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Jo Van Fleet

Jo Van Fleet

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Also Known As: Catherine Josephine Van Fleet Died: June 10, 1996
Born: December 29, 1915 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Oakland, California, USA Profession: actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

This highly talented stage actress didn't make her film debut until she was almost 40 ("East of Eden", 1955), but it put her on the map and kept her working through the 1970s.Van Fleet, a California native, was schooled for her craft by Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse and by Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. She made her stage debut in "Uncle Harry" at Washington, DC's National Theater in 1944 and quickly made a name for herself as a forceful character actress. She made her Broadway debut in "The Winter's Tale" (1946), and went on to success after success: "The Trip to Bountiful" (1953, for which she won Tony and Donaldson Awards); "Look Homeward, Angel" (1957); "The Glass Menagerie" (1959, and again in 1965); and "Oh, Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad" (1962). She also acted in countless plays around the country."East of Eden" was her first film, and Van Fleet won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar as James Dean's mother, the tough madam of a brothel. She played supporting character roles, often hard-bitten in nature, in another dozen films, a respectable number of them hits. These included "The Rose Tattoo" (1955); "I'll Cry Tomorrow"...

This highly talented stage actress didn't make her film debut until she was almost 40 ("East of Eden", 1955), but it put her on the map and kept her working through the 1970s.

Van Fleet, a California native, was schooled for her craft by Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse and by Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. She made her stage debut in "Uncle Harry" at Washington, DC's National Theater in 1944 and quickly made a name for herself as a forceful character actress. She made her Broadway debut in "The Winter's Tale" (1946), and went on to success after success: "The Trip to Bountiful" (1953, for which she won Tony and Donaldson Awards); "Look Homeward, Angel" (1957); "The Glass Menagerie" (1959, and again in 1965); and "Oh, Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad" (1962). She also acted in countless plays around the country.

"East of Eden" was her first film, and Van Fleet won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar as James Dean's mother, the tough madam of a brothel. She played supporting character roles, often hard-bitten in nature, in another dozen films, a respectable number of them hits. These included "The Rose Tattoo" (1955); "I'll Cry Tomorrow" (also 1955), as Susan Hayward's mother; "Gunfight at the OK Corral" (1957), "Wild River" (1960), strikingly effective as an 80-year old woman; "Cool Hand Luke" (1967); and "The Tenant" (1976). Her most recent onscreen appearance has been opposite Robin Williams in "Seize the Day" (1986, shown on PBS in 1987), the first film adaptation of a Saul Bellow novel.

TV also offered Van Fleet some nice opportunities; her most fondly remembered role was as Lesley Ann Warren's wicked stepmother in an adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" (CBS, 1965). She also guested on "Cosmopolitan Theater" (DuMont, 1951) and appeared in such TV-movies as "Heidi" (NBC, 1955), "The Family Rico" (CBS, 1972), "Satan's School for Girls" (ABC, 1973), and the miniseries "Power" (NBC, 1980). The imposing-looking actress has generally played older than her years, generally as mothers to performers ranging from Anthony Perkins to Ben Gazzara to Paul Newman. She died at the age of 80 in 1996.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Tenant, The (1976) Madame Dioz
2.
 Satan's School For Girls (1973) Mrs Jessica Williams
3.
 Family Rico (1972) Mama Rico
4.
 The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight (1971) Big Momma [Ferrara]
5.
 80 Steps to Jonah (1969) Nonna
6.
7.
 Cool Hand Luke (1967) Arletta
8.
 Wild River (1960) Ella Garth
9.
 This Angry Age (1958) Mme. Dufresne
10.
 Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) Kate Fisher
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1944:
Stage career began at Washington's National Theater with a role in "U Harry"
1946:
Broadway debut in "The Winters Tale"
1953:
Appeared onstage in "The Trip to Bountiful"
1955:
Screen debut in "East of Eden" playing James Dean's mother
1957:
Appeared in "Look Homeward, Angel" playing the role of Anthony Perkins' mother
1959:
Appeared in "The Glass Menagerie"; played role again in 1965
1965:
Appeared as the wicked stepmother in a TV adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella"
1986:
Appeared in "Seize the Day" with Robin Williams
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

College of the Pacific: Stockton , California -
The Neigborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre: New York , New York -
Actors Studio: New York , New York -

Notes

Van Fleet received an honorary doctorate from the College of the Pacific.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
William Bales. Modern dance instructor. Married until his death in 1990.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Roy H Van Fleet.
mother:
Elizabeth Van Fleet.
son:
Michael Bales. Father Willam Bales; survived her.

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