Eileen Heckart
Heckart in the 1990s
Anna Eileen Herbert

(1919-03-29)March 29, 1919
DiedDecember 31, 2001(2001-12-31) (aged 82)
Alma materOhio State University (B.A.)
Years active1943–2000
John Harrison Yankee, Jr.
(m. 1942; died 1997)

Anna Eileen Heckart (née Herbert; March 29, 1919 – December 31, 2001) was an American stage and screen actress whose career spanned nearly 60 years.

Early life

Heckart was born Anna Eileen Herbert in Columbus, Ohio. Her mother Esther (née Stark) 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, providing her with the surname by which she would be known throughout the remainder of her life.[1] She had two stepsisters, Anne and Marilyn. She graduated from Ohio State University with a B.A. in drama.[2] She additionally studied drama at HB Studio in New York City.[3]



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.[4]

Film and television

Heckart in 1956's Bus Stop

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 nurse, "Katje", working inside "Kamp Vught", the Dutch Concentration Camp. In 1977, Heckart played Bertha Hayden, mother of Sam Hayden in NBC's made for TV Christmas movie, "Sunshine Christmas". 1n 1978, Heckart appeared in the Resorts International Alantic City N.J. Christmas production, "Jackie Gleason Presents The Honeymooners", as Alice's mother, Mrs Gibson. She 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.[5]

She appeared on two episodes of Gunsmoke. In 1965, Heckart appeared as Hattie Silks on the episode "The Lady." In 1969, Heckart appeared as Athena Partridge Royce on the episode "The Innocent".

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.[citation needed] 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". She also played the role of Amanda Cooper on the Little House on the Prairie episode "Dance With Me".

Heckart has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6162 Hollywood Blvd.

Personal life

In 1942, Heckart married insurance broker John Harrison Yankee, Jr., her college sweetheart. They had three sons.[2] 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.[6]

Heckart was a Roman Catholic.[7]


On December 31, 2001, Heckart died of lung cancer at her home in Norwalk, Connecticut, at the age of 82.[8] She was cremated with her ashes scattered outside the Music Box Theatre in Manhattan, New York.[9]


Year Title Role
1956 Miracle in the Rain Grace Ullman
1956 Somebody Up There Likes Me Ma Barbella
1956 Bus Stop Vera
1956 The Bad Seed Hortense Daigle
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
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

Selected Television Appearances

Awards and nominations

Association Year Category Work Result Ref(s)
Academy Awards 1957 Best Supporting Actress The Bad Seed Nominated [10]
1973 Butterflies Are Free Won [11]
Daytime Emmy Awards 1987 Outstanding Guest Performer in a Drama Series One Life to Live Nominated [12]
Drama Desk Awards 1996 Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Northeast Local Nominated [13]
2000 Outstanding Actress in a Play The Waverly Gallery Won
Drama League Awards 2000 Distinguished Performance Won [14]
Golden Globe Awards 1957 Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture The Bad Seed Won [15]
National Board of Review Awards 1997 Best Acting by an Ensemble The First Wives Club Won [16]
Outer Critics Circle Awards 2000 Outstanding Actress in a Play The Waverly Gallery Won [13]
Primetime Emmy Awards 1975 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie Wedding Band Nominated [17]
1976 Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series The Mary Tyler Moore Show Nominated
1977 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 [13]
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 Won


  1. ^ Yankee, Luke (May 1, 2006). Just Outside the Spotlight: Growing Up with Eileen Heckart. BackStage Books. p. 16. ISBN 978-0823078882. Retrieved September 24, 2017. On March 29, 1919, Anna Eileen Herbert was born, and her surname was quickly changed to Heckart.
  2. ^ a b Pogrebin, Robin (January 2, 2002). "Eileen Heckart, Oscar-Winning Actress, Is Dead at 82". The New York Times. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  3. ^ HB Studio Alumni
  4. ^ "Eileen Heckart Tony Awards Info". www.broadwayworld.com. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  5. ^ "Awards Search: Eileen Heckart". Emmys.com. Television Academy. Archived from the original on February 3, 2016. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  6. ^ Yankee, Luke (2006). Just Outside the Spotlight: Growing Up with Eileen Heckart. Justoutsidethespotlight.com. ISBN 9780823078882.
  7. ^ An Interview with Eileen Heckart, Skip. E. Lowe, 1990
  8. ^ Costagregni, Susie (June 24, 2006). "Director grabs a coffee before daughter's wedding". The Advocate. p. A2.
  9. ^ Wilson, Scott (September 16, 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3rd ed.). McFarland. ISBN 9781476625997.
  10. ^ "The 29th Academy Awards | 1957". Oscars.org. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved November 2, 2021.
  11. ^ "The 45th Academy Awards | 1973". Oscars.org. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved November 2, 2021.
  12. ^ "'As the World Turns' Leads Daytime Emmy Nominations". Associated Press. May 8, 1987. Retrieved November 2, 2021.
  13. ^ a b c "Eileen Heckart". Playbill. Retrieved November 2, 2021.
  14. ^ "Drama League Goes for Heckart". Backstage. February 21, 2001. Retrieved November 2, 2021.
  15. ^ "Eileen Heckart". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved November 2, 2021.
  16. ^ "National Board of Review Awards 1996 Winners". National Board of Review. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved November 2, 2021.
  17. ^ "Eileen Heckart". Television Academy. Retrieved November 2, 2021.