Tony Award-winning actor Francis Sternhagen dies at 93

NEW YORK (AP) — Frances Sternhagen, the veteran character actor who won two Tony Awards and later in life became a familiar maternal face to TV audiences on shows such as “Cheers,” “ER,” “Sex and the City” and “ .The Closer' has died. She was 93.

Sternhagen died peacefully of natural causes on Monday, his son John Carlin said in a statement Posted on Instagram on Wednesday. “Fly, Franny,” he wrote. "The curtain rises on a life lived with such richness, dedication, humility and generosity." Sternhagen's publicist confirmed the death and said it occurred in New Rochelle, New York.

Sternhagen won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her role in Neil Simon's "The Good Doctor" in 1974 and another for the 1995 revival of "The Heiress." His last appearance on Broadway was in "Seascape" in 2005.

He was nominated four times for Tonys for acting or featured roles in "The Sign in the Sidney Brustein Window," "Equus," "Angel" and "Morning at Seven." In 2013, she played Edie Falco's mother in the off-Broadway play "The Madrid".

"I've been very fortunate," Sternhagen told the Daily Breeze of Torrance, California, in 2002. "And I think a lot of that's because I'm considered a character actor – which really means you can do a variety of things. It doesn't mean you can't do leading roles, because I It did. But you're not limited to just playing yourself."

In a 2005 review of "Steel Magnolias", then-Associated Press drama critic Michael Kuchwara called Sternhagen "one of the treasures of the New York theater, capable of playing any role with considerable sympathy. Here, he plays a thrown Turns the part into one that provides a lot of laughter and applause.”

She maintained a prosperous career while raising six children. He always said his family came first – commuting to and from his suburban home in New Rochelle while acting on Broadway – but he acknowledged that touring and film and TV work sometimes took him away from home.

"I remember telling my older daughter when she was about 13 that sometimes I felt very guilty that I wasn't home all the time," she told a Gale Group reporter. "And my daughter said, 'Oh, Mom, it would be impossible if you were home all the time.' "I'm sure she was right."

TV viewers knew her from her role as Dr. John Carter's (Noah Wyle) wealthy grandmother on the long-running "ER." On "Cheers" she was the omniscient mother of mailman Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger). He told The New York Times, "It was impossible to play her and it was so much fun to play her." He received two Emmy nominations for this role.

Most recently, she played the recurring role of Bunny McDougal, the strong-minded mother-in-law of Charlotte (Kristin Davis) on "Sex and the City", which earned her her third Emmy nomination, and she played Kyra Sedgwick's mother. Closer." Soap opera fans of the 1960s knew her as Tony Prentice Davis, a gun-obsessed maniac, in "Love of Life."

“I must say it's fun playing these snobbish old ladies. It's always more fun to be obnoxious. I know such women and I think I can imitate them. Los Angeles Times in 2002.

Playwright Paul Rudnick on Wednesday called her "a wonderful actress, capable of supreme comedy and deeply touching drama." He wrote of X, formerly on Twitter, that she was "an indelible presence".

In "Equus" opposite Anthony Hopkins and Peter Firth on Broadway in 1974, she played the mother of a troubled youth whose shocking act of violence against horses sets the drama in motion, earning her a Tony Award.

In 1979, she appeared in the role of Ethel Thayer in the original Broadway production of "On Golden Pond", the film version of which won Katharine Hepburn an Oscar. "I feel very close to Ethel," Sternhagen told the Times. "She reminds me of my mother and I immediately gravitated towards her."

Sternhagen was one of three actors to take over the title role in the long off-Broadway run of "Driving Miss Daisy," another stage role that became an Oscar winner on screen, this time for Jessica Tandy.

He started his film career in 1967 with 'Up the Down Staircase'. Among her other films: 'Hospital,' 'Two People,' 'Fedora,' 'Bright Lights Big City,' 'Misery,' 'Doc Hollywood,' 'Raising Cain' and 'Curtain Call.'

Sternhagen was born in 1930 in Washington, DC, where his father was a Tax Court judge. As a child she loved performing – she remembered herself as an "embarrassing pretender" – but she never thought about an acting career. He entered Vassar as a history major, but a friendly teacher suggested another direction: acting.

"Although I was acting in college," she told the New York Daily News, "it never occurred to me to major in drama." But when it was noticed that she was doing "C" work in history, Sternhagen began to pretend.

After graduation she taught drama, modern dance, and singing outside Boston before deciding to work in theater and earn $2,000 a year.

She told the Times in 1981, "I thought I'd give it a try, see if I liked it and then get out." But you never get out. It's an addiction, because it touches your emotions, because it's where you want to be. ...I think those of us who can live in it are absolutely lucky.

She met her husband, actor Thomas A. Carlin, while acting in a production in Maryland. He died of heart failure in 1991.

She did not let her pregnancies interfere too much with her work schedule, stating that as an only child, "I always wanted to have a big family."

“I was lucky,” she told the Times. “I usually didn't show pregnancy until the sixth or seventh month. I was afraid to stop acting, because if I did I would never be able to start again.

“I can't say it's been easy. There are a lot of things I didn't do. You make choices and you have to stick to them.”

He and Carlin had four sons, Paul, Tony, Peter and John, and two daughters, Amanda and Sarah. He is also survived by nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

"A celebration of his remarkable career and life is planned for mid-January, close to his 94th birthday," a statement from his family said. “We will continue to be inspired by his love and life.”


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