Frances Sternhagen in 1962
Frances Hussey Sternhagen
January 13, 1930
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Residence||New Rochelle, New York, U.S.|
|Spouse(s)||Thomas Carlin (1956–1991; his death; 6 children)|
Early life and education
Sternhagen was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of John M. Sternhagen, a U.S. Tax Court judge, and Gertrude (née Hussey). Sternhagen was educated at the Madeira and Potomac schools in McLean, Virginia. At Vassar College she was elected head of the Drama Club "after silencing a giggling college crowd at a campus dining hall with her interpretation of a scene from Richard II, playing none other than Richard himself". She also studied at the Perry Mansfield School of the Theatre, and New York City's Neighborhood Playhouse.
Sternhagen started her career teaching acting, singing and dancing to school children at Milton Academy in Massachusetts, and she herself first performed in 1948 at a Bryn Mawr summer theater in The Glass Menagerie and Angel Street. She went on to work at Washington's Arena Stage from 1953–54, then made her Broadway debut in 1955 as Miss T. Muse in The Skin of Our Teeth. The same year she had her Off-Broadway debut in "Thieves' Carnival" and her TV debut in "The Great Bank Robbery" on "Omnibus" (CBS). By the following year, she had won an off-Broadway Obie Award for "Distinguished Performance (Actress)" in The Admirable Bashville (1955–56).
She has won two Tony awards, for "Best Supporting Actress (Dramatic)": in 1974 for the original Broadway production of Neil Simon's The Good Doctor (which also won her a Drama Desk Award for "Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play"); and in 1995 for the revival of The Heiress. She has been nominated for Tony awards five other times, including for her roles in the original Broadway casts of Equus (1975) and On Golden Pond (1979) as well as for Lorraine Hansberry's The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window (1972), the musical Angel (1978) which was based on Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel, and the 2002 revival of Paul Osborne's Morning's at Seven.
Her best-known Off-Broadway role was her feisty portrayal of the title character in 1988's Pulitzer prize-winning drama Driving Miss Daisy, which was originated by Dana Ivey at Playwrights Horizons in New York. Sternhagen took over the role after the show moved to the John Houseman Theatre and played it for more than two years.
Off-Broadway awards include two nominations for the Drama Desk Award for "Outstanding Actress in a Play" in 1998, for a revival of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night at the Irish Repertory Theatre and in 2005, for the World War I drama Echoes of the War. She also won Distinguished Performance Obie Awards for The Room and A Slight Ache (1964–65). In 1998 she won the Dramatists Guild Fund's Madge Evans & Sidney Kingsley Award for Excellence in Theater.
Sternhagen appeared as The Daughter in the original Broadway production of Edward Albee's All Over in 1971 with Colleen Dewhurst and Jessica Tandy. In the summer of 2005, she starred in the Broadway production of Steel Magnolias along with Marsha Mason, Delta Burke, Christine Ebersole, Lily Rabe, and Rebecca Gayheart. She also starred in the 2005 revival of Edward Albee's Seascape, produced by Lincoln Center Theater at the Booth Theater on Broadway.
In 2013, Sternhagen also won the Obie Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Sternhagen made her film debut in 1967's New York City high school drama Up the Down Staircase, which starred Sandy Dennis. She has worked periodically in Hollywood since then. She had character roles in the 1971 Paddy Chayefsky's The Hospital, in Two People (1973) and in Billy Wilder's Fedora (1978). She appeared in Starting Over (1979) which starred Burt Reynolds; with Sean Connery in Outland (1981); and with Michael J. Fox in Bright Lights, Big City (1988). She played Farrah Fawcett's mother in See You in the Morning (1989), Richard Farnsworth's wife in Misery (1990), Lillian in Doc Hollywood (1991) and John Lithgow's psychiatrist in Raising Cain (1992). Sternhagen starred in Frank Darabont's 2007 science fiction horror film The Mist. She also appeared in the family film Dolphin Tale (2011) and And So It Goes (2014).
