Jane Alexander


Actress
Jane Alexander

About

Also Known As
Jane Quigley
Birth Place
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Born
October 28, 1939

Biography

A much-lauded Broadway performer whose Tony Award-winning performance in "The Great White Hope" led to an Academy Award-nominated reprisal of her role on the big screen in 1970, Jane Alexander established herself as one of the most respected actresses across all media during the 1970s. In a career that stretched ahead more than three decades, the fresh-scrubbed New Englander was often ca...

Family & Companions

Robert Alexander
Husband
Married on July 23, 1962; divorced in 1969.
Edwin Sherin
Husband
Director, producer. Married on March 29, 1975.

Bibliography

"Command Performance: An Actress in the Theater of Politics"
Jane Alexander, Public Affairs (2000)
"The Bluefish Cookbook"
Jane Alexander and Greta Jacobs (1983)
"The Master Builder"
Jane Alexander (translator) (1978)

Notes

Alexander received the 1982 St. Botolph Club Achievement in Dramatic Arts Award.

She was awarded the Israel Cultural Award in 1982.

Biography

A much-lauded Broadway performer whose Tony Award-winning performance in "The Great White Hope" led to an Academy Award-nominated reprisal of her role on the big screen in 1970, Jane Alexander established herself as one of the most respected actresses across all media during the 1970s. In a career that stretched ahead more than three decades, the fresh-scrubbed New Englander was often cast as forthright, sympathetic characters, and was noted for the seemingly effortless simplicity and unmannered honesty of her work. Alexander never strayed far from the Broadway stage, earning multiple Tony nominations for dramas including "The Visit" and "First Monday in October," and taking home an award for "The Sisters Rosensweig." Onscreen, Alexander earned Oscar nominations for dramas including "Kramer vs. Kramer" (1979) and the gripping nuclear holocaust story "Testament" (1983). Throughout her career, Alexander also showed an affinity for biographical and historical material, like the Watergate tell-all "All the President's Men" (1977), for which she was Oscar-nominated as Best Supporting Actress; her work in several biographical films about the life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, portraying first lady and Civil Rights advocate Eleanor Roosevelt in "Eleanor and Franklin" (ABC, 1976) and "Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years" (ABC, 1977) as well as the president's overbearing mother Sara in the HBO film "Warm Springs" (2005). Respected by the arts community for her valuable work as head of the National Endowment for the Arts during the 1990s, Alexander remained one of the most respected actresses well into the new millennium.

Alexander was born Oct. 28, 1939, and raised as the daughter of a prominent Boston-area surgeon. She began acting in school plays as a child, but her first professional ambitions were far from the stage, and after several years studying mathematics at Sarah Lawrence College, she transferred overseas to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Alexander became active with the University Dramatic Society and ultimately decided to pursue theater, returning to Boston where she spent the early 1960s performing with the Charles Playhouse in Boston. Alexander joined the Arena Stage in Washington, DC, and in 1968, made a splash on Broadway in "The Great White Hope," earning a Tony, Drama Desk, and Theater World Award for her role as the white mistress of black boxer Jack Johnson (James Earl Jones). In 1970, she and Jones reprised their roles on the movie screen and Alexander earned a Best Actress nomination at the Academy Awards. She remained busiest in theater over the next few years, earning Tony nominations for her roles as a woman searching for the right apartment in the comedy "6 Rms Riv Vu" (1973), and the wife of a bisexual in "Find Your Way Home" (1974).

On television, she gave noteworthy performances as the mother of a cancer-stricken youth (Robby Benson) in "Death Be Not Proud" (ABC, 1975) and received widespread acclaim and Emmy nominations for her affecting portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt (to Edward Herrmann's FDR) in both "Eleanor and Franklin" (ABC, 1976) and "Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years" (ABC, 1977). She gave another Oscar-nominated supporting performance as a nervous witness of Washington accounting practices in "All the President's Men" (1977). She re-teamed with that film's star Dustin Hoffman in 1979 to play the caring friend of a father adjusting to single parenthood in "Kramer vs. Kramer" (1979), which also earned her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. The same year, she gave a Tony-nominated portrayal of the first woman justice on the U.S. Supreme Court in "First Monday in October" (1979). The actress seemingly could not miss the mark; the following year, she won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress for playing opposite Vanessa Redgrave as the leader of an all-female orchestra in Auschwitz in the superb "Playing for Time" (CBS, 1980).

