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|Born|| (1930-01-13) January 13, 1930
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Occupation||Actress, former teacher|
(m. 1956; died 1991)
Early life and education
Sternhagen was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter and only child of John M. Sternhagen, a U.S. Tax Court judge, and Gertrude (née Hussey) Sternhagen. Sternhagen was educated at the Madeira and Potomac schools in McLean, Virginia. At Vassar College, she was elected head of the Drama Club "after silencing a giggling college crowd at a campus dining hall with her interpretation of a scene from Richard II, playing none other than Richard himself". She attended the Catholic University of America as a grad student, where she met Thomas Carlin, her future husband, to whom she was married from 1956 until his death in 1991; the couple had six children. She also studied at the Perry Mansfield School of the Theatre, and at New York City's Neighborhood Playhouse.
Sternhagen started her career teaching acting, singing, and dancing to school children at the Milton Academy in Massachusetts, and she first performed in 1948 at a Bryn Mawr summer theater in The Glass Menagerie and Angel Street. She went on to work at Washington's Arena Stage from 1953–54, then made her Broadway debut in 1955 as Miss T. Muse in The Skin of Our Teeth. The same year, she had her off-Broadway debut in Thieves' Carnival, and her TV debut in The Great Bank Robbery on Omnibus (CBS). By the following year, she had won her first Obie Award for "Distinguished Performance (Actress)" in The Admirable Bashville (1955–56).
She has won two Tony Awards, for Best Supporting Actress (Dramatic): in 1974 for the original Broadway production of Neil Simon's The Good Doctor (which also won her a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play); and in 1995 for the revival of The Heiress. She has been nominated for Tony Awards five other times, including for her roles in the original Broadway casts of Equus (1975) and On Golden Pond (1979), as well as for Lorraine Hansberry's The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window (1972), the musical Angel (1978), which was based on Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel, and the 2002 revival of Paul Osborn's Morning's at Seven.
She portrayed the title character in 1988's Pulitzer prize-winning drama Driving Miss Daisy, which was originated by Dana Ivey at Playwrights Horizons in New York. Sternhagen took over the role after the show moved to the John Houseman Theatre and played it for more than two years. Her off-Broadway awards include two nominations for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play in 1998, for a revival of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night (which starred her own son, Paul Carlin, as her character's son, Jamie Tyrone) for the Irish Repertory Theatre and in 2005, for the World War I drama Echoes of the War. She also won Distinguished Performance Obie Awards for The Room and A Slight Ache (1964–65). In 1998, she won the Dramatists Guild Fund's Madge Evans & Sidney Kingsley Award for Excellence in Theater.
Sternhagen appeared as the Daughter in the original 1971 Broadway production of Edward Albee's All Over with Colleen Dewhurst and Jessica Tandy. In the summer of 2005, she starred in the Broadway production of Steel Magnolias along with Marsha Mason, Delta Burke, Christine Ebersole, Lily Rabe, and Rebecca Gayheart. She also starred in the 2005 revival of Edward Albee's Seascape, produced by Lincoln Center Theater at the Booth Theater on Broadway.
Sternhagen made her film debut in Up the Down Staircase (1967), which starred Sandy Dennis. She has worked periodically in Hollywood since then. She had character roles in the 1971 Paddy Chayefsky's The Hospital, in Two People (1973), and Billy Wilder's Fedora (1978). She appeared in Starting Over (1979); opposite Sean Connery in Outland (1981); and in Michael J. Fox's Bright Lights, Big City (1988). She played Farrah Fawcett's mother in See You in the Morning (1989), Richard Farnsworth's wife in Misery (1990), Lillian in Doc Hollywood (1991) and John Lithgow's psychiatrist in Raising Cain (1992). Sternhagen starred in Frank Darabont's 2007 science-fiction horror film The Mist. She also appeared in the family films Dolphin Tale (2011) and And So It Goes (2014) (her last acting appearance to date).
