Nancy Marchand


Actor

About

Birth Place
Buffalo, New York, USA
Born
June 19, 1928
Died
June 18, 2000
Cause of Death
Cancer

Biography

With her patrician looks and wavering voice, Marchand has carved a niche for herself portraying upper class doyennes. While still in college, she made her acting debut in a summer stock production of "The Late George Apley." After earning a degree from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University), she spent a season at the Falmouth Theater on Cape Cod, Massachusetts,...

Family & Companions

Paul Sparer
Husband
Actor, director. Married from July 7, 1951 until his death from cancer on November 16, 1999.

Notes

Posthumously inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2001.

Biography

With her patrician looks and wavering voice, Marchand has carved a niche for herself portraying upper class doyennes. While still in college, she made her acting debut in a summer stock production of "The Late George Apley." After earning a degree from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University), she spent a season at the Falmouth Theater on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, before traveling north to Cambridge to join the Brattle Theater for two seasons (1950-52). Marchand squeezed in her New York stage debut in 1951 as the tavern hostess in Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew." She was to spend much of the next forty-plus years appearing in contemporary and classical theater. Marchand won critical praise and an OBIE Award for her performance in Jean Genet's "The Balcony" in 1960. Other noteworthy stage appearances include opposite Estelle Parsons in "And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little" (1971), as Vera Simpson in "Pal Joey" and Ranevskaya in "The Cherry Orchard" (Chicago, 1974), the eldest sister in the acclaimed revival of Paul Osborn's "Morning's at Seven" (1980), the title role in "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You" (1982), several productions of Clifford Odets' "Awake and Sing"; Ann, the mother who was always up for "just another splash" in A R Gurney's "The Cocktail Hour" (1988), and the 1993 revival of Anthony Shaffer's "Black Comedy."

Marchand made an impression in TV with her first role, as Jo March in "Little Women" (CBS, 1950) and also as Clara, the object of affection of Rod Steiger, in Paddy Chayefsky's drama "Marty" (NBC, 1953). She appeared in many TV productions throughout the so-called "Golden Age of Television" in the 1950s. In the 60s and early 70s, Marchand appeared on several daytime dramas including "Another World" and "Search for Tomorrow." She made her primetime series debut as the matriarch of a Boston Brahmin family in the short-lived 1975 CBS drama "Beacon Hill." Marchand is perhaps best-remembered for her portrayal of Mrs. Margaret Pynchon, the autocratic newspaper publisher, on "Lou Grant" (CBS, 1977-82). Again, she played an aristocratic woman (reportedly inspired by Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham) who was just as opinionated, strong and stubborn as her editor (Edward Asner). Marchand received four Emmy Awards as Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for the role.

Marchand's film work has been sporadic since her debut as an unhappily married woman in Delbert Mann's "The Bachelor Party" (1957). She was a concerned adult who witnesses the reaction of several children when an air raid siren accidentally goes off in Frank Perry's "Ladybug, Ladybug" (1963) and was Patty Duke's mother in "Me, Natalie" (1969). Marchand appeared as another Brahmin in James Ivory's "The Bostonians" (1987) and had one of her best screen roles as the Mayor in "Naked Gun--From the Files of the Police Squad" (1988). In Sydney Pollack's 1995 remake of "Sabrina," she nearly stole the picture as Harrison Ford's mother.

At an age when many might be thinking of retirement, Marchand landed the meaty, scene-stealing role of Livia on the acclaimed 1999 HBO series "The Sopranos." Cast as the harridan mother of a Mafia capo, she was riveting in the role. On the surface, her Livia was a frail, failing elderly woman, but underneath lay a heart of stone and a core of steel. Not only was she not as dotty and helpless as she led everyone to believe, she was willing to conspire with her brother-in-law in ordering a hit on her own son! Marchand proved a delight in this change-of-pace turn and picked up a richly deserved Emmy nomination in 1999. The following fall, she publicly disclosed that she had been battling lung cancer for several years and that the series writers were considering incorporating that into storylines. Some might argue that because her illness incapacitated her, her presence on "The Sopranos" was curtailed somewhat to the detriment of the series. Marchand succumbed to cancer during the hiatus following the second season.

Life Events

1946

Stage debut in summer stock "The Late George Apley"

1950

Appeared at Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA, in various productions, including "Love's Labour's Lost", "Macbeth" and "King Lear"

1950

Earliest TV credits include Jo in "Little Women" (CBS)

1951

New York stage debut, "The Taming of the Shrew"

1953

Co-starred with Rod Steiger in TV version of "Marty"

1957

Film debut "The Bachelor Party"

1975

Primetime TV series debut in the shortlived CBS drama "Beacon Hill"

1980

Won acclaim for Broadway production of "Morning's at Seven"

1984

Acted in first Merchant Ivory film "The Bostonians"

1992

Acted Off-Broadway alongside husband Paul Sparer in Jon Robin Baitz's "The End of the Day"

1994

Garnered Tony Award nomination for her work in the revival of "Black Comedy"

1995

Played Harrison Ford's mother in Sydney Pollack's remake of "Sabrina"

1995

Reunited with Merchant Ivory for supporting role in "Jefferson in Paris"

1999

Co-starred in the HBO drama series "The Sopranos", playing Livia Soprano; last role before she passed

Family

Raymond L Marchand
Father
Dentist.
Marjorie Marchand
Mother
Pianist.
David Sparer
Son
Lawyer. Born c. 1953.
Kathryn Sparer
Daughter
Actor. Born c. 1956.
Rachel Sparer Bersier
Daughter
Opera singer. Born c, 1960.

Companions

Paul Sparer
Husband
Actor, director. Married from July 7, 1951 until his death from cancer on November 16, 1999.

Bibliography

Notes

Posthumously inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2001.