Returning to the New York stage, Alexander portrayed Annie Sullivan in William Gibson's "Monday After the Miracle" and went on to take the lead in the understated but harrowing nuclear holocaust drama "Testament" (1983), which netted her a second Best Actress Academy Award nomination. Alexander's strong reputation enabled her take on expanded duties in new projects, and in 1984 she produced and starred in the TV biopic "Calamity Jane" (CBS, 1984). She shone as another real-life figure in a deliciously spirited portrayal of gossip queen Hedda Hopper to Elizabeth Taylor's Louella Parsons in "Malice in Wonderland" (CBS, 1985). In Alexander's first role as co-executive producer of a feature film, she went on to give a bravura starring performance as a morally loose and ambivalent mother in "Square Dance" (1987), and the same year, co-starred opposite James Woods in "In Love and War" (1987), which chronicled the story of the U.S. Navy Commander and Vietnam prisoner of war James Stockdale and his wife Sybil. Never straying far from the stage, Alexander starred as Hannah in a revival of Tennessee Williams' "Night of the Iguana" in 1988.

Well-cast as the very proper Bostonian mother of Matthew Broderick in the Civil War drama "Glory" (1989), Alexander's continuing interest in biographical material next led her to producing and starring in the PBS production "A Marriage: Georgia O'Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz" (PBS, 1991), about the famed painter and photographer coupling. In 1992, Alexander earned her fifth Tony Award nomination for playing the eldest of "The Sisters Rosensweig" (1993), and the same year, she accepted President Bill Clinton's nomination to head the National Endowment for the Arts. No stranger to playing a role in public affairs, Alexander had already made a name for herself as a board member of organizations, including the American Council for the Arts, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the National Stroke Association. After four fractious years, during which Alexander managed to protect the National Endowment from a Newt Gingrich led-congress of conservatives bent on dissolving the NEA, Alexander tendered her resignation and moved back to New York City. She promptly returned to the Broadway stage in "Honour" (1998), a play about a man who leaves his wife (Alexander) for a younger woman in which Alexander imbued a rather clich├ęd role with dignity and grace, earning a sixth Tony Award nomination. She went on to lend strength and warmth to the supporting role of Nurse Edna, one of the two women aiding in the operation of an orphanage, in the popular film adaptation of John Irving's "The Cider House Rules" (1999).

For her guest-starring role in a two-part crossover "Law & Order" and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 2000) - both of which were directed by her husband Ed Sherin - Alexander received another Emmy nomination. Writer-director John Sayles tapped her for a small role in his "Sunshine State" (2002) and that same year, the actress was a surprising sight in the mainstream hit horror film "The Ring" (2002). Harking back to an earlier acclaimed production in Alexander's career, she took on another project chronicling the early lives of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt with a supporting role as the polio-stricken future president's hard-hearted mother Sara in the acclaimed HBO telepic "Warm Springs" (2005), and took home an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie. In 2007, she returned to movie theaters as part of the ensemble cast of Robert Benton's romantic meditation "Feast of Love" (2007) and took the first regular series television role of her career, starring as a couples therapist (and half of a couple in therapy themselves) on the well-reviewed, sexually graphic drama "Tell Me You Love Me" (HBO, 2007), which only lasted several episodes on HBO. Alexander continued to maintain a steady presence on film with supporting roles as the mother of a single man (Paul Dano) trying to adopt a baby from China in the madcap indie comedy "Gigantic" (2008). She also appeared in commercial fare, including the fourth installment of the "Terminator" franchise, "Terminator Salvation" (2009), and the thriller "The Unborn" (2009), in which she played the matriarch of a family haunted by a malicious spirit.

By Susan Clarke

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Christmas Around the Corner (2018)
The Three Christs of Ypsilanti (2018)
Mr. Morgan's Last Love (2013)
Deck the Halls (2011)
The Unborn (2009)
Terminator Salvation (2009)
Gigantic (2009)
Feast of Love (2007)
Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (2006)
Warm Springs (2005)
Sunshine State (2002)
Delia Temple
The Ring (2002)
The Jenifer Estess Story (2001)
Marilyn Estess
The Cider House Rules (1999)
Daughter of the Streets (1990)
Building Bombs (1989)
Narration
Open Admissions (1988)
Ginny Carlson
Square Dance (1987)
Juanelle
In Love and War (1987)
Sybil Stockdale
Sweet Country (1987)
Malice in Wonderland (1985)
City Heat (1984)
Calamity Jane (1984)
Calamity Jane
When She Says No (1984)
Nora Strangis
Testament (1983)
In the Custody of Strangers (1982)
Night Crossing (1981)
Doris Strelzyk
Brubaker (1980)
Playing for Time (1980)
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979)
Question Of Love (1978)
Barbara Moreland
The Betsy (1978)
Lovey: A Circle of Children, Part II (1978)
Mary Maccracken
A Circle of Children (1977)
Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years (1977)
All The President's Men (1976)
Death Be Not Proud (1975)
This Is the West That Was (1974)
Miracle on 34th Street (1973)
Karen Walker
The New Centurions (1972)
Dorothy [Fehler]
Welcome Home, Johnny Bristol (1972)
Anne Palmer
A Gunfight (1971)
Nora Tenneray
The Great White Hope (1970)
Eleanor Bachman

