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Eileen Heckart (March 29, 1919 – December 31, 2001) was an American actress of stage, screen, and television.

Early life

Heckart was born Anna Eileen Heckart in Columbus, Ohiomarker, the daughter of Esther (née Stark) and Leo Herbert. She was legally adopted by her grandfather, J.W. Heckart. Her family was of Irish and German descent. She graduated from Ohio State Universitymarker with a B.A. in drama.


Heckart began her Broadwaymarker career as the assistant stage manager and an understudy for The Voice of the Turtle in 1943. Her many credits include Picnic, The Bad Seed, A View from the Bridge, A Memory of Two Mondays, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, A Family Affair, Barefoot in the Park, Butterflies Are Free, and You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running. Her awards include Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre, a 2000 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play for the off-Broadway The Waverly Gallery, and the 1953 Theatre World Award for Picnic. Her nominations include a 1996 Drama Desk Award for Northeast Local and Tony nods for Butterflies Are Free, Invitation to a March, and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs.

Heckart won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her work in the 1972 movie adaptation of Butterflies Are Free and was nominated in 1956 for her performance as the bereaved, besotted Mrs. Daigle in The Bad Seed. She also appeared as a Vietnam War widow with Clint Eastwood in Heartbreak Ridge.

She appeared in the Saturn Award-winning horror film Burnt Offerings in 1976 alongside longtime friend Bette Davis (although they shared no scenes).

Heckart was familiar to TV audiences with starring roles in The 5 Mrs. Buchanans, Annie McGuire, Out of the Blue, Trauma Center, Partners in Crime, Backstairs at the White House (as Eleanor Roosevelt), and guest spots on The Fugitive , The Mary Tyler Moore Show (as journalist Flo Meredith, a role she carried over to a guest appearance on MTM's spinoff Lou Grant), Rhoda, Murder One, Hawaii Five-0, Cybill, The Cosby Show, and many other shows. She appeared in the 1963 episode, "There Should Be an Outfit Called 'Families Anonymous!'", of the NBC medical drama The Eleventh Hour.

She played Diane Keaton's meddling mother in 1996's The First Wives Club.

Personal life

Heckart was married to John Harrison Yankee Jr. from 1942 until his death in 1997. Her son Luke Yankee is the author of Just Outside the Spotlight: Growing Up with Eileen Heckart (ISBN 0-8230-7888-4), published by Back Stage Books in 2006.

Heckart died of lung cancer at her home in Norwalk, Connecticutmarker at the age of 82. She also had lived in Stamford, Connecticutmarker. She was survived by 3 children and 2 stepsisters.


Year Film Role Notes
1956 Miracle in the Rain Grace Ullman
Somebody Up There Likes Me Ma Barbella
Bus Stop Vera
The Bad Seed Hortense Daigle Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1958 Hot Spell Alma's Friend
1960 Heller in Pink Tights Mrs. Lorna Hathaway
1967 Up the Down Staircase Henrietta Pastorfield
1968 No Way to Treat a Lady Mrs. Brummel
1969 The Tree Sally Dunning
1972 Butterflies Are Free Mrs. Baker Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1974 Zandy's Bride Ma Allan
1975 The Hiding Place Katje
1976 Burnt Offerings Roz Allardyce
1986 Seize the Day Funeral Woman #1
Heartbreak Ridge Little Mary Jackson
1996 The First Wives Club Catherine MacDuggan National Board of Review Award for Best Cast


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