She may be best known to TV audiences as Esther Clavin, mother of John Ratzenberger's Boston postman character Cliff Clavin, on the long-running series Cheers, for which she received two Emmy Award nominations. She also played Millicent Carter on ER; Bunny MacDougal, mother of Trey, Charlotte's first husband on Sex and the City (another Emmy Award nomination); Willie Rae Johnson (mother of Brenda Leigh Johnson (played by Kyra Sedgwick) on The Closer; and Law & Order, among other network dramas and sitcoms. She worked for many years in soap operas such as Another World, The Secret Storm, Love of Life and played two roles on One Life to Live. She recorded a voice-over for a May 2002 episode of The Simpsons ("The Frying Game"). She is also recognized as Mrs. Marsh from a series of television commercials for Colgate toothpaste that aired in the 1970s.
In summer 2006, she finished her 24th Broadway role. Sternhagen appeared in 12 episodes of the program.
She read as the title character in the Stephen King novel Dolores Claiborne in a 1995 audiobook recording. She also voiced characters in 13 episodes of CBS Radio Mystery Theater in the 1970s and 1980s.
|1967||Up the Down Staircase||Charlotte Wolf|
|1967||The Tiger Makes Out||Lady On Bus|
|1971||The Hospital||Mrs. Cushing|
|1973||Two People||Mrs. McCluskey|
|1979||Starting Over||Marva Potter|
|1981||Outland||Dr. Marian Lazarus||Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1983||Independence Day||Carla Taylor|
|1983||Romantic Comedy||Blanche Dailey|
|1986||Resting Place||Eudora McCallister|
|1988||Bright Lights, Big City||Clara Tillinghast|
|1989||Communion||Dr. Janet Duffy|
|1989||See You in the Morning||Neenie|
|1990||Sibling Rivalry||Rose Turner|
|1990||Misery||Deputy Virginia||Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1991||Walking the Dog||Antique Dealer||Short film|
|1992||Raising Cain||Dr. Lynn Waldheim||Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1998||It All Came True||Amy|
|2000||Midnight Gospel||Ruth||Short film|
|2001||The Rising Place||Ruth Wilder|
|2007||The Mist||Irene Reppler|
|2009||Julie & Julia||Irma Rombauer|
|2011||Dolphin Tale||Gloria Forrest|
|2014||And So It Goes||Claire|
|1956||Westinghouse Studio One||Betty||Episode: "The Arena"|
|1957||Westinghouse Studio One||Mary||Episode: "My Mother and How She Undid Me"|
|1957||Goodyear Television Playhouse||Elizabeth Barnes||Episode: "The House"|
|1959||Play of the Week||Eva||Episode: "Thieves Carnival"|
|1961||Play of the Week||Unknown||Episode: "In a Garden"|
|1962||The Broadway of Lerner and Loewe||Theatre-Goer||TV movie|
|1962||The Nurses||Mrs. Harris||Episode: "The Lady Made of Stone"|
|1964||The Defenders||Louise Kiley||Episode: "May Day! May Day!"|
|1964||Profiles in Courage||Miss Koeller||Episode: "Mary S. McDowell"|
|1967||NET Playhouse||Unknown||Episode: "Infancy and Childhood"|
|1967||Hallmark Hall of Fame||Abigail||Episode: "Soldier in Love"|
|1967–1968||Love of Life||Toni Prentiss Davis||TV series|
|1970||The Doctors||Phyllis Corrigan||TV series|
|1971||NET Playhouse||Unknown||Segment: "Foul!"|
|1971||Another World||Jane Overstreet||TV series|
|1972||Great Performances||Wilma Atkins||Episode: "The Rimers of Eldritch"|
|1974||The Secret Storm||Jessie Reddin||TV series|
|1974||Great Performances||Paulina||Episode: "Enemies"|
|1977||The Andros Targets||Mrs. Mason||Episode: "In the Event of My Death"|
|1978||Who'll Save Our Children?||Nellie Henderson||TV movie|
|1980||Mother and Daughter: The Loving War||Mrs. Lloyd||TV movie|
|1980||The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg||Mary Richards||TV short|
|1983||Prototype||Dorothy Forrester||TV movie|
|1984||The Dining Room||Various||TV movie|
|1985||Spencer||Millie Sprague||7 episodes|
|1986–1993||Cheers||Esther Clavin||7 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
|1987||At Mother's Request||Berenice Bradshaw||TV movie|