She may be best known to TV audiences as Esther Clavin, mother of John Ratzenberger's Boston postman character Cliff Clavin, on the long-running series Cheers for which she received two Emmy Award nominations. She also played Millicent Carter on ER, Bunny MacDougal, mother of Trey, Charlotte's first husband on Sex and the City (another Emmy Award nomination) and in Law & Order, among other network dramas and sitcoms, and worked for many years in soap operas such as Another World, The Secret Storm and Love of Life. She played two roles on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live. She recorded a voiceover for a May 2002 episode of The Simpsons ("The Frying Game").
In summer 2006, she finished her 24th Broadway role, then appeared on TV's The Closer, playing Willie Rae Johnson, the mother of Brenda Leigh Johnson, the lead character. Sternhagen appeared in 12 episodes of the program. She is also recognized as "Mrs. Marsh" from a series of television commercials for Colgate toothpaste that aired in the 1970s.
She read as the title character in the Stephen King novel Dolores Claiborne in a 1995 audiobook recording. She also voiced characters in 13 episodes of CBS Radio Mystery Theater in the 1970s and 1980s.
Sternhagen met her husband, actor and drama teacher Thomas Carlin (who died in 1991), at The Catholic University of America. They had six children – Paul, Amanda, Tony, Sarah, Peter, and John – several of whom are also professional actors and musicians.
|1967||Up the Down Staircase||Charlotte Wolf|
|1967||The Tiger Makes Out||Lady on Bus|
|1971||The Hospital||Mrs. Cushing|
|1973||Two People||Mrs. McCluskey|
|1979||Starting Over||Marva Potter|
|1981||Outland||Dr. Marian Lazarus||Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1983||Independence Day||Carla Taylor|
|1983||Romantic Comedy||Blanche Dailey|
|1986||Resting Place||Eudora McCallister|
|1988||Bright Lights, Big City||Clara Tillinghast|
|1989||Communion||Dr. Janet Duffy|
|1989||See You in the Morning||Neenie|
|1990||Sibling Rivalry||Rose Turner|
|1990||Misery||Virginia||Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1991||Walking the Dog||Antique Dealer||Short film|
|1992||Raising Cain||Dr. Lynn Waldheim||Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1998||It All Came True||Amy|
|2000||Midnight Gospel||Ruth||Short film|
|2001||The Rising Place||Ruth Wilder|
|2007||The Mist||Irene Reppler|
|2009||Julie & Julia||Irma Rombauer|
|2011||Dolphin Tale||Gloria Forrest|
|2014||And So It Goes||Claire|
|1956||Westinghouse Studio One||Betty||Episode: "The Arena"|
|1957||Westinghouse Studio One||Mary||Episode: "My Mother and How She Undid Me"|
|1957||Goodyear Television Playhouse||Elizabeth Barnes||Episode: "The House"|
|1959||Play of the Week||Eva||Episode: "Thieves Carnival"|
|1961||Play of the Week||Episode: "In a Garden"|
|1962||The Broadway of Lerner and Loewe||Theatre-Goer||TV movie|
|1962||The Nurses||Mrs. Harris||Episode: "The Lady Made of Stone"|
|1964||The Defenders||Louise Kiley||Episode: "May Day! May Day!"|
|1964||Profiles in Courage||Miss Koeller||Episode: "Mary S. McDowell"|
|1967||NET Playhouse||Episode: "Infancy and Childhood"|
|1967||Hallmark Hall of Fame||Abigail||Episode: "Soldier in Love"|
|1967–1968||Love of Life||Toni Prentiss Davis||TV series|
|1970||The Doctors||Phyllis Corrigan||TV series|
|1971||NET Playhouse||Segment: "Foul!"|
|1971||Another World||Jane Overstreet||TV series|
|1972||Great Performances||Wilma Atkins||Episode: "The Rimers of Eldritch"|
|1974||The Secret Storm||Jessie Reddin||TV series|
|1974||Great Performances||Paulina||Episode: "Enemies"|
|1977||The Andros Targets||Mrs. Mason||Episode: "In the Event of My Death"|
|1978||Who'll Save Our Children?||Nellie Henderson||TV movie|
|1980||Mother and Daughter: The Loving War||Mrs. Lloyd||TV movie|
|1980||The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg||Mary Richards||TV short|
