Today is the 92nd birthday of Nancy Walker. My natural draw to 70’s mystery detective TV dramas made it natural that I loved her on McMillan & Wife. Her entire resume reads impressively, the best TV shows of the time, she was on them, iconic TV shows of every decade, she guest starred.
NAME: Nancy Walker
OCCUPATION: Theater Actress, Television Actress, Film Actor/Film Actress
BIRTH DATE: May 10, 1922
DEATH DATE: March 25, 1992
PLACE OF BIRTH: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
PLACE OF DEATH: Studio City, California
ORIGINALLY: Anna Myrtle Swoyer
Actress Nancy Walker was born Anna Myrtle Swoyer on May 10, 1922, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Perhaps best known as the overbearing mother Ida Morgenstern on the 1970s comedy series Rhoda, Nancy Walker was an established stage performer for decades before making it in television. The daughter of vaudeville comedian, she landed her first Broadway role at the age of 19, appearing in 1941’s Best Foot Forward. Walker went on to star in the original production of On the Town (1944).
Nancy Walker also landed film roles, including 1943’s Girl Crazy with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, and 1954’s Lucky Me with Doris Day. Largely devoted to stage work, she made several television guest appearances in the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1970s, she had her two most notable television roles. From 1971 to 1976, she played the sharp, outspoken housekeeper Mildred on McMillan & Wife, starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James. Walker’s character, Mrs. Ida Morgenstern, appeared on both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off Rhoda.
As Ida Morgenstern, she had audiences laughing at her depiction of the tough, loving and smothering mother as well as identifying with the conflicts between her character and her daughter Rhoda played by Valerie Harper. On Rhoda, Ida harassed two of her children—her youngest daughter Brenda was played by Julie Kavner. She was nominated for an Emmy Award three times for her work on McMillan & Wife and four times for her performance on Rhoda.
A great supporting actress, Nancy Walker’s attempt to have her own series failed. The Nancy Walker Show aired for one season from 1976 to 1977. After its cancellation, she returned to Rhoda for its final season. Throughout the rest of the 1970s and 1980s, Walker mostly appeared on television as a guest star, stopping in on such hit shows, as The Love Boat, Fame, Happy Days and The Golden Girls, which earned her an Emmy Award nomination. In 1990, she returned to series television with True Colors, a comedy about interracial marriage. The show lasted for two years and included Walker’s final performances.
Nancy Walker died on March 25, 1992, in Studio City, California. She was married to David Craig since 1951 and the couple had one child together.