Actress Claire Malis Callaway Dies at 69

Claire Malis Callaway - P 2012

She starred in “The Facts of Life” and “One Life to Live.”

Actress Claire Malis Callaway, a star on the ABC daytime serial One Life to Live and a mom on NBC’s popular 1980s sitcom The Facts of Life, has died. She was 69.

Callaway died Aug. 24 of congestive heart failure and pneumonia at City of Hope Helford Clinical Research Hospital in Duarte, Calif. She had undergone a stem cell transplant in 2010 in a battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

As Claire Malis, she played Rose Polniaczek, the divorced mother of Nancy McKeon’s character, on The Facts of Life. Earlier, she was Dorian, the matriarch of the Cramer family, on One Life to Live from February 1977 to April 1979. (Malis was succeeded in the role by Robin Strasser, who would star on the daytime drama for three decades.)

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Malis was born on Feb. 17, 1943, and raised in Gary, Ind. While at Indiana University, she auditioned for and received one of only 16 national full scholarships to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. She was named best actress of her graduating class.

After performing in off-Broadway productions and national tours of two Broadway shows, Malis was cast in a small role in John Cassavetes’ film Husbands (1970). She followed that with a season at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, performing in Taming of the Shrew, then returned to New York for her stint on One Life to Live. She moved to Los Angeles in 1980.

Her other TV appearances included roles on Lou Grant, Taxi, St. Elsewhere, Falcon Crest, Murphy Brown, Picket Fences, Suddenly Susan and The Division.

On stage, Malis appeared in the Ahmanson Theatre production of Detective Story starring Charlton Heston in 1984 and produced and acted in plays at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in Los Angeles. She co-created In the Trenches Productions, a production company aiming for roles for women over age 40.

Survivors include her husband Thomas Callaway, an architectural and interior designer who has worked on the homes of such Hollywood luminaries as producer Alan Ladd Jr. and Rhino Records founder Richard Foos; their son Catlin; and her brother Lee.


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