Jessica Tandy


Actor
Jessica Tandy

About

Birth Place
London, England, GB
Born
June 07, 1909
Died
September 11, 1994
Cause of Death
Ovarian Cancer

Biography

Versatile, commanding stage performer, often opposite husband Hume Cronyn, who acted in occasional features beginning in the early 1930s but was busiest in films while in her seventies and eighties. Tandy began acting onstage in her native England in her teens and by the mid-1930s was enjoying considerable success in the classics, playing Ophelia to John Gielgud's Hamlet in 1934 and play...

Family & Companions

Jack Hawkins
Husband
Actor. Married 1932, divorced 1940.
Hume Cronyn
Husband
Actor, director, writer. Married September 27, 1942 until her death.

Notes

Received honorary law degree from Fordham University in 1985

"Only poets, not theater critics, should be allowed to write about her." --"New York Times" theater critic Frank Rich.

Biography

Versatile, commanding stage performer, often opposite husband Hume Cronyn, who acted in occasional features beginning in the early 1930s but was busiest in films while in her seventies and eighties. Tandy began acting onstage in her native England in her teens and by the mid-1930s was enjoying considerable success in the classics, playing Ophelia to John Gielgud's Hamlet in 1934 and playing Viola in Tyrone Guthrie's famous 1937 staging of "Twelfth Night." Separating from first husband, actor Jack Hawkins, in 1940, Tandy moved to America but initially had a thin time of it. Luckily, she met up-and-coming actor Cronyn, whom she married in 1942 and with whom she made several supporting appearances in American films of the 1940s. Her Hollywood debut was with Cronyn, in Fred Zinnemann's first-rate thriller "The Seventh Cross" (1944), but within several years she was playing small supporting roles, such as a maid in "Forever Amber" (1947). Luckily, Tennessee Williams saw Tandy onstage in "Portrait of Madonna," a play directed by Cronyn, and decided she was perfect to play one of his most complex creations, Blanche DuBois, in his landmark work, "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1947). As she would in so much future work, Tandy combined a seemingly fragile, genteel sensitivity with considerable strength, verve and emotionalism. In the 1950s she and Cronyn would prove to be the successors to Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne as the pre-eminent married acting couple of the American theater as in their fine work in the first of several two-character plays, "The Fourposter" (1951). The couple also did much important work in more experimental fare by Samuel Beckett and other writers, and frequently played in regional theater as well. Tandy and Cronyn occasionally committed their dynamic stage work to the TV screen, and both would return to the silver screen as well; one of Tandy's most impressive characterizations at this mid-career stage was her cold and dominating mother in Alfred Hitchcock's masterful "The Birds" (1963). Later stage triumphs for Tandy included "The Gin Game" (1978), another comedy-drama duet for her and Cronyn, which won her a Tony to keep company with her one for "Streetcar." (She would win yet again for "Foxfire" 1983, a play which would also net her an Emmy for a TV reprisal in 1988.) The 1980s saw Tandy reigniting her film career, co-starring in "Cocoon" (1985), "Batteries Not Included" (1987) and "Cocoon: The Return" (1988), and winning her first Oscar as the crusty Southern matron opposite Morgan Freeman in "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989). Sympathetic and gentle, yet proud and resolute, Tandy became something of a fixture in Hollywood films aimed at a largely female audience: she was central to the success of both "Fried Green Tomatoes" (1991), adapted from Fannie Flagg's novel, and "Used People" (1992). Indeed, nearly half her feature film credits are from the last 12 years of her life, as were some of her most interesting TV assignments, which included "The Story Lady" (1991) and "To Dance with the White Dog" (1993). Until the end, her sensitivity and commitment to her craft and to her scripts and fellow players made her more than a dedicated artisan and delightful colleague--they provided a richly textured portrait of indomitable spirit.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Camilla (1994)
Camilla Cara
A Century Of Cinema (1994)
Nobody's Fool (1994)
To Dance With the White Dog (1993)
Used People (1992)
The Story Lady (1991)
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
Ninny Threadgoode
Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
Cocoon: the Return (1988)
The House On Carroll Street (1988)
*batteries not included (1987)
Foxfire (1987)
Annie Nations
Cocoon (1985)
The Bostonians (1984)
Still of the Night (1982)
Best Friends (1982)
Eleanor Mccullen
The World According to Garp (1982)
Mrs Fields
Honky Tonk Freeway (1981)
Butley (1974)
The Birds (1963)
Mrs. Brenner
Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man (1962)
Mrs. Adams
The Light in the Forest (1958)
Myra Butler
September Affair (1951)
Catherine Lawrence
The Desert Fox (1951)
Lucie Rommel
A Woman's Vengeance (1948)
Janet Spence
Forever Amber (1947)
Nan Britton
Dragonwyck (1946)
Peggy O'Malley
The Green Years (1946)
Kate Leckie
The Valley of Decision (1945)
Louise Kane
Blonde Fever (1945)
Diner at inn
The Seventh Cross (1944)
Liessel Roeder
Murder in the Family (1938)

