Anna Eileen Herbert
March 29, 1919
Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||December 31, 2001 (aged 82)|
Norwalk, Connecticut, U.S.
|Alma mater||Ohio State University (B.A.)|
John Harrison Yankee, Jr.
(m. 1942; died 1997)
Anna Eileen Heckart (née Herbert; March 29, 1919 – December 31, 2001) was an American actress whose career spanned nearly 60 years. She first became known for her role as schoolteacher Rosemary Sydney in the original 1953 cast of William Inge's play Picnic on Broadway. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as the overprotective mother of a blind adult son in Butterflies Are Free (1972), a role she originated on Broadway before playing it in the film.
She often played mothers, including Rocky Graziano's mother in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956); the mother of a murdered child in The Bad Seed (1956); the elderly mother of an estranged son in the PBS production of the one-act play Save Me a Place at Forest Lawn (1966); the overbearing mother of the detective portrayed by George Segal in No Way to Treat a Lady (1968); the mother of reporter Jack Stein on the 1990s television sitcom Love & War; the mother of two separate characters on the daytime soap opera One Life to Live in the 1980s and 1990s; and the meddling mother of a jilted wife (played by Diane Keaton) in The First Wives Club (1996), her last film role. Her last television role was in The Five Mrs. Buchanans (1994-95), as she played the mother-in-law from hell.
Heckart also had a recurring role on the 1970s sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show as Mary's Aunt Flo Meredith, a famous reporter, which she repeated on the spin-off series Lou Grant.
In addition to her Academy Award, she also won two Emmy Awards for Save Me a Place at Forest Lawn and Love & War, and a Golden Globe Award for The Bad Seed. She also received a special Tony Award for lifetime achievement in 2000, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She made her final acting appearance in 2000 at age 80 in an off-Broadway production, The Waverly Gallery, in which she played the leading role of an elderly grandmother with Alzheimer's disease.
Heckart was born Anna Eileen Herbert in Columbus, Ohio. The daughter of Esther (née Stark), who wed Leo Herbert (not the child's father) at her own mother's insistence so her child would not be born with the stigma of illegitimacy. Eileen was soon after legally adopted by her maternal grandmother's wealthy second husband, J.W. Heckart, the surname by which she would be known her entire life. She had two stepsisters, Anne and Marilyn. She graduated from Ohio State University with a B.A. in drama. She additionally studied drama at HB Studio in New York City.
Heckart began her Broadway career as the assistant stage manager and an understudy for The Voice of the Turtle in 1943. Her many credits include Picnic, The Bad Seed, A View from the Bridge, A Memory of Two Mondays, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, A Family Affair, And Things That Go Bump in the Night, Barefoot in the Park, Butterflies Are Free, You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running, and The Cemetery Club.
Heckart won the 1953 Theatre World Award for Picnic. Her nominations include Tony Award nominations for Butterflies Are Free, Invitation to a March, and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs.
In 2000, at age 81, she appeared off-Broadway in Kenneth Lonergan's The Waverly Gallery. For this performance, she won several awards, including the Drama Desk Award, the Lucille Lortel Award, the Drama League Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award. That same year, she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame and received an honorary Tony Award for lifetime achievement.
She was granted three honorary doctorates by Sacred Heart University, Niagara University, and Ohio State University.
Heckart won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in the 1972 movie adaptation of Butterflies Are Free and was nominated in 1956 for her performance as the bereaved, besotted Mrs. Daigle in The Bad Seed (1956), both of which were roles Heckart originated on Broadway. Heckart appeared in the Hiding Place (1976) as a nurse working inside the concentration camp and later appeared as a Vietnam War widow in the Clint Eastwood film Heartbreak Ridge (1986). She played Diane Keaton's meddling mother in the 1996 comedy film The First Wives Club.
On television, Heckart had starring roles in The Five Mrs. Buchanans, Out of the Blue, Partners in Crime, and Backstairs at the White House (Emmy nomination as Eleanor Roosevelt). In 1994, she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her appearance as Rose Stein on Love & War. In 1988, she appeared as Ruth in the Tales from the Darkside episode "Do Not Open This Box". Her other guest roles included The Fugitive (where she appeared in three episodes as a nun, "Sister Veronica"), The Mary Tyler Moore Show (two Emmy nominations as journalist Flo Meredith, a role she carried over to a guest appearance on MTM's spinoff Lou Grant), Love Story, Rhoda, Alice, Murder One, Hawaii Five-O, Gunsmoke, Cybill, The Cosby Show (one Emmy nomination as Mrs. Hickson), and many others.
