewan. When she was seven, she moved to Regina when her parents tried, and failed, to save their marriage. She has not spoken to her father since 1937.[1]

Her mother put herself through teacher's college to support her daughter's acting career. Hyland's dreams were clouded because her family did not have a great deal of money, thus she was unable to get an adequate education. Nevertheless, she always believed that she could achieve her dreams.[1]

Frances Hyland graduated in 1948 from the University of Saskatchewan with a BA in English.[4] After graduating, she returned to the school to work as an assistant for their drama department. Her professor, Emrys Jones, offered her scholarships which allowed her to perform in London.[1]

While in London, she could envision her dreams of becoming an actress, however while in Canada she often questioned her abilities and future on the stage. There were not as many job opportunities for her in Canada as there were when she travelled to London, New York or other well-known cities. She also stated in an interview with Weekend Magazine that her self-esteem was at risk while working in Canada.[1]

Despite her ambitions to work in London or New York, Hyland stayed in Canada because she fell in love with George McCowan, a fellow Canadian actor and director. They had a son, Evan, in 1957. Unfortunately, the couple separated shortly after.[1]

Her decision to reside in Canada caused her financial income to suffer due to the doubled income that imported London actresses earned.[1]

In 1970, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 1994, Hyland received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award, Canada's highest honour in the performing arts, for her lifetime contribution to Canadian theatre.[1]

Hyland was described as sensible, modest, and honest with herself and others.[1]



Year Title Role Notes
1963 Drylanders Liza
1966 Each Day That Comes Short
1972 Another Smith for Paradise Marie Smith
1980 The Changeling Mrs. Grey
The Hounds of Notre Dame Mother Therese
1981 Happy Birthday to Me Mrs. Patterson
1983 The Sight Short
1993 The Lotus Eaters Flora Kingswood
1995 Never Talk to Strangers Mrs. Slotnick


Year Title Role Notes
1950-54 Sunday Night Theatre Megan Owen / Sonia / Penelope Blessington 4 Episodes: Deep Are the Roots, Adam's Apple, Crime and Punishment, The Gift
1955 Scope 1 Episode: Prelude to Marriage
On Camera 1 Episode: The Queen's Ring
1955-61 Encounter Nellie / Shevawn Flaherty / Melissa Turner 6 Episodes
1957 Twelfth Night Lady Olivia TV Movie
1957-59 Folio Zuzushka / Mariana / Frances 3 Episodes: Proud Passage, The Master of Santiago, Ivanov
1958 Till Death Do Us Part 1 Episode: Panic at Parth Bay
1959 Hudson's Bay Susan Murray 1 Episode: Bosom Friends
1959-60 The Unforeseen Martha 3 Episodes: The Storm, The Wreath, Desire
R.C.M.P. Lucy Dodds / Mrs.Phillips 2 Episodes: The Replacement, The Hunt
1960 Suspense Ethel 1 Episode: Love Story
Startime Miss Miller / Catherine Stockmann 2 Episodes: An Enemy of the People, An Enemy of the People
1960-62 Festival Margot / Duchess / Olga 5 Episodes
1962 First Person 1 Episode: My Home Is Here
Salt of the Earth TV Movie
1961-62 Playdate Ethel / Nellie Bancroft / Alice 3 Episodes: The Salt of the Earth, The Vigilante, Love Story 1910
1967 The Mystery Maker 1 Episode
1973-80 The Beachcombers Sadie 4 Episodes: Sadie, Keep Your Shirt On, The Sasquatch Walks by Night, Sadie is a Lady
1974 The Naked Mind 1 Episode
1978 Home to Stay Aunt Martha TV Movie
1979 The Albertans Marjanne Hardin TV Movie
The Great Detective Mrs. Eglantyne 1 Episode: Death Takes a Curtain Call
1980 Matt and Jenny Martha Jane 1 Episode: A Woman's Place
1981 Tales of the Haunted Dody TV Movie
Titans Elizabeth I. 1 Episode: Elizabeth I.
1983 Pygmalion Mrs. Higgins TV Movie
1985 The Hearst and Davies Affair Rose Duras TV Movie
1986 Kay O'Brien Dr. Sarah McDonovan 1 Episode: Princess of the City
1987 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Edith Ferris 1 Episode: The Impatient Patient
1988 Liberace: Behind the Music Florence Bettray Kelly TV Movie
The Twilight Zone Laura Kincaid 1 Episode: Dream Me a Life
Night Heat Marie 1 Episode: No Regrets
Lonely Knights Maggie TV Movie
1989 Glory! Glory! Velma TV Movie
1990 E.N.G. Thelma 1 Episode: Division of Labour
1990-95 Avonlea Nanny Louisa Banks 3 Episodes: The Journey Begins, Sara's Homecoming, Comings and Goings
1993 Survive the Night TV Movie
The Hidden Room Rita 1 Episode: After the Crash
1993-94 Street Legal Caroline Diamond 3 Episodes: Thicker Than Water, Forgiveness, Persons Living or Dead
1994 Lonesome Dove Clementine Coffey 1 Episode: Duty Bound
Broken Lullaby Maria TV Movie
Tales from the Cryptkeeper Aunt Melva 2 Episodes: The Avenging Phantom/Myth Conceptions, The Haunted Mine
Lives of Girls & Women Aunt Grace TV Movie
1995 Due South Fraser's Grandmother 1 Episode: Letting Go
When the Dark Man Calls Dr. Martha Petrie TV Movie
1996 Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal Catherine Cartwright 1 Episode: Reptilian Revenge/Ghostly Voices
1997 A Prayer in the Dark Anna TV Movie
I'll Be Home for Christmas Thelma Jenkins TV Movie
1996 Moonlight Becomes You Nuala Moore TV Movie


  1. Franklin, Stephen. "'Frances Hyland: She's Battling Canada's No-Star System' from Weekend Magazine" (1964) [textual record]. Elizabeth Long, Series: 5: Subject Files, File: Entertainers: actors, ID: File 415. Waterloo, Ontario: Special Collections & Archives, University of Waterloo.
  2. "Frances Hyland acting & directing credits". Stratford Festival Archives. Retrieved 2019-05-10.
  3. Frances Hyland on IMDb
  4. Profile,; accessed January 28, 2015.
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