Cast (Special)

An African Love Story (1996)
Narrator
An African Love Story (1996)
Herself
The 48th Annual Tony Awards (1994)
Performer
The 64th Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1992)
Presenter
The 63rd Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1991)
Presenter
In the Company of Whales (1991)
Narrator
Night of 100 Stars III (1990)
The 62nd Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1990)
Presenter
The 44th Annual Tony Awards (1990)
Performer
Everybody's Doing It (1988)
The 41st Annual Tony Awards (1987)
Performer
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1987)
The 40th Annual Tony Awards (1986)
Performer
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1986)
The Gin Game (1984)
The Moon and Sixpence (1959)
The Four Poster (1955)
Wife

Misc. Crew (Special)

An African Love Story (1996)
Other

Life Events

1927

Made British stage debut in a small Soho theater, as Sara Manderson in "The Manderson Girls"

1929

London stage debut in "The Rumor"

1930

Broadway debut in "The Matriarch," Longacre Theatre

1932

Played breakthrough role of Manuela in a production of Christa Winsloe's play, "Children in Uniform"

1932

British film debut in "The Indiscretions of Eve"

1934

Played Ophelia opposite John Gielgud in the title role of a British production of "Hamlet"

1937

Played Viola in a production of "Twelfth Night" staged by Tyrone Guthrie at the Old Vic

1938

Played a leading role in one of her last British films, "Murder in the Family"

1940

Met Hume Cronyn when she returned to NY stage in "Jupiter Laughs" with Alexander Knox

1940

Decided to move to America with WWII impending and her marriage to actor Jack Hawkins ending; left England with daughter Susan but was only allowed to take ten pounds out of the country; found it difficult to find work acting for a time; considered giving up career

1940

Returned to the Old Vic to play Cordelia in a production of "King Lear" with John Gielgud in the title role

1944

Made US film debut in support of Spencer Tracy in "The Seventh Cross"; also marked first feature film in which she acted with husband Hume Cronyn

1946

Starred in Tennessee Williams's "Portrait of a Madonna" at the Los Angeles Actors' Workshop (staged by Hume Cronyn) as almost an audition for "Streetcar" while Elia Kazan was in Hollywood directing "Gentlemen's Agreement"

1947

Originated role of Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams's "A Streetcar Named Desire"

1948

US TV debut in "Portrait of a Madonna"

1951

First acted opposite Hume Cronyn onstage, "The Fourposter"

1951

Last feature film for seven years, "The Desert Fox"; played Frau Rommel opposite James Mason as German WWII field marshall Rommel

1954

Starred as Liz Marriott on own US TV series (opposite Hume Cronyn), "The Marriage", a short-lived comedy-drama which aired on NBC

1958

First feature film in seven years, "The Light in the Forest"

1963

Last feature film for 11 years, "The Birds", directed by Alfred Hitchcock

1973

Had an operation to remove double cataracts

1974

First feature film in 11 years, "Butley", starring Alan Bates

1981

First feature film role opposite Hume Cronyn in 35 years, "Honky Tonk Freeway"; was also first film she made since "Butley"

1983

Starred in a NY stage revival of Tennessee Williams's "The Glass Menagerie"

1984

Returned to TV for the first time in over two decades to reprise her Tony-winning stage performance (opposite Hume Cronyn) in a PBS presentation of "The Gin Game"

1985

Collapsed onstage during a performance of "Foxfire" in Los Angeles due to a cardiovascular problem

1986

Last stage work, "The Petition", opposite Hume Cronyn

1989

Won Best Actress Oscar for her crusty Southern matron in "Driving Miss Daisy"

1990

Began battle against ovarian cancer

1991

Underwent major surgery for her cancer

1992

Last film released during her lifetime, "Used People"

1994

Completed work on two features, "Camilla" (her last film with Cronyn) and "Nobody's Fool", released posthumously

