Mona Malden, Actress and Widow of Karl Malden, Dies at 102

Mona Malden at the dedication of the Barrington Station Post Office - Getty-H 2019
David Livingston/Getty Images

She appeared on Broadway and was married to the Oscar-winning actor for 70 years.

Mona Malden, an actress who worked on Broadway and was married to Oscar-winning actor Karl Malden for 70 years, has died. She was 102.

She died peacefully Saturday at her Brentwood home in Los Angeles where she lived for the past 60 years, her family announced.

Mildred DeLeuw Greenberg and future husband Mladen Sekulovich met in the 1930s when they were the two scholarship students at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, and they appeared together in Jack and the Beanstalk and other plays.

After graduation in 1937, they moved separately to New York to pursue their acting careers and discovered each other again as they struggled to make a living.

"Mona and I were two miserable people trying to find something solid," Malden recalled in his 1997 memoir, When Do I Start? "I don't remember ever really 'setting my sights' on her. We just kept gravitating to each other. If ever 'sudbina' [a Croatian word meaning fate], was on our side, it was that Mona and I should find each other. I knew that I might never find that again. There was only one thing to do: Get married."

He got a few hours off from rehearsing for Broadway's The Gentle People, and they wed in Brooklyn on Dec. 18, 1938. They were together until he died at age 97 of natural causes on July 1, 2009.

Using the stage name Mona Graham, she appeared in the 1943 Broadway comedy I'll Take the High Road, directed by Sanford Meisner, and worked as an extra at Fox before giving up her career to raise her family.

The Maldens had their two daughters, Mila and Carla, while they lived in New York. They moved to Los Angeles in the early '60s.

Less than two years after she was born in St. Joseph, Miss., on May 9, 1917, her father, Edward, died during an influenza epidemic. Her mother, Marian, raised her with relatives all over Missouri and Kansas, and by the time she graduated from high school at age 16, she had attended 13 schools. 

She taught tap-dancing to younger kids when she was 12 but always wanted to become an actress.

After her husband's death, "Mona continued going to the movies, going to the theater and turning every family dinner into a party, complete with favors," her family noted. "She never lost her childlike wonder and enthusiasm — for everything from cotton ball clouds to See's Candy."

In addition to her daughters, survivors include her granddaughters Alison, Emily, and Cami and great-grandchildren Mila, Stella, Charlie and Thomas.