In the film Dishonored Lady (1947)
November 5, 1900|
Red Bank, New Jersey, U.S.
April 10, 1991 (aged 90)|
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Liver cancer|
(m. 1933; div. 1942)
Early life and career
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Natalie Schafer was born November 5, 1900 in Red Bank, New Jersey and raised in Manhattan, New York, the eldest of the three children of Jennie (née Tim; family name originally Tein) and Charles Emanual Schafer, both of German Jewish descent.
Schafer began her career as an actress on Broadway before moving to Los Angeles in 1941 to work in films. She appeared on Broadway in 17 plays between 1927-59, often playing supporting roles. Most of those appearances were in short-run plays, with the exceptions of Lady in the Dark (1941–42), The Doughgirls (1942–44), and Romanoff and Juliet (1957–58). She was seen in a revival of Six Characters in Search of an Author, directed by Sir Tyrone Guthrie (1955–56). She also appeared in stock and regional productions, including the off-Broadway production The Killing of Sister George, with Claire Trevor in the title role.
Schafer performed in many films, usually portraying sophisticates; including "Lovey Howell" on Gilligan's Island. She reprised her role in made-for-television spin-off films after the show ended, along with the animated spinoff Gilligan's Planet in 1982. She guest-starred as well on many other television series, including Goodyear Playhouse/Philco Playhouse ("The Sisters", with Grace Kelly, 1951), I Love Lucy (1954), Producers' Showcase ("The Petrified Forest", 1955), Guestward, Ho! (1960), The Beverly Hillbillies (1964), Mayberry RFD (1970), The Brady Bunch (1974), Three's Company, The Love Boat, and Phyllis (1976).
For the 1971-1972 television season, Schafer joined the cast of the CBS daytime-serial, Search for Tomorrow, portraying Helen Collins, mother of Wade and Clay Collins. Immediately following that role, she played Augusta Roulland on another daytime soap, Love of Life. Her final performance was in the 1990 made-for-television horror film I'm Dangerous Tonight.
Schafer was married to actor Louis Calhern from 1934–42; they had no children. Schafer and Calhern remained on good terms and later appeared together in the 1956 film Forever, Darling, long after their divorce.
Like many other actresses, Schafer was legendarily secretive about her age. She reportedly never revealed her true year of birth even to her husband during their marriage. For many years, her birth year was generally given as 1912. Few people believed this, yet her actual year of birth of 1900 (which was not discovered until after her death) shocked even her intimate friends. She was reportedly also a breast cancer survivor, a fact she withheld from her fans and friends.
Her investments, particularly in real estate, made her a multi-millionaire. Differing sources state that most of this fortune was bequeathed to either her Gilligan's Island co-star Dawn Wells or to care for her dogs. Wells did not comment on that, but she did claim on Vicki Lawrence's talk show Vicki! that Schafer spent her last years living with her, adding that she essentially had served as Natalie's caretaker during that time. Wells also stated on Vicki! that one of Schafer's favorite things on Gilligan's Island was "falling through quicksand".
Schafer died of liver cancer in her Beverly Hills home, aged 90. She was cremated; her ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean, off San Pedro's Point Fermin Light. She bequeathed between $1.5 million and $2 million to the Lillian Booth Actors Home to renovate the hospital's outpatient wing, which was renamed the Natalie Schafer Wing in 1993.
- The Body Disappears (1941) – Mrs. Lunceford
- Marriage Is a Private Affair (1944) – Mrs. Irene Selworth
- Keep Your Powder Dry (1945) – Harriet Corwin
- Molly and Me (1945) – Kitty Goode-Burroughs
- Wonder Man (1945) – Mrs. Hume
- Masquerade in Mexico (1945) – Irene Denny
- The Other Love (1947) – Dora Shelton
- Dishonored Lady (1947) – Ethel Royce
- Repeat Performance (1947) – Eloise Shaw
- Secret Beyond the Door (1947) – Edith Potter
- The Time of Your Life (1948) – Society Lady
- The Snake Pit (1948) – Mrs. Stuart
- Caught (1949) – Dorothy Dale
- Payment on Demand (1951) – Mrs. Edna Blanton
- Take Care of My Little Girl (1951) – Mother Cookie Clark
- The Law and the Lady (1951) – Pamela Pemberson
- Callaway Went Thataway (1951) – Martha Lorrison
- Just Across the Street (1952) – Gertrude Medford
- The Girl Next Door (1953) – Evelyn the maid
- Casanova's Big Night (1954) – Signora Foressi
- Female on the Beach (1955) – Queenie Sorenson
- Forever, Darling (1956) – Millie Opdyke
- Anastasia (1956) – Irina Lissemskaia
- Oh, Men! Oh, Women! (1957) – Mrs. Day
- Bernardine (1957) – Mrs. Madge Beaumont
- Back Street (1961) – Mrs. Evans
- Susan Slade (1961) – Marion Corbett
- 40 Carats (1973) – Mrs. Adams
- The Day of the Locust (1975) – Audrey Jennings
- Beverly Hills Brats (1989) – Lillian
- I'm Dangerous Tonight (1990) – Grandmother
- ""New York, New York City Births, 1846–1909" database". Retrieved March 18, 2016.
- Family Profile, americanjewisharchives.org; accessed August 8, 2017.
- "United States Census, 1910" Charles Schafer, Manhattan Ward 12, New York, New York; retrieved July 31, 2012.
- Michael Karol (2004). Funny Ladies; retrieved July 31, 2012.
- Frank Manning (December 14, 1994). "Hospital Marks Opening of Wing". Los Angeles Times.
- "The Lillian Booth Actors Home: History of the Home". Retrieved September 13, 2014.
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