Producer (Feature Film)

Square Dance (1987)
Executive Producer
Calamity Jane (1984)
Producer

Special Thanks (Feature Film)

Antigone/Rites For the Dead (1991)
Thanks

Cast (Special)

Intimate Portrait: Eleanor Roosevelt (1999)
Narrator
Intimate Portrait: Jane Alexander (1999)
Small Steps, Big Strides: The Black Experience in Hollywood (1998)
James Earl Jones (1995)
The 49th Annual Tony Awards (1995)
The 48th Annual Tony Awards (1994)
Presenter
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1994)
Performer
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1993)
Performer
The 47th Annual Tony Awards (1993)
Performer
New Year (1993)
A Marriage: Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz (1991)
Night of 100 Stars III (1990)
Sea Turtles: Ancient Nomads (1989)
Narration
They're Doing My Time (1989)
Narration
Drug Free Kids: A Parent's Guide (1988)
The 41st Annual Tony Awards (1987)
Performer
Generations (1987)
Host

Producer (Special)

A Marriage: Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz (1991)
Executive Producer

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

A Friendship in Vienna (1988)
Blood and Orchids (1986)
Doris Ashley
Dear Liar (1981)
Eleanor and Franklin (1976)

Life Events

1964

Acted with the Charles Playhouse, Boston

1965

Made television debut in PBS' "Repertory Theatre: St. Patrick's Day"

1966

Was a member of the Arena Stage acting company in Washington, DC

1968

Made Broadway debut in "The Great White Hope"

1969

Made first TV episodic appearance in "NYPD" (ABC)

1970

Made feature debut reprising her stage role for "The Great White Hope"; earned first Oscar nomination as Best Actress

1972

Starred on Broadway in the comedy "6 Rms Riv Vu"; received second Tony Award nomination

1972

TV-movie acting debut in "Welcome Home, Johnny Bristol" (CBS)

1974

Appeared opposite Michael Moriarty in "Find Your Way Home" on Broadway; earned third Tony Award nomination

1976

Cast as a reluctant source in "All the President's Men"; earned second Oscar nomination as Supporting Actress

1976

Played the title role of Catherine Sloper in the Broadway revival of "The Heiress"

1976

Portrayed Eleanor Roosevelt opposite Edward Herrmann as Franklin D. Roosevelt in the ABC biographical drama "Eleanor and Franklin"

1977

Reprised role for the ABC movie sequel, "Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years"

1978

Co-starred with Henry Fonda in the Broadway play "First Monday in October"; earned fourth Tony Award nomination

1979

Played the neighbor in "Kramer vs. Kramer"; earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination

1980

Co-starred with Vanessa Redgrave in the CBS TV-movie "Playing for Time"

1981

Played the title role in "Hedda Gabler" at the Hartman Theatre in Boston

1983

Portrayed Annie Sullivan in William Gibson's stage sequel "Monday After the Miracle"

1983

Earned second Oscar nomination as a mother who survives a nuclear bomb in the film "Testament"

1984

Produced and starred in the CBS TV-movie "Calamity Jane"

1985

Played Hedda Hopper to Elizabeth Taylor's Louella Parsons in the CBS TV-movie "Malice in Wonderland"

1987

First feature film as co-executive producer, "Square Dance"; also starred

1989

Had small role as Matthew Broderick's mother in "Glory"

1991

Executive produced and starred in the PBS drama "A Marriage: Georgia O'Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz"

1992

Starred on Broadway in "The Sisters Rosensweig" by Wendy Wasserstein; received fifth Tony nomination

1998

Returned to Broadway in "Honour"; received sixth Tony Award nomination (fifth as Actress in a Play)

