Madeleine Sherwood, Star of Tennessee Williams Classics on Stage and Screen, Dies at 93

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Madeleine Sherwood (right) with Sally Field in 'The Flying Nun.'

She appeared in 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' and 'Sweet Bird of Youth' and later played the Mother Superior on 'The Flying Nun.'

Madeleine Sherwood, who starred in the stage and film versions of the Tennessee Williams classics Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Sweet Bird of Youth, has died. She was 93.

Sherwood, perhaps best known as the non-nonsense Reverend Mother Superior Lydia Placido on the 1967-70 ABC sitcom The Flying Nun starring Sally Field, died Saturday at her childhood home in Lac Cornu, Quebec, family spokesperson Melissa Fitch told The Hollywood Reporter.

A native of Montreal, Sherwood studied under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York. She made her Broadway debut in 1952 replacing Kim Stanley in Horton Foote's The Chase, and a year later, she played Abigail, who accuses many in the town of Salem of witchcraft, in Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

Sherwood portrayed Mae Pollitt/Sister Woman in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, directed by Elia Kazan, then reprised the role for Richard Brooks in the 1958 film adaptation. In Sweet Bird of Youth, she starred as Miss Lucy on Broadway in 1959-60 and in the 1962 movie.

Her other Broadway credits include Camelot (1961), Williams' The Night of the Iguana (1962) — where she stepped in for Bette Davis — Do I Hear a Waltz? (1965), Inadmissible Evidence (1965) and Edward Albee's All Over (1971). Her final stage performance was in a play about Williams’ mother, Miss Edwina.

Sherwood also worked for Kazan in the 1956 film Baby Doll, playing a nurse. Her movie résumé includes Otto Preminger's Hurry, Sundown (1967), Pendulum (1969), The Changeling (1980), Resurrection (1980) and Teachers (1984).

She also appeared in the TV soap operas One Life to Live, The Guiding Light and As the World Turns.

In the 1980s, Sherwood, Cicely Tyson and Joanne Woodward were the first actresses to receive a grant from the American Film Institute to direct short films (she wrote, directed and acted in a film called Good Night Sweet Prince).

Blacklisted during the McCarthy era, Sherwood was an active participant in the civil rights movement (she was arrested during a Freedom Walk in Alabama) in the 1960s and in the women’s movement in the '70s. She twice was nominated for the Order of Canada.

Survivors include her daughter Chloe, two grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

 

 

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