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Sheila Mathews Allen, actress and widow of Oscar-winning producer Irwin Allen, died Nov. 15 at her home in Malibu after a long battle with pulmonary fibrosis. She was 84.
Irwin Allen, who died in 1991 at age 75, is known as the producer, writer and director of such disaster/action films and TV shows as The Poseidon Adventure, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Towering Inferno and Lost in Space. A journalist at the start of his career, he won his Oscar for the documentary The Sea Around Us (1953).
After meeting her future husband in 1960, Allen appeared on his TV shows Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space and Land of the Giants and in his films The Poseidon Adventure (as the ship’s plucky nurse) and The Towering Inferno. She also played gossipy telephone operator Fanny Tatum on five episodes of The Waltons.
The Allens married in 1974.
For the past two decades, Allen served as president of Irwin Allen Productions, developing everything from documentaries to remakes and sequels of Irwin Allen intellectual properties like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants and Lost in Space. In 2006, she served as executive producer on Warner Bros.’ remake of Poseidon, directed by Wolfgang Petersen.
The daughter of Irish immigrants, Allen was born and raised in New York City. As a child, she started singing operatic arias she heard on the radio and by age 10 was performing with professional singers on many of those same shows. She graduated from the Professional Children’s School in 1946.
During the 1940s and ’50s, she appeared in both the chorus and in featured roles in dozens of musicals (both on Broadway and in touring companies) including Oh, Captain! (with Tony Randall) and Destry Rides Again (with Andy Griffith).
A lifelong opera fan, Allen was a prominent supporter of the Los Angeles Opera and the Young Musicians Foundation, and SHARE and United Friends of the Children were among her favorite charities.
Survivors include her brother, C.J. Mathews, and his family in San Diego, the T.K. Mathews family in Virginia, the Allen family of Massachusetts and the Miranda family in Los Angeles.
Funeral services will be held at noon on Friday at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
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