'To Kill a Mockingbird' Actress Rosemary Murphy Dies at 89

2:43 PM PST 07/09/2014 by Mike Barnes
Courtesy Everett Collection
Murphy in the 1972 film “You’ll Like My Mother.”

She played Miss Maudie in the 1962 classic, won an Emmy for portraying FDR’s mother and earned three Tony nominations during her distinguished career.

Rosemary Murphy, who played the neighbor Miss Maudie in the 1962 classic To Kill a Mockingbird and earned an Emmy Award and three Tony nominations during her distinguished career, has died. She was 89.

Murphy, who won her Emmy for portraying the mother of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1976 ABC miniseries Eleanor and Franklin, died Saturday in her Upper East Side apartment in New York City, her longtime agent, Alan Willig, told The Hollywood Reporter. She recently was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

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In To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), the acclaimed film drama based on Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Murphy played Maudie Atkinson, who lives across the street from attorney Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) and helps teach his children lessons about racism and human nature.

“You knew you were in something special. It was a fascinating experience," Murphy said about making the film in a 2012 interview with The Daily Beast. “I was very respectful of where I was and thrilled to be there. Gregory Peck was accessible and a real gent.”

With her death, Robert Duvall is believed to be the last adult Mockingbird castmember still alive.

After Eleanor and Franklin, Murphy collected a second Emmy nom for playing Sara Ann Delano Roosevelt in the follow-up telefilm Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years (1977).

Murphy’s Tony noms, all for best actress in a play, came in 1961 for her work as Dorothea Bates in Tennessee WilliamsPeriod of Adjustment; in 1964 for Any Wednesday, in which she starred opposite Gene Hackman; and in 1967 for Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance, which also starred Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy.

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She appeared in more than a dozen Broadway productions, from 1950’s The Tower Beyond Tragedy through 1999’s Waiting in the Wings, written by Noel Coward.

On film, Murphy stood out as prostitute Callie Hacker in the Joe Don Baker revenge tale Walking Tall (1973). She also appeared in The Young Doctors (1961); the 1966 film version of Any Wednesday that starred Jane Fonda; the killer rodent sequel Ben (1972); 40 Carats (1973), with Liv Ullmann; Julia (1977), again with Fonda; September (1987), with Elaine Stritch; Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite (1995); and Synecdoche, New York (2008).

In the 1976 NBC telefilm A Case of Rape, Murphy played a ruthless D.A. who cross-examines a rape victim (Elizabeth Montgomery) and wins acquittal for the man who attacked her. She also had a regular role in the 1970s NBC drama series Lucas Tanner, starring David Hartman.

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Her TV résumé also includes playing kleptomaniac Loretta Fowler on the NBC daytime drama Another World and guest-starring stints on such shows as The Virginian, Ben Casey, The Fugitive, Cannon, Medical Center, Trapper John, M.D., Murder, She Wrote and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

Murphy was born in Munich, the daughter of a U.S. diplomat. She studied acting in New York at the Neighborhood Playhouse and the Actors Studio.

She never married. Survivors include her sister Mildred and nephew Greg. A memorial will be held in Manhattan in September, her nephew said.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4

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