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Marian Seldes

Marian Seldes

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Also Known As: Marian Hall Seldes Died: October 6, 2014
Born: August 23, 1928 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: actor, director, acting teacher, author

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

This daughter of noted critic and author Gilbert Seldes and niece of pioneering journalist George Seldes began her career as a dancer with the American Ballet. By her late teens, however, the tall, lithe brunette had decided to switch to acting, making her stage debut in a bit role supporting Judith Anderson in "Medea" in 1947. After apprenticing with Katharine Cornell (and supporting that legendary leading lady in NYC stage venues), Marian Seldes made her feature film debut in "The Lonely Night" (1952). By her own admission, her tony upbringing had instilled in her the notion that ambition was not necessarily a good thing, so consequently, her film career proved sporadic. After a flurry of roles, most of which wasted her unique presence, in films like "The True Story of Jesse James" (1957) and "The Light in the Forest" (1958), the actress returned to the East Coast and resumed her stage work. The 1960s saw her flourish in original roles in plays by some of the acknowledged masters of the American theater. Seldes originated the role of Blackie in Tennessee Williams' "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore" (1964) and had the title role of "Tiny Alice" (1965) in Edward Albee's play. In 1966, she...

This daughter of noted critic and author Gilbert Seldes and niece of pioneering journalist George Seldes began her career as a dancer with the American Ballet. By her late teens, however, the tall, lithe brunette had decided to switch to acting, making her stage debut in a bit role supporting Judith Anderson in "Medea" in 1947. After apprenticing with Katharine Cornell (and supporting that legendary leading lady in NYC stage venues), Marian Seldes made her feature film debut in "The Lonely Night" (1952). By her own admission, her tony upbringing had instilled in her the notion that ambition was not necessarily a good thing, so consequently, her film career proved sporadic. After a flurry of roles, most of which wasted her unique presence, in films like "The True Story of Jesse James" (1957) and "The Light in the Forest" (1958), the actress returned to the East Coast and resumed her stage work.

The 1960s saw her flourish in original roles in plays by some of the acknowledged masters of the American theater. Seldes originated the role of Blackie in Tennessee Williams' "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore" (1964) and had the title role of "Tiny Alice" (1965) in Edward Albee's play. In 1966, she achieved one of the pinnacles of her career as Julia, the much married daughter of a bitter couple, in Albee's blistering "A Delicate Balance," a performance that earned her a well-deserved Tony Award as Best Featured Actress in a Play. Five years, Seldes was elevated to the leading category for her strong turn in the one-night flop "Father's Day." (She lost to Maureen Stapleton.) By this time, she had a secondary career as a teacher at the drama division of The Juilliard School, a post she held from 1968 to 1990.

The '70s saw Seldes establish her reputation for consistency. Between 1974 and 1976, she racked up more than 900 performances in "Equus," first as the magistrate and later as the mother of the troubled boy at the heart of the play. For her more than 1,000 performance run in "Deathtrap" (as the playwright's murdered wife), Seldes landed a spot in "The Guinness Book of World Records" and to honor her, the producers elevated her name to above the title. As the 80s dawned, she was cast in more patrician roles like the WASP mother in "Painting Churches" (1983-84), Woman B in Albee's Pulitzer-winning "Three Tall Women" (1992-96), the imperious mother to Teri Garr in the short-lived ABC sitcom "Good and Evil" (1991) and Aunt Brook in a 1992 episode of "Murphy Brown." She lent the same mixture of superiority and snobbery to such roles as the Widow Douglas in "Tom and Huck" (1995) and the neighbor who inadvertently passes a stolen computer chip to her pint-sized neighbor in "Home Alone 3" (1997). The actress displayed a warmer side as the town historian in "Affliction" and as Kevin Bacon's terminally ill mother in "Digging to China" (both 1998). While filming what she has termed her homage to Judith Anderson's Mrs. Danvers in "The Haunting" (1999), Seldes was tapped by