Jo Van Fleet
Jo Van Fleet
Van Fleet in 1955
Catherine Josephine Van Fleet
December 29, 1915
Oakland, California, U.S.
|Died||June 10, 1996 (aged 80)|
Jamaica, New York, U.S.
(m. 1946; died 1990)
Catherine Josephine Van Fleet (December 29, 1915 – June 10, 1996) was a theatre, film, and television actress from the United States. Known primarily for playing roles older than she was, her career spanned over three decades, and she won an Oscar as well as a Tony Award.
Van Fleet established herself as a notable dramatic actress on Broadway over several years, beginning in 1946 as Dorcas in The Winter's Tale, and playing Regan in King Lear in 1950. She won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play in 1954 for her performance as Jessie Mae Watts in Horton Foote's The Trip to Bountiful, costarring Lillian Gish and Eva Marie Saint.
After her success on the stage, director Elia Kazan brought her to Hollywood to work on screen. Kazan, who had directed her on stage in 1952's Flight to Egypt and 1953's Camino Real, cast her as Cathy Ames in his film adaptation of John Steinbeck's East of Eden (1955); this was her film debut. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. Her subsequent film work was steady through 1960, and included films such as The Rose Tattoo (1955), I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955), The King and Four Queens (1956), and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957). However, her career did not progress as she had hoped. Her friend and mentor, Kazan, once said "Jo stagnated, and, since she knew it, was bitter. And as she became bitter, she became more difficult."
In 1958, she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance in Look Homeward, Angel, in which she played the acquisitive mother of Anthony Perkins' character. Her later films included Wild River (1960) – though only 44, Van Fleet would spend five hours every morning getting into her make-up and applying wrinkles to play the role of an 89-year-old matriarch. Other notable roles include the Wicked Stepmother in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (1965), Paul Newman's mother in Cool Hand Luke (1967), and the mother in I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968).
Van Fleet's work on television included such series as Naked City, Thriller, Bonanza, The Wild Wild West, and Police Woman. Among her most emotionally charged dramatic performances on television is her portrayal of the explosive Mrs. Shrike in the 1956 episode "Shopping for Death" on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Van Fleet was married to choreographer William Bales from 1946 until his death in 1990. Van Fleet died in a Jamaica, Queens hospital from undisclosed causes at the age of 80. Her body was cremated and her ashes returned to her family. She was survived by her son Michael Bales and grandson Arden Rogow-Bales.
She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to Motion Pictures at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard.
|1955||Max Liebman Spectaculars||Aunt Dete||Episode: "Heidi"|
|Star Tonight||Irene Rankin||Episode: "Concerning Death"|
|East of Eden||Kate||Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress|
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles
|The Philco Television Playhouse||Shirley||Episode: "A Business Proposition"|
|The Rose Tattoo||Bessie|
|I'll Cry Tomorrow||Katie Roth|
|1956||Kraft Theatre||Ma||Episode: "Snapfinger Creek"|
|The King and Four Queens||Ma McDade|
|Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Mrs. Shrike||Episode: "Shopping for Death"|
|1957||Gunfight at the O.K. Corral||Kate Fisher|
|This Angry Age||Mme. Dufresne|
|Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Anna Kaminsky||Episode: "Reward to Finder"|
|1958||Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse||Mrs. Lombe||Episode: "The Crazy Hunter"|
|1959||Alcoa Theatre||Mrs. Weiss||Episode: "30 Pieces of Silver"|
|G.E. True Theatre||Miss Wanda Kelsey||Episode: "Disaster"|
|1960||Wild River||Ella Garth|
|Play of the Week||Canina||Episode: "Volpone"|
|1961||The DuPont Show of the Month||Callie||Episode: "The Night of the Storm"|
|Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Molly||Episode: "Servant Problem"|
|Thriller||Mrs. Cissy Hawk||Episode: "The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk"|
|1962||Naked City||Dr. Anna Chaloupka||Episode: "The Night the Saints Lost Their Halos"|
|Frontier Circus||Amelia Curtis||Episode: "The Courtship"|
|1963||Route 66||Hazel Quine||Episode: "The Stone Guest"|
|77 Sunset Strip||Jane Patterson||Episode: "Don't Wait for Me"|
|1964||Summer Playhouse||Velma Clarke||Episode: "Satan's Waitin'"|
|Kraft Suspense Theatre||Hildy Hesse||Episode: "The World I Want"|
|1965||Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella||Stepmother||TV movie|
|1966||The Virginian||Lee Calder||Episode: "Legacy of Hate"|
|1967||Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre||Emily Cooper||Episode: "Verdict for Terror"|
|Cool Hand Luke||Arletta|
|1968||I Love You, Alice B. Toklas||Mother|
|1969||The Wild Wild West||Amelia Bronston||Episode: "The Night of the Tycoons"|
|80 Steps to Jonah||Nonna|
|1970||Mannix||Alexandra Pulvarenti||Episode: "One for the Lady"|
|Mod Squad||Annie Crabtree||Episode: "'A' is for Annie"|
|Bonanza||Amy Wilder||Episode: "The Trouble with Amy"|
|1971||Great Performances||Clara||Episode: "Paradise Lost"|
|Bonanza||Miss Ellen Dobbs||Episode: "The Stillness Within"|
|The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight||Big Momma|
|Medical Center||Margaret||Episode: "Martyr"|
|1972||The Family Rico||Mama Rico||TV movie|
|1973||Medical Center||Leah||Episode: "Time of Darkness"|
|Satan's School for Girls||Headmistress||TV movie co-produced by Aaron Spelling|
|1976||The Tenant||Madame Dioz|
|1977||Police Woman||Irini Karabetas||Episode: "The Buttercup Killer"|
|1980||Power||Mother Vanda||TV movie|
|1986||Seize the Day||Mrs. Einhorn||Final film role|
- The birth of Jo Van Fleet, californiabirthindex.org; accessed September 2, 2015.
- Vallance, Tom. Obituary: Jo Van Fleet, The Independent, June 20, 1996; accessed November 21, 2013
- "Shopping for Death", S1E18, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, originally broadcast January 29, 1956. Internet Movie Database (IMDb), a subsidiary of Amazon, Seattle, Washington. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
- Gussow, Mel. Jo Van Fleet, 81, an Actress Who Portrayed Proud Women. The New York Times. June 11, 1996; accessed January 17, 2020.
- Wilson, Scott (September 16, 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3d ed.). McFarland. p. 769. ISBN 978-1476625997.
- "Motion Picture's Christmas Toy Party". Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, Vol. 84, No. 5; page 33.
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