Photo Collections

The Birds - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

Best Friends (1982) - I Started Getting Cold In Arizona Married now but uneasy, in the screenplay by married Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson, screenwriters Richard and Paula (Burt Reynolds, Goldie Hawn) arrive in wintry Buffalo (on location, at the now-defunct but still-standing Central Terminal), meeting her parents, Barnard Hughes and Jessica Tandy, in Best Friends, 1982.
Forever Amber (1947) - You Didn't Tell Me You Had An Uncle Clever shooting by director Otto Preminger, as Linda Darnell (title character) is now a London actress, pursued by wealthy Radcliffe (Richard Haydn), attended by her fellow former prisoner Nan (Jessica Tandy), thrilled to see old pal Harry (Richard Greene), who upsets her current sponsor Morgan (Glenn Langan), in Forever Amber, 1947.
Best Friends (1982) - Sounds Like Bad Tennessee Williams Clever gender-joke opening, Norman Jewison directing from the original screenplay by husband and wife Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson, Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn as not-married screenwriting couple Richard and Paula, in Best Friends, 1982.
Cocoon (1985) - Open, She's Really Slipping Director Ron Howard introduces his child lead (Barret Oliver) then puts Industrial Light & Magic and much of his his acclaimed veteran cast (Wilford Brimley, Maureen Stapleton, Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn, Jack Gilford, Herta Ware) straight to work, opening Cocoon, 1985.
Cocoon (1985) - I'm In The Mood For Love Invigorated after their swim in the pool with the mystery ocean pods, Florida geezers Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley and Hume Cronyn, in a hurry to see partners Jessica Tandy, Gwen Verdon and Maureen Stapleton, their Mahjong friend Herta Ware intrigued, early in Ron Howard's Cocoon, 1985.
Bostonians, The - Our Emancipation From the opening credits, scenes introducing Ransome (Christopher Reeve), cousin Olive (Vanessa Redgrave), Miss Birdseye (Jessica Tandy), Pardon (Wallace Shawn) and Dr. Prance (Linda Hunt), in the Merchant-Ivory production of Henry James' The Bostonians, 1984.

Trailer

Green Years, The - (Original Trailer) An orphaned Irish boy is taken in by his mother's Scottish relations in The Green Years (1946) from the author of The Citadel and The Stars Look Down.
Best Friends (1982) -- Original Trailer Trailer for director Norman Jewison's 1982 rom-com with Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn, Best Friends, broadly based on the real-life relationship between screenwriters Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson.
Blonde Fever - (Original Trailer) A woman fights to save her husband after he gets Blonde Fever (1945) with a young Gloria Grahame as the Blonde.
Dragonwyck - (Original Trailer) A farm girl (Gene Tierney) signs on as governess in a gloomy mansion in Dragonwyck (1946).
Driving Miss Daisy - (Original Trailer) Driving Miss Daisy (1989), the story of an elderly Southern white woman and her black chauffeur, won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actress (Jessica Tandy) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Alfred Uhry).
Cocoon - (Original Trailer) A group of elderly people are rejuvenated by aliens after swimming in a pool in Cocoon (1985).
Birds, The - (Original Trailer) Alfred Hitchcock presents a lecture on feathered friends, or is it fiends, in this trailer for The Birds (1963).
Valley of Decision, The - (Original Trailer) Greer Garson's career is the subject, in the original trailer for The Valley of Decision, 1945, the story of an Irish housemaid's romance with the boss's son, also starring Gregory Peck.
Seventh Cross, The - (Original Trailer) The original trailer featuring a speedy retrospective of star Spencer Tracy's career, for The Seventh Cross, 1944, also starring Signe Hasso and Hume Cronyn.

Family

Harry Tandy
Father
Died of cancer c.1921.
Jessie Helen Tandy
Mother
Headmistress at a school for retarded children.
Susan Tettemer
Daughter
Father Jack Hawkins; born c. 1934.
Christopher Cronyn
Son
Father Hume Cronyn; born 1943.
Tandy Cronyn
Daughter
Actor. Father Hume Cronyn; born 1945.

Companions

Jack Hawkins
Husband
Actor. Married 1932, divorced 1940.
Hume Cronyn
Husband
Actor, director, writer. Married September 27, 1942 until her death.

Bibliography

Notes

Received honorary law degree from Fordham University in 1985

"Only poets, not theater critics, should be allowed to write about her." --"New York Times" theater critic Frank Rich.

Named to Theatre Hall of Fame (1979)