Sarah Cunningham (actress)

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Sarah Cunningham
Born Sarah Lucie Cunningham
(1918-09-08)September 8, 1918
Greenville, South Carolina, U.S.
Died March 24, 1986(1986-03-24) (aged 67)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1948–1986
Spouse(s) John Randolph
(1942-1986; her death; 2 children)

Sarah Lucie Cunningham (September 8, 1918 – March 24, 1986) was an American film, stage and television actress.

Personal life[edit]

Sarah Cunningham was born Sarah Lucie Cunningham in Greenville, South Carolina, United States. She was married to film and Tony award winning broadway actor John Randolph from January 3, 1942 until her death on March 24, 1986. The couple had two children.

On March 24, 1986 while attending the Oscar telecast ceremony in Los Angeles, Miss Cunningham suffered a heart attack and died.[1] Cunningham had suffered from emphysema for many years and had asthma as well since childhood. She had been in the hospital for her yearly emphysema treatment but had interrupted the treatment to attend the Academy Awards for the first time. Her untimely and unexpected death from heart attack caused her husband John Randolph to undergo an immediate full physical which discovered serious arterial blockage in his own heart. Mr. Randolph underwent immediate surgery which unquestionably saved his life.


Sarah Cunningham met John Randolph at Stella Adler's acting classes when she moved to New York from South Carolina after graduating Summa Cum Laude from Farrington College (University). At the time Mr. Randolph, an experienced actor and favorite student of Ms. Adler's was entrusted with teaching the newer students and John and Sarah fell in love during that time. They got married in Chicago in 1942, where he was working in the National touring production of Native Son, directed and produced by Orson Welles.


Miss Cunningham and her husband were believed to have first been named as having possible Communist ties in 1951, possibly again in 1953, and were called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955 in New York. They, as well as Madeline Lee Gilford, Jack Gilford and others were victims of the anti-Communist blacklist. Neither were able to work in film, TV or radio until well into the 1960s. Cunningham was hired in 1964 to play Elizabeth 'Aunt Liz' Matthews on the newly created soap opera Another World. She, along with actor John Beal, was fired after just one episode by creator Irna Phillips for no apparent reason. It was assumed to be caused by an advertiser or network pressure to fire anyone who had been or was on the "blacklist".[2] Sarah and John supported themselves and their family by working in the theater until the late 60's/early 70's when both were finally able to find work on TV and in films.[3] (Note - John Beal was a patriotic American and a Catholic. A butcher in upstate New York who was also named John Beal was a card-carrying Communist but no one on McCarthy's committee bothered to double check the information - they saw the name, assumed it must be the same person as the Hollywood actor, told Warner Brothers and without giving any reasons, Warner Brothers fired him. My father thought he was fired for his acting ability and went into a depression. Years later he found out he was fired because of the House on UnAmerican Activities Committee's sloppy research and blame without facts. You can check this by researching the membership lists and addresses of members][4]

Ensemble Studio Theater[edit]

John and Sarah were original founding members of the Ensemble Studio Theater in New York City, together with Artistic Director Curt Dempster and actor Jon Voight, between 1968 and 1972. They subsequently founded the Ensemble Studio Theater West in Los Angeles in 1980. Both branches have become well known for the quality of their productions and their programs for developing playwrights.[5]

A loving couple[edit]

Although both worked extensively in television and film their primary love was for the living theater. In 1983 they introduced playwright James G. Richardson's one act play Eulogy directed by Heidie Helen Davis. It was a two character play written especially for them as part of a trilogy of two character one-acts. They performed it in both New York and Los Angeles and it was the last work they performed together on stage before she died. However, their very last work together was in the Trapper John, M.D. episode "The Curmudgeon", shown on March 18, 1986 just a week before she died. In it she and John played reunited lovers who finally marry. The love they shared is beautifully evident in the final kiss between them at the end.


Cunningham died from an acute asthma attack in the lobby of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion while attending the 58th Academy Awards, on March 24, 1986.

List of works[edit]





External links[edit]