Marian Seldes

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Marian Seldes
Marian Seldes in 2009.jpg
Marian Seldes in 2009
Born (1928-08-23) August 23, 1928 (age 86)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Spouse(s) Julian Claman (1953-1961; divorced; 1 child)
Garson Kanin (1990-1999; his death)
Children Katharine

Marian Hall Seldes (born August 23, 1928) is an American stage, film, radio, and television actress whose career has spanned six decades. She was elected to the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1995.

Life and career[edit]

Seldes was born in New York City, the daughter of Alice "Amanda" Wadhams (Hall), a socialite, and Gilbert Seldes, a journalist, author, and editor.[1] Her uncle was journalist George Seldes. Seldes's paternal grandparents were Russian Jewish immigrants, and her mother was from a "prominent WASP family," the "Episcopalian blue-blooded Halls."[2][3] Seldes had a brother, Timothy, and grew up in a creative environment, studying acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse. Her mother's sister, Marian Wells Hall (died 1972), was a prominent American interior decorator.[4]

Trained for the stage, Seldes made her Broadway theatre debut in 1948 in a production of Medea. She went on to an illustrious career in which she has earned five Tony Award nominations, winning her first time out in 1967 for A Delicate Balance. In addition to performing in live theatre, Seldes began acting in television in 1952 in a Hallmark Hall of Fame production that marked the first of many guest star roles. She also has performed in a number of motion pictures and in radio plays. In the mid '60s, Seldes recorded five albums for Folkways Records of famous works of literature.[5] Between 1974 and 1982, she appeared in 179 episodes of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater. In 1992 she appeared as Murphy Brown's eccentric Aunt Brooke.

She has a daughter, Katharine, by her first marriage to Julian Claman. They were divorced in 1961. Seldes says that the marriage to Claman was violent. “If I sound a little vague about that marriage, it’s because I don’t understand the person in it. Me. I literally didn’t know that people could be abusive." Seldes left the marriage after her father noticed marks on Seldes's face.[6] Seldes was married to screenwriter/playwright Garson Kanin from 1990 until his death in 1999.[6]

At various times, Sanford Meisner, Katharine Cornell, and Martha Graham taught Marian Seldes. Actor Laura Linney says, "Marian is our touchstone to those theatrical ancestors. She provides an inspiration that makes you want to reach outside of yourself to something more potent and powerful."[6] Marian Seldes was a member of the drama faculty of The Juilliard School from 1967 to 1991. Marian Seldes's students include Christopher Reeve, Robin Williams, Kelsey Grammer, Kevin Kline, William Hurt, and Patti LuPone.[6] In 2002 Marian Seldes began teaching at Fordham University, Lincoln Center.

Seldes appeared in every one of the 1,809 Broadway performances of Ira Levin's play Deathtrap, a feat that earned her a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records as "most durable actress."[7][8] Seldes is also well known for her readings of short stories in the "Selected Shorts" series hosted by Isaiah Sheffer at New York City's Symphony Space. In December 2008, for their annual birthday celebration to "The Master", The Noel Coward Society invited Seldes as the guest celebrity to lay flowers in front of Coward's statue at New York's Gershwin Theatre, thereby commemorating the 109th birthday of Sir Noel. Marian Seldes is the recipient of a 2010 Antoinette Perry ("Tony") Lifetime Achievement Award.[9]

In 2012, Seldes played a knife-wielding socialite Mabel Billingsly in the film adaptation of Wendy Mass’s popular children’s book Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, written and directed by Tamar Halpern.

Partial Listing of Marian Seldes's Work[edit]

Marian Seldes, as Bertha in Giraudoux's Ondine, 1954



  • Our Sister Emily (TV movie) Played Emily Bronte (1950) (television debut)
  • Sure As Fate (TV showcase) Played Lady Macduff in Macbeth (1951)
  • Westinghouse Studio One Played Bell Giles in "The Laugh Maker" 1953
  • Gunsmoke Played Mrs. Cullen in "Indian White" (1956)
  • Have Gun Will Travel Played Christie Smith in "The Bride" (1957) and Mollie Stanton in "The Teacher" (1958)
  • Perry Mason Played Mary K. Davis in "The Case of the Screaming Woman" (1958)
  • The Court of Last Resort Played Roberta Farrell in "The Frank Clark Case" (1958) and Mary Morales in "The Mary Morales Case" (1958)
  • Half Hour to Kill Played Joyce Field. "Half Hour to Kill" was a proposed but unrealized television series mystery show with episodes hosted by Vincent Price and planned to occasionally star him as well. Released to the home movie market as "Freedom to Get Lost" with Price playing scientist Gene Wolcott and Seldes playing an undercover security agent tracking him. The episode is available on the DVD titled "Vincent Price The Sinister Image". (1958)
  • The Rifleman Played Lucas McCain's wife and Mark McCain's mother Hazel and her spirit in "The Vision" (1960)
  • Murphy Brown Played Murphy's Aunt Brooke in "I'm Dreaming of a Brown Christmas" (1992)
  • Cosby Played Elaine in "One Foot in Your Mouth" (1996) and Virginia in "The Greatest Gift" (1998)
  • Sex and the City Guest-starred as Mr. Big's Mother Mrs. Big in "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" (1998).
  • A Nero Wolfe Mystery (2001)—Portrayed Mrs. Robilotti in "Champagne for One", and Mrs. Pitcairn in "Door to Death"
  • Frasier Played Betty, Ronee's mother (Wendy Malick), in episode "Miss Right Now" (2004).
  • Law & Order: SVU played Peggy Kendall in "Haystack" (2007)



Theodore Bikel: "Songs of Songs" and other Biblical Prophecies" featuring Marian Seldes as Shulamite. (1964))

  • Tower Beyond Tragedy by Robinson Jeffers (1964)
  • Phèdre by Jean Racine (1964)
  • Prayers from the Ark: French and English Poems (1964)

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • 1967 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play: A Delicate Balance
  • 1971 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance: Father's Day
  • 1983 Outer Circle Critics Award for Best Actress in a Play: Painting Churches
  • 2010 Tony Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 1971 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play: Father's Day
  • 1978 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play: Deathtrap
  • 1998 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play: Ivanov
  • 1999 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play: Ring Round the Moon
  • 1999 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play: Ring Round the Moon
  • 2001 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play: The Butterfly Collection
  • 2001 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play: The Play About the Baby
  • 2003 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play: Dinner at Eight
  • 2006 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play: Dedication or The Stuff of Dreams


  1. ^ "Marian Seldes Biography (1928-)". Retrieved March 27, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Marian Seldes to headline her latest stage return". The Villager. Retrieved March 27, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Marian Seldes Biography". Yahoo! Movies. April 20, 2011. Retrieved March 27, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Marian Wells Hall, Decorator, Was 76". The New York Times. March 2, 1972. 
  5. ^ "Seldes Discography". Smithsonian Folkways. 
  6. ^ a b c d Witchel, Alex (June 14, 2010). "The 60-Year Stage Life of Marian Seldes". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ "Ira Levin, Author of Hit Mystery Play Deathtrap, Dies at 78". Playbill. Retrieved March 27, 2013. 
  8. ^ "No. 4 in Long Play Runs, 'Deathtrap' Will Close". The New York Times. [dead link]
  9. ^ "Spotlight On: The 2012-2013 Broadway Season". Retrieved March 27, 2013. 

External links[edit]