1999

Resumed feature acting career as Nurse Edna in the film adaptation of John Irving's "The Cider House Rules"

2000

Guest starred in a two-part crossover "Law & Order" and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC), both directed by husband Ed Sherin; received Emmy nomination

2000

Headlined "The Cherry Orchard" at the McCarter Theater in Princeton, NJ

2005

Cast in an Emmy award winning role as FDR's overbearing and negatively-minded mother, Sara Roosevelt in the HBO Films original movie "Warm Springs"

2006

Co-starred with Nicole Kidman in "Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus"

2007

Cast in Robert Benton's ensemble drama "Feast of Love"

2009

Played Paul Dano's mother in the independent comedy "Gigantic"

2009

Appeared in McG directed "Terminator Salvation" opposite Christian Bale

2011

Portrayed HM Queen Elizabeth II in The Hallmark Channel TV-movie "William & Catherine: A Royal Romance"

2011

Cast opposite Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz in "Dream House"

Videos

Movie Clip

Brubaker (1980) -- (Movie Clip) Can You Hear Me Now? Title character Robert Redford is the new warden who, until now, had been under-cover as an inmate, speaking to his charges with his trusty staff (Matt Clark, Joe Spinell, Yaphet Kotto) in support, and receiving state officials, Jane Alexander as Lillian Gray, Murray Hamilton her boss Deach, in Brubaker, 1980.
Glory (1989) -- (Movie Clip) Colored Soldiers Home in Boston after surviving Antietam, Union officer Robert Gould Shaw feted by his abolitionist parents (Jane Alexander, Peter Michael Goetz), with family friend Searles (Andre Braugher), meeting the governor (Alan North) and Frederick Douglass (Raymond St. Jacques), in Edward Zwick’s Glory, 1989.
Glory (1989) -- (Movie Clip) Robert Gould Shaw Director Edward Zwick’s stirring opening, Matthew Broderick as Union officer Robert Gould Shaw, reading partly from his original letters, Kevin Jarre’s script from publications by Peter Burchard and Lincoln Kirstein, from Glory, 1989, with Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman.
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) -- (Movie Clip) Is He Gonna Lose His Eye? The big action sequence, as divorcing dad Ted (Dustin Hoffman) is chatting with Margaret (Jane Alexander) and Billy (Justin Henry) has an accident, on a Manhattan playground in Robert Benton's Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979.
Great White Hope, The (1970) -- (Movie Clip) When They Start Hating You More Than That First scene for James Earl Jones as boxer Jack Jefferson, modeled on the real Jack Johnson, and Jane Alexander, in her first movie, as his girlfriend Eleanor, reprising their stage roles, Lou Gilbert as manager Goldie, Joel Fluellen trainer Tick, with crude language, in The Great White Hope, 1970.
Great White Hope, The (1970) -- (Movie Clip) How White You Wanna Be? Celebrating in Chicago after winning the heavyweight championship, Jack Jefferson (James Earl Jones) unconcerned with racial tensions, with his now-fianceè Eleanor (Jane Alexander), confronted by Scipio (Moses Gunn), with more foul language, in director Martin Ritt’s The Great White Hope 1970.

Trailer

Family

Daniel Quigley
Grandfather
Physician. Was personal doctor of Buffalo Bill Cody.
Thomas B Quigley
Father
Surgeon.
Ruth Elizabeth Quigley
Mother
Nurse.
Jason Edward Alexander
Son
Actor, director. Born on April 7, 1964; acted in several John Sayles' films and in "Clueless"; has directed episodes of "Law & Order"; in 1998 married actress Maddie Corman.
Anthony Sherin
Step-Son
Editor.
Geoffrey Sherin
Step-Son
Jonathan Sherin
Step-Son
Maddie Corman
Daughter-In-Law
Actor. Married Jace Alexander in 1998.

Companions

Robert Alexander
Husband
Married on July 23, 1962; divorced in 1969.
Edwin Sherin
Husband
Director, producer. Married on March 29, 1975.

Bibliography

"Command Performance: An Actress in the Theater of Politics"
Jane Alexander, Public Affairs (2000)
"The Bluefish Cookbook"
Jane Alexander and Greta Jacobs (1983)
"The Master Builder"
Jane Alexander (translator) (1978)

Notes

Alexander received the 1982 St. Botolph Club Achievement in Dramatic Arts Award.

She was awarded the Israel Cultural Award in 1982.

In 1984, Alexander won the Helen Caldicott Leadership Award.

She received the Western Heritage Wrangler Award in 1985.