Heckart played two unrelated characters on the daytime soap opera One Life to Live. During the 1980s, she played Ruth Perkins, the mother of Allison Perkins, who had kidnapped the newborn baby of heroine Viki Lord Buchanan under orders from phony evangelist and mastermind criminal Mitch Laurence. During the early 1990s, she played the role of Wilma Bern, mother of upstate Pennsylvania mob boss Carlo Hesser and his meek twin, Mortimer Bern. She appeared in the 1954 legal drama Justice, based on case files of New York's Legal Aid Society. She appeared in an episode of the medical drama The Eleventh Hour, titled "There Should Be an Outfit Called 'Families Anonymous!'" (1963), and an episode of Home Improvement, titled "Losing My Religion".
In 1942, Heckart married insurance broker John Harrison Yankee, Jr., her college sweetheart. They had three sons. Her son Luke Yankee is the author of her 2006 biography Just Outside the Spotlight: Growing Up with Eileen Heckart.
Heckart was a Democrat. She met President Lyndon B. Johnson at The White House in 1967.
Heckart was an adherent of Roman Catholicism.
On December 31, 2001, Heckart died of lung cancer at her home in Norwalk, Connecticut, at the age of 82. She was cremated with her ashes scattered outside the Music Box Theatre in Manhattan, New York.
Heckart has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6162 Hollywood Blvd.
|1956||Miracle in the Rain||Grace Ullman|
|1956||Somebody Up There Likes Me||Ma Barbella|
|1956||The Bad Seed||Hortense Daigle||Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1958||Hot Spell||Alma's Friend|
|1960||Heller in Pink Tights||Mrs. Lorna Hathaway|
|1963||My Six Loves||Ethel|
|1967||Up the Down Staircase||Henrietta Pastorfield|
|1968||No Way to Treat a Lady||Mrs. Brummel|
|1969||The Tree||Sally Dunning|
|1972||Butterflies Are Free||Mrs. Florence Baker||Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1974||Zandy's Bride||Ma Allan|
|1975||The Hiding Place||Katje|
|1976||Burnt Offerings||Roz Allardyce|
|1983||Trauma Center||Amy Decker R.N.|
|1986||Seize the Day||Funeral Woman No. 1|
|1986||Heartbreak Ridge||Little Mary Jackson|
|1994||The 5 Mrs. Buchanans||Emma Buchanan|
|1994||Ultimate Betrayal||Sarah McNeil|
|1996||The First Wives Club||Catherine MacDuggan|
|Academy Awards||1957||Best Supporting Actress||The Bad Seed||Nominated|||
|1973||Butterflies Are Free||Won|||
|Daytime Emmy Awards||1987||Outstanding Guest Performer in a Drama Series||One Life to Live||Nominated|||
|Drama Desk Awards||1996||Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play||Northeast Local||Nominated|||
|2000||Outstanding Actress in a Play||The Waverly Gallery||Won|
|Drama League Awards||2000||Distinguished Performance||Won|||
|Golden Globe Awards||1957||Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture||The Bad Seed||Won|||
|National Board of Review Awards||1997||Best Acting by an Ensemble||The First Wives Club||Won|||
|Outer Critics Circle Awards||2000||Outstanding Actress in a Play||The Waverly Gallery||Won|||
|Primetime Emmy Awards||1975||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie||Wedding Band||Nominated|||
|1976||Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series||The Mary Tyler Moore Show||Nominated|
|1979||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie||Backstairs at the White House||Nominated|
|1980||F.D.R.: The Last Year||Nominated|
|1988||Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series||The Cosby Show||Nominated|
|1994||Love & War||Won|
|Theatre World Awards||1953||Theatre World Award||Picnic||Won|||
|Tony Awards||1958||Best Featured Actress in a Play||The Dark at the Top of the Stairs||Nominated|
|1961||Invitation to a March||Nominated|
|1970||Butterflies Are Free||Nominated|
|2000||Tony Honor for Excellence in Theatre||N/A||Won|
On March 29, 1919, Anna Eileen Herbert was born, and her surname was quickly changed to Heckart.