|1987||Once Again||Unknown||TV movie|
|1990||Follow Your Heart||Cloe Sixbury||TV movie|
|1991||American Experience||(voice)||Episode: "Coney Island"|
|1991||The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd||Dora||Episode: "Here's a High Dive Into a Shallow Pool"|
|1991||Golden Years||Gina Williams||7 episodes|
|1991||Law & Order||Margaret Langdon||Episode: "The Serpent's Tooth"|
|1992||She Woke Up||Noelle||TV movie|
|1992||Tales from the Crypt||Effie Gluckman||Episode: "None But the Lonely Heart"|
|1993||Labor of Love: The Arlette Schweitzer Story||Mary Rafferty||TV movie|
|1994||Vault of Horror I||Unknown||TV movie|
|1994||The Road Home||Charlotte Babineaux||6 episodes|
|1994||Reunion||Tobie Yates||TV movie|
|1995||The Outer Limits||Jean Anderson||Episode: "The Choice"|
|1997||Law & Order||Estelle Muller||Episode: "Legacy"|
|1997–2003||ER||Millicent Carter||19 episodes|
|1998||The Con||Hadabelle||TV movie|
|1998||To Live Again||Constance Holmes||TV movie|
|2000–2002||Sex and the City||Bunny MacDougal||10 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
|2002||The Laramie Project||Marge Murray||TV movie
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
|2002||The Simpsons||Mrs. Bellamy (voice)||Episode: "The Frying Game"|
|2004||Becker||Naomi||Episode: "Subway Story"|
|2006–2012||The Closer||Willie Ray Johnson||15 episodes|
|2012||Parenthood||Blanche Braverman||Episode: "Road Trip"|
|1955||The Skin of Our Teeth||Miss T. Muse|
|1955||The Carefree Tree||Widow Yang|
|1960||Viva Madison Avenue!||Dee Jones|
|1962||Great Day in the Morning||Alice McAnany|
|1965–1966||The Right Honourable Gentleman||Mrs. Ashton Dilke|
|1967||A Doll's House||Nora|
|1967–1969||You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running||Harriet / Edith / Muriel (standby)|
|1968–1969||The Cocktail Party||Lavinia Chamberlayne|
|1970||Blood Red Roses||Various (standby)|
|1971||The Playboy of the Western World||Widow Quin|
|1971||All Over||The Daughter / The Mistress (standby)|
|1971||Mary Stuart||Mary Stuart / Queen Elizabeth (understudy)|
|1972||The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window||Mavis Parodus Bryson|
|1973–1974||The Good Doctor||Performer|
|1979–1980||On Golden Pond||Ethel Thayer|
|1983–1984||You Can't Take It with You||Unknown|
|1993||A Perfect Ganesh||Margaret|
|1995||The Heiress||Lavinia Penniman|
|1999||The Exact Center of the Universe||Unknown|
|2002||Morning's at Seven||Ida Bolton|
- "UPI Almanac for Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021". United Press International. January 13, 2021. Archived from the original on February 27, 2021. Retrieved February 27, 2021.
…actor Frances Sternhagen in 1930 (age 91)…
- Joy, Cara."Frances Sternhagen in Talks to Join Company of Broadway Magnolias", Broadway.com, November 22, 2004.
- Profile, mcall.com; accessed October 6, 2021.
- "Frances Sternhagen". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on May 28, 2019. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
- "1950s". Obie Awards. Village Voice and American Theatre Wing. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
- "("Frances Sternhagen" search results)". Tony Awards. Tony Award Productions. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
- Lefkowitz, David."Brian Murray & Frances Sternhagen Take Irish Journey, Mar. 22" Archived September 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Playbill.com, March 22, 1998
- "2013 Obie Awards". Obie Awards. Village Voice and American Theatre Wing. Archived from the original on May 28, 2019. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
- "Frances Sternhagen Credits" hollywood.com; accessed August 27, 2011.
- Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 195. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
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