Peggy Cass (left), with James Thurber and Joan Anderson in A Thurber Carnival, 1960
|Born||Mary Margaret Cass
May 21, 1924
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||March 8, 1999
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Eugene Feeney (1979–1999) (her death)|
A native of Boston, Massachusetts, Cass became interested in acting as a member of the drama club at Cambridge Latin School; however, she attended all of high school without a speaking part. After graduating from high school, she spent most of the 1940s in search of an acting career, eventually landing Jan Sterling's role in a traveling production of Born Yesterday.
Stage and film
Cass made her Broadway debut in 1949 with the play Touch and Go.
Remembered today primarily as a regular panelist on the long-running To Tell The Truth, Cass was best known for her performance as Agnes Gooch in Auntie Mame on both Broadway and in the film version (1958), a role for which she won the Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress, and later received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Cass was also part of the nine member ensemble cast for the 1960 Broadway revue A Thurber Carnival, adapted by James Thurber from his own works. As "First Woman", according to the script, she played the mother in "The Wolf at the Door", a woman who insisted Macbeth was a murder mystery, the wife Mr. Preble wanted to get rid of, Miss Alma Winege (who wanted to ship Thurber 36 copies of Grandma Was a Nudist), a woman helping to update old poetry, Walter Mitty's wife, and the narrator of "The Little Girl and The Wolf".
In 1964 she starred as First Lady Martha Dinwiddie Butterfield in the mock-biographical novel First Lady: My Thirty Days in the White House. The book, written by Auntie Mame author Patrick Dennis, included photographs by Cris Alexander of Cass, Dody Goodman, Kaye Ballard and others, portraying the novel's characters.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s she replaced other actresses in Don't Drink the Water (as Marion Hollander) and in Neil Simon's Plaza Suite; and played Mollie Malloy in two revival runs of The Front Page. She also appeared in the 1969 film comedy If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium. In the 1980s she returned to the stage in 42nd Street and in the brief 1985 run of The Octette Bridge Club.
Television and Stage
According to Jack Paar, speaking in retrospect, he felt he may have ruined Cass's Oscar chances by lobbying too much for her on his enormously popular television series The Tonight Show. Cass filled in as announcer for Paar's late night talk show that aired in the 1970s on ABC.
In the 1961–1962 season, Cass and Jack Weston costarred in an ABC sitcom, The Hathaways, along with the Marquis Chimps, a chimpanzee showbiz troupe which served as her "children" on the show. The Hathaways followed the new adventure series Straightaway on ABC, about two young men (John Ashley and Brian Kelly) involved in auto racing, but neither program could compete with CBS's Rawhide starring Clint Eastwood and Eric Fleming.
Aside from her work with Jack Paar, her most notable television appearances came as a guest on many game shows, mainly on shows based in New York City. She was a regular panelist on To Tell the Truth from the 1960 through its 1990 revival, appearing in most episodes in the 1960s and 1970s. She was also a panelist on the pilot of the 1960s version of Match Game. On Truth and other series, she often displayed near-encyclopedic knowledge of various topics, and would occasionally question the logic of some of the "facts" presented on the program. She also appeared in the late '70s on Shoot for the Stars.
In 1983 she appeared in the New Amsterdam Theatre Company's concert staging of Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash's One Touch of Venus as Mrs. Kramer, opposite Susan Lucci as her daughter, as well as Lee Roy Reams, Ron Raines, and Paige O'Hara as the titular Venus. In the spring of 1991 she participated in a concert staging of Cole Porter's Fifty Million Frenchmen at New York City's French Institute/Alliance Francaise, in the role of Mrs. Gladys Carroll, singing Porter's "The Queen of Terre Haute." (Her performance was repeated on a 1991 studio cast recording based on the concert staging, appearing alongside Howard McGillin, Susan Powell, Kim Criswell, and Karen Ziemba.)
Personal Life and Death
On March 8, 1999, Cass died of heart failure in New York City at the age of 74 at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. She was survived by her husband, a former Jesuit priest and educator, Eugene Michael (Gene) Feeney (1924–2013). They had no children.
Awards and nominations
- 1957 Tony Award, Best Featured Actress in a Play – Agnes Gooch in Auntie Mame
- 1957 Theatre World Award – Agnes Gooch in Auntie Mame
- 1958 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress – Agnes Gooch in Auntie Mame
- 1958 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture – Agnes Gooch in Auntie Mame
- Thurber, James (1962). A Thurber Carnival. New York: Samuel French, Inc. OCLC 154260496.
- Time writers (1964-08-07). "Also Current". Time. Retrieved 2007-03-31.
- Marshall Akers (2007-08-22). "To Tell the Truth". University of Georgia New Media Institute. Archived from the original on 2007-05-02. Retrieved 2007-05-28.
- Peggy Cass, 74, an Actress; Won Tony as Agnes Gooch
- Peggy Cass at the Internet Broadway Database
- Peggy Cass at the Internet Movie Database
- A Thurber Carnival at the Internet Broadway Database
- Peggy Cass at Find a Grave