Elizabeth Hartman

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Elizabeth Hartman
Hartman in A Patch of Blue
Born Mary Elizabeth Hartman
(1943-12-23)December 23, 1943
Boardman, Ohio, U.S.
Died June 10, 1987(1987-06-10) (aged 43)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Cause of death Suicide by jumping
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Youngstown, Ohio, U.S.
Other names
  • Biff
  • Bliff Hartman
Occupation Actress
Years active 1964–1982
Spouse(s) Gill Dennis (1968 – 1984; divorced)

Mary Elizabeth Hartman (December 23, 1943 – June 10, 1987) was an American actress, best known for her performance in the 1965 film A Patch of Blue, playing a blind girl named Selina D'Arcy, opposite Sidney Poitier, a role for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress and the Golden Globe Award. The next year, she appeared in Francis Ford Coppola's You're a Big Boy Now as Barbara Darling, for which she was nominated for another Golden Globe Award. On stage, she was best known for her interpretations of Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie and Emily Webb in Our Town. [1]

Early life[edit]

Mary Elizabeth Hartman was born in Boardman, Ohio, the daughter of Claire (née Mullaly 1918–1997) and B.C. Hartman (1914–1964).[2] She had a sister, Janet, and a brother, William.[3][4] She was a standout dramatic student at Boardman High School, where she graduated in 1961.[5] She won a state-wide award for Best Actress in a high school production for her performance as Laura in The Glass Menagerie. She performed in several productions at the Youngstown Playhouse during her youth, including A Clearing in the Woods by Arthur Laurents and Our Town. She attended Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, where she met her future husband, Gill Dennis, and spent her summers working for the Kenley Players.[6] She also performed at the Cleveland Playhouse in several productions, including The Madwoman of Chaillot and Bus Stop. She was encouraged to move to New York City and begin auditioning for plays there. In 1964, Hartman was signed to play the ingénue lead in the comedy Everybody Out, the Castle is Sinking, which was not a success, however her performance was again positively received, and film producers took notice.[7]

Film and theatre career[edit]

In 1964, Hartman was screen-tested by MGM and Warner Brothers.[4] In the early autumn of 1964, she was offered a leading role in A Patch of Blue, opposite Sidney Poitier and Shelley Winters. The role won Hartman widespread critical acclaim, a fact proudly noted by the news media in her hometown. During this time, her father, who worked in construction, died.[8] The role also won Hartman an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. At the time of her nomination in 1966, Elizabeth Hartman (who was 22 years old) was the youngest nominee ever in the Best Actress category. That same year, Hartman received an achievement award from the National Association of Theater Owners.[9] In 1966, she starred as Laura opposite Mercedes McCambridge as Amanda in a production of The Glass Menagerie in Pittsburgh.[10]

She went on to star in three well-received films, The Group, You're a Big Boy Now and The Beguiled. A role as Pauline, the wife of former Sheriff Buford Pusser in Walking Tall (1973) was followed a decade later by voice work in 1982's critically acclaimed animated feature The Secret of NIMH, wherein she voiced mouse-heroine Mrs. Brisby. She was highly praised for her performance as Mrs. Brisby, however this proved to be her last Hollywood film role. Hartman's last on-screen role was in 1981's horror-comedy, Full Moon High, where she appeared as the villainous Miss Montgomery.

In 1975, Hartman starred in the premiere of Tom Rickman's play Balaam, a play about political intrigue in Washington, D.C. The production was mounted in Old Town Pasadena, California, by the Pasadena Repertory Theatre located in The Hotel Carver. It was directed by Hartman's husband, Gill Dennis. In 1981, she starred in a touring production of Morning's at Seven, but left the tour due to declining mental health.[11]

Later years and death[edit]

Throughout much of her life, Hartman suffered from depression.[12] In 1978, she was treated at The Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut.[13] In 1984, she divorced her husband, screenwriter Gill Dennis, after a five-year separation. In the last few years of her life, she gave up acting altogether and worked at a museum in Pittsburgh while receiving treatment for her condition at an outpatient clinic. Her sister and caretaker, Janet, told the Los Angeles Times:[14]

"She was very suicidal," she recalls. "As soon as I arrived, she took an overdose of sleeping pills and was rushed to intensive care. But, the next night, she appeared on stage and she was wonderful. I spent two weeks with her to try to get her to the theater every night. She was frightened of everyone and everything. We'd go to breakfast, and she'd get up and dash out as though somebody was after her.[15]

On June 10, 1987, Hartman committed suicide by jumping from the window of her fifth floor apartment.[12] Earlier that morning, she had reportedly called her psychiatrist saying that she felt despondent.[16] Hartman was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in her home town and her mother, who outlived her by 10 years, is buried next to her.[17]


Year Title Role Notes
1965 A Patch of Blue Selina D'Arcey Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer – Female
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
1965 A Cinderella Named Elizabeth Herself MGM promotional film for A Patch of Blue
1966 The Group Priss
1966 You're a Big Boy Now Barbara Darling Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1968 The Fixer Zinaida
1970 Pursuit of Treasure
1971 The Beguiled Edwina Dabney
1971 Night Gallery Judith Timm Episode: "The Dark Boy"
1973 Walking Tall Pauline Pusser
1973 Love, American Style Wilma More Segment: "Love and the Locksmith"
1975 Wide World Mystery Camilla Episode: "A Little Bit Like Murder"
1975 Doctors' Hospital Bobbie Marks Episode: "Come at Last to Love"
1980 Willow B: Women in Prison Helen Alternative title: A Matter of Survival (pilot not produced)
1981 Full Moon High Miss Montgomery
1982 The Secret of NIMH Mrs. Brisby Voice

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.playbill.com/production/our-town-anta-playhouse-vault-0000005280
  2. ^ Claire Hartman death record accessed 12/9/2016
  3. ^ People Magazine Hartman Profile accessed 12/9/2016
  4. ^ a b "Biff Hartman of Playhouse Roles Has Broadway Lead". The Steel Valley News. 1964-11-22. p. 24. 
  5. ^ Boardman woman remembered accessed 12/9/2016
  6. ^ Hartman biography accessed 12/9/2016
  7. ^ Our Town biography accessed 12/9/2016
  8. ^ Childress, Fred (1965-12-16). "Elizabeth Hartman Wins Praise As "Patch of Blue" Opens". The Youngstown Vindicator. p. 44. 
  9. ^ "Elizabeth Hartman Given Award of Theater". The New York Times. 1966-09-30. 
  10. ^ The Pittsburgh Press 1962 accessed 12/9/2016
  11. ^ LA Times Hartman profile accessed 12/9/2016
  12. ^ a b "Elizabeth Hartman, 'Patch of Blue' Star, Is Suspected Suicide". New York Times. 1987-06-12. 
  13. ^ People Mag 1987 article
  14. ^ LA Times Profile
  15. ^ Cite error: The named reference screen was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  16. ^ The Vindicator Youngstown, Ohio. 1987-06-11.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ "No film stars attend Miss Hartman rites". The Youngstown Vindicator. 1987-06-14. p. D-19. 

External links[edit]