Today is the 98th birthday of the actress Madeleine Sherwood. You recognize her, you know her face. I love the life stories of character actors and her’s is as great as some of the characters she has played. The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that it was left.
NAME: Madeleine Sherwood
BORN: November 13, 1922
PLACE OF BIRTH: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
DIED: April 23, 2016
PLACE OF DEATH: Saint-Hippolyte, Quebec, Canada
REMAINS: Buried, Cimetière de Montparnasse, Paris, France
BEST KNOWN FOR: Madeleine Sherwood was a Canadian actress of stage, film and television. She was widely known for her portrayals of Mae/Sister Woman and Miss Lucy in both the Broadway and film versions of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Sweet Bird of Youth.
Sherwood was born as Madeleine Louise Hélène Thornton in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the granddaughter of the Dean of Dentistry at McGill University. Sherwood made her first stage appearance at the age of four in a church Passion Play. She started her professional career in Montreal when Rupert Kaplan cast her in CBC dramas and soap operas.
Sherwood moved to New York City in 1950 and made her first Broadway appearance in Horton Foote’s The Chase, replacing Kim Stanley. In 1953 she originated the role of Abigail in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Elia Kazan cast her as Mae/Sister Woman in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1954) and as Miss Lucy in Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), both by Tennessee Williams. She reprised both roles in the film versions. She became a member of the Actors Studio in 1957 working with Lee Strasberg and was a life member of the Studio.
Sherwood appeared in many soap opera over the years, most notably on Guiding Light as Mrs. Eilers and The Secret Storm as diner owner Carmen. She had cameos on All My Children as a bag lady and Another World as a befuddled matron, returning to Guiding Light briefly as Roxie Shayne’s madame, Diamond Lil. She was featured in one of the last episodes of Capitol.
Sherwood was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. During the Civil Rights Movement, she worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., in the late 1950s and 1960s and went south to join CORE (Congress on Racial Equality). She was arrested during a Freedom Walk, jailed, and sentenced to six months hard labor, for “[E]ndangering the Customs and Mores of the People of Alabama”.
During the 1980s, she received a grant from A.F.I. as one of the first women to direct short films for them (along with Cicely Tyson, Joanne Woodward, and others). She wrote, directed and acted in her film, Good Night, Sweet Prince, which received excellent notices.
In the 1970s, she met Gloria Steinem, Betty Dodson and other activists at the First Women’s Sexual Conference at Barnard College in New York City. From there, she started consciousness-raising groups and counseling workshops for Women and Incest.
In the early 1990s, she returned to Canada and resettled in Victoria, British Columbia, and Saint-Hippolyte, Quebec. She had been a long-term permanent resident of the United States, but remained a Canadian citizen all her life. She was a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers).
Sherwood died on April 23, 2016, at her childhood home in Lac Cornu, Quebec. No cause of death was disclosed. She was survived by her daughter.
Original Broadway productions
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Sweet Bird of Youth
The Night of the Iguana (succeeded Bette Davis)
Invitation To a March
Do I Hear a Waltz?
Off-Broadway – original productions
Hey You, Light Man
Brecht on Becket
Older People (at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater)
Selected film and television roles
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Mae Flynn Pollitt
Alfred Hitchcock Presents, episode “Make My Death Bed” (1961)
Sweet Bird of Youth (1962), Miss Lucy
The Edge of Night (1964), Ann Kelly #1
The Fugitive (1964), Season 2 Episode 14 “Devil’s Carnival” – Mary Beth Thompson
Hurry Sundown (1967), Eula Purcell
Pendulum (1969), Eileen Sanderson
The Flying Nun (1967–1970), Reverend Mother Superior Placido
The Guiding Light (1970–1971), Betty Eiler
The Manhunter (1972), Ma Bocock
The Secret Storm (1972–1973), Carmen
Wicked, Wicked (1973), Lenore Karadyne
Columbo (1 episode, 1974), Miss Brady
Rich Man, Poor Man Book II (1976), Mrs. Hunt
The Changeling (1980), Mrs. Norman
One Life to Live (1980), Bridget Leander
Resurrection (1980), Ruth
The Electric Grandmother (1982), Aunt Clara
Teachers (1984), Grace
Silence Like Glass (1989), Grandmother