Phyllis Thaxter
Thaxter in 1955
Phyllis St. Felix Thaxter

(1919-11-20)November 20, 1919[1][2]
DiedAugust 14, 2012(2012-08-14) (aged 92)
Years active1940–1992
(m. 1944; div. 1962)

(m. 1962; died 2008)

Phyllis St. Felix Thaxter (November 20, 1919 – August 14, 2012) was an American actress. She is best known for portraying Martha Kent in Superman (1978), and Ellen Lawson in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944). She also appeared in Bewitched (1945), and Blood on the Moon (1948).

Early life

Thaxter was born in Portland, Maine, the daughter of Phyllis Schuyler Thaxter, a former actress and member of the Dutch-American Schuyler family, and Sidney St. Felix Thaxter, who later became a Justice of the Maine Supreme Court.[2]


Before appearing in movies, Thaxter was on the stage. When Dorothy McGuire went to Hollywood, Thaxter replaced her in the Broadway play Claudia.[3] In 1944, she signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Her movie debut was opposite Van Johnson in the 1944 wartime film Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.[2] In the 1945 film-noir Bewitched, Thaxter played Joan Alris Ellis, a woman suffering from split personality. In 1948, she played a cattle owner's daughter with Barbara Bel Geddes in Blood on the Moon.

At MGM, she routinely portrayed the ever-patient wife to a number of leading men. She moved to Warner Brothers in the 1950s, but usually played the same type of roles.

Thaxter's career stalled after an attack of polio in 1952. She made a comeback in television series such as Rawhide, portraying Pauline Cushman in the episode "The Blue Spy" (1961), Wagon Train ("The Christine Elliott Story" and "The Vivian Carter Story "), The Twilight Zone ("Young Man's Fancy"), and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Thaxter played in Barnaby Jones, in an episode titled “Murder Once Removed”(01/21/1975). She also returned to Broadway, appearing in Take Her, She's Mine at the Biltmore in 1961.[4] In 1978, Thaxter was cast with Glenn Ford as Jonathan and Martha Kent in the blockbuster film Superman. The film was produced by her daughter Skye Aubrey's then-husband Ilya Salkind and his father Alexander Salkind.

Personal life

Patricia Bosworth, in her biography of Montgomery Clift, tells of Thaxter's close relationship with Clift in the early 1940s, writing that they "seemed so close that a great many people assumed they would eventually marry".[3] While at MGM, Thaxter married James T. Aubrey, Jr., who later became president of CBS-TV and MGM. They divorced in 1962. They had two children: Skye Aubrey, an actress, and James Aubrey.

A Republican, she supported the campaign of Dwight Eisenhower in the 1952 presidential election.[5] She adhered to Catholicism.[6]

In 1962, Thaxter married Gilbert Lea. They were married for 46 years until his death on May 4, 2008.[7]


Thaxter died on August 14, 2012 in Longwood, Florida after an eight-year battle with Alzheimer's disease.[2][8] She was 92 years old. In keeping with her wishes, she was cremated, and her ashes were scattered at sea. Her name was added to her husband's tombstone (as a cenotaph) at Saint Mary the Virgin Cemetery in Falmouth, Maine.[9]

Partial filmography

Selected television appearances

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Stars in the Air Christmas in Connecticut[10]
1953 Lux Radio Theatre Close to My Heart[11]
1953 Lux Radio Theatre The Bishop's Wife[12]
1955 Lux Radio Theatre The Bishop's Wife[13]


  1. ^ "Phyllis Thaxter - 1930 United States Federal Census -".
  2. ^ a b c d Denise Grady (August 18, 2012). "Phyllis Thaxter, Actress Who Played Superman's Mother, Dies at 92". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
  3. ^ a b Patricia Bosworth (2004). Montgomery Clift: A Biography. Limelight Editions. p. 80. ISBN 978-0879101350.
  4. ^ Ken Bloom (2004). Broadway: Its History, People, and Places: an Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-415-93704-7.
  5. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 34, Ideal Publishers
  6. ^ Morning News, January 10, 1948, Who Was Who in America (Vol. 2)
  7. ^ "Obituary: Gilbert Lea". Town Topics. May 21, 2008. Retrieved 2015-10-16.
  8. ^ Mike Barnes (August 15, 2012). "Actress Phyllis Thaxter, Superman's Mom, Dies at 92". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  9. ^ Wilson, Scott (19 August 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. ISBN 9781476625997 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ Walter Kirby (March 16, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 44. Retrieved 2015-05-23 – via access
  11. ^ Walter Kirby (March 1, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 46. Retrieved 2015-06-23 – via access
  12. ^ Walter Kirby (May 10, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 50. Retrieved 2015-06-27 – via access
  13. ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 42 (3): 32. Summer 2016.