Louise Latham, Tippi Hedren's Mother in Hitchcock's 'Marnie,' Dies at 95

Universal Pictures/Photofest
Louise Latham in a flashback scene in Alfred Hitchcock's 1964 film 'Marnie'

She was 42 and late for her audition when she got her first movie role, one that changed her career.

Louise Latham, the actress who made her big-screen debut by portraying the manipulative mother of Tippi Hedren's character in Alfred Hitchcock's suspense thriller Marnie, has died. She was 95.

Latham died Feb. 12 in a retirement home in Montecito, California, it was announced.

On television, Latham showed up as Olivia's (Michael Learned) Aunt Kate on a 1977 episode of The Waltons, and she portrayed Perky, the mother of Julia and Suzanne Sugarbaker (Dixie Carter and Delta Burke, respectively) in 1986 on Designing Women.

She also appeared on the first episode of Family Affair as Aunt Fran in 1966 and in the final, highly rated installment of The Fugitive a year later.

Latham was 42, just eight years older than Hedren, when she portrayed Bernice Edgar, a former prostitute who years earlier had a rough time with a drunken sailor (Bruce Dern), in Marnie (1964). (She was made up to look as if she were about 24 in the movie's revealing flashback scene.)

Before that high-profile gig, the native of Hamilton, Texas, had worked primarily on the stage, at the Margo Jones Theatre in Dallas and on Broadway in a revival of Major Barbara and for a week in the Isle of Children, directed by Jules Dassin.

After Latham couldn't find a taxi during her first visit to Los Angeles and arrived a half-hour late at Universal for her Marnie audition, she spotted Hitchcock leaving the studio in a limousine and ran over to him, she recalled in Tony Lee Moral's 2002 book, Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie.

The director invited her into the car, and during their 20-minute drive he said, "You're supposed to be older." She replied, "Believe me, I've just aged 10 years." She got the part.

"Marnie changed my life, that's all," Latham said in 1965. "All I want from acting is to satisfy my soul; now I want some more of the same."

She went on to appear in other movies like Firecreek (1968) with James Stewart and Henry Fonda; White Lightning (1973) with Burt Reynolds; The Sugarland Express (1974) in Steven Spielberg's first feature; Mass Appeal (1984) with Jack Lemmon; Paradise (1991) with Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson; and Love Field (1992) with Michelle Pfeiffer.

Latham's TV résumé also included guest shots on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; Bonanza; Gunsmoke; The F.B.I.; Kojak; Hawaii Five-O; Ironside; Columbo; Rhoda; The Streets of San Francisco; Murder, She Wrote and, in her final onscreen appearance, The X-Files in 2000.

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