Madeleine Sherwood

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Madeleine Sherwood
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof11.jpg
Sherwood and Jack Carson in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Born Madeleine Louise Hélène Thornton
(1922-11-13) November 13, 1922 (age 93)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Occupation Actress
Years active 1953-1989
Spouse(s) Robert Sherwood (1940-19??; divorced); 1 child

Madeleine Sherwood (born November 13, 1922) is a Canadian actress of stage, film and television. She is widely known for her portrayals of Mae/Sister Woman and Miss Lucy in both the Broadway and film versions of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Sweet Bird of Youth. She starred or featured in 18 original Broadway productions including Arturo Ui, Do I Hear a Waltz? and Invitation to a March. In 1963 she won an Obie Award for Best Actress for her performance in Hey You, Light Man! Off-Broadway. However, she may be best remembered as Reverend Mother Placido to Sally Field's Sister Bertrille in The Flying Nun from 1967-1970.

Early life[edit]

Sherwood was born as Madeleine Louise Hélène Thornton in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the granddaughter of the Dean of Dentistry at McGill University. Sherwood made her first stage appearance at the age of four in a church passion play. She started her professional career in Montreal when Rupert Kaplan cast her in CBC dramas and soap operas.[citation needed]


Sherwood moved to New York City in 1950 and made her first Broadway appearance in Horton Foote's The Chase, replacing Kim Stanley. In 1953 she originated the role of Abigail in Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Elia Kazan cast her as Mae, the horrible sister in law, in Tennessee Williams Cat On A Hot Tin Roof in 1954 and later in Sweet Bird of Youth as Miss Lucy. She reprised both her roles in the film versions. She became a member of the Actors Studio in 1957 working with Lee Strasberg and is now a life member of the Studio.[1][2]

Sherwood appeared in many soap opera over the years, most notably on Guiding Light as Mrs. Eilers and The Secret Storm as diner owner Carmen. She had cameos on All My Children as a bag lady and Another World as a befuddled matron, returning to Guiding Light briefly as Roxie Shayne's madame, Diamond Lil. She was featured in one of the last episodes of Capitol.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Sherwood was blacklisted during the McCarthy era.[4] During the Civil Rights Movement she met and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the late 1950s and 1960s and went south to join CORE (Congress on Racial Equality). She was arrested during a Freedom Walk, jailed and sentenced to six months hard labor[5] for "Endangering the Customs and Mores of the People of Alabama". Her lawyer, Fred Grey, was the first African-American lawyer to represent a white woman south of the Mason–Dixon Line. During this period, she reportedly lost much of her sense of hearing.

During the 1980s, she received a grant from A.F.I. as one of the first women to direct short films for the A.F.I. (along with Cicely Tyson, Joanne Woodward, and others). She wrote, directed and acted in her film, Good Night Sweet Prince, which received excellent notices.

In the 1970s, she met Gloria Steinem, Betty Dodson and other activists at the First Women’s Sexual Conference at Barnard College in New York City. From there she started consciousness raising groups and counseling workshops for Women and Incest. In the early 1990s, she returned to Canada and resettled in Victoria, British Columbia and Saint-Hippolyte, Quebec. Although she was a longtime resident of the United States, she has remained a Canadian citizen all her life. She has one daughter, two grandchildren and six great-grand children. She is an active member of the Society of Friends (Quakers).[citation needed]

Original Broadway productions[edit]

Off-Broadway – original productions[edit]

  • Getting Out
  • Hey You, Light Man
  • Brecht on Becket
  • Older People (at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater)

Selected film and television roles[edit]


  1. ^ Madeleine Sherwood at the Internet Broadway Database
  2. ^ Madeleine Sherwood at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
  3. ^ Madeleine Sherwood at the Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ King, Susan (August 31, 2003). "The Blacklist's gray tones". The Los Angeles Times. p. E25. Retrieved February 25, 2009. 
  5. ^ Stanton, Mary (2003). Freedom Walk: Mississippi Or Bust. Jackson, Mississippi: Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 133. ISBN 1-57806-505-4. 

External links[edit]