|1983||Prototype||Dorothy Forrester||TV movie|
|1984||The Dining Room||Various||TV movie|
|1985||Spencer||Millie Sprague||7 episodes|
|1986–1993||Cheers||Esther Clavin||7 episodes|
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
|1987||At Mother's Request||Berenice Bradshaw||TV movie|
|1987||Once Again||TV movie|
|1990||Follow Your Heart||Cloe Sixbury||TV movie|
|1991||American Experience||(voice)||Episode: "Coney Island"|
|1991||The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd||Dora||Episode: "Here's a High Dive Into a Shallow Pool"|
|1991||Golden Years||Gina Williams||7 episodes|
|1991||Law & Order||Margaret Langdon||Episode: "The Serpent's Tooth"|
|1992||She Woke Up||Noelle||TV movie|
|1992||Tales from the Crypt||Effie Gluckman||Episode: "None But the Lonely Heart"|
|1993||Labor of Love: The Arlette Schweitzer Story||Mary Rafferty||TV movie|
|1994||Vault of Horror I||TV movie|
|1994||The Road Home||Charlotte Babineaux||6 episodes|
|1994||Reunion||Tobie Yates||TV movie|
|1995||The Outer Limits||Jean Anderson||Episode: "The Choice"|
|1997||Law & Order||Estelle Muller||Episode: "Legacy"|
|1997–2003||ER||Millicent Carter||19 episodes|
|1998||The Con||Hadabelle||TV movie|
|1998||To Live Again||Constance Holmes||TV movie|
|2000–2002||Sex and the City||Bunny MacDougal||10 episodes|
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
|2002||The Laramie Project||Marge Murray||TV movie|
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
|2002||The Simpsons||Mrs. Bellamy (voice)||Episode: "The Frying Game"|
|2004||Becker||Naomi||Episode: "Subway Story"|
|2006–2012||The Closer||Willie Ray Johnson||15 episodes|
|2012||Parenthood||Blanche Braverman||Episode: "Road Trip"|
|1955||The Skin of Our Teeth||Miss T. Muse|
|1955||The Carefree Tree||Widow Yang|
|1960||Viva Madison Avenue!||Dee Jones|
|1962||Great Day in the Morning||Alice McAnany|
|1965–1966||The Right Honourable Gentleman||Mrs. Ashton Dilke|
|1967||A Doll's House||Nora|
|1967–1969||You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running||Harriet / Edith / Muriel (standby)|
|1968–1969||The Cocktail Party||Lavinia Chamberlayne|
|1970||Blood Red Roses||Various (standby)|
|1971||The Playboy of the Western World||Widow Quin|
|1971||All Over||The Daughter, The Mistress (standby)|
|1971||Mary Stuart||Mary Stuart, Queen Elizabeth (understudy)|
|1972||The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window||Mavis Parodus Bryson|
|1973–1974||The Good Doctor||Performer|
|1979–1980||On Golden Pond||Ethel Thayer|
|1983–1984||You Can't Take It with You|
|1995||The Heiress||Lavinia Penniman|
|1999||The Exact Center of the Universe|
|2002||Morning's at Seven||Ida Bolton|
- Joy, Cara."Frances Sternhagen in Talks to Join Company of Broadway Magnolias" Broadway.com, November 22, 2004
- "Frances Sternhagen Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
- "Frances Sternhagen". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on May 28, 2019. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
- "1950s". Obie Awards. Village Voice and American Theatre Wing. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
- "("Frances Sternhagen" search results)". Tony Awards. Tony Award Productions. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
- Lefkowitz, David."Brian Murray & Frances Sternhagen Take Irish Journey, Mar. 22" Archived September 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Playbill.com, March 22, 1998
- "2013 Obie Awards". Obie Awards. Village Voice and American Theatre Wing. Archived from the original on May 28, 2019. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
- "Frances Sternhagen Credits" hollywood.com, accessed August 27, 2011
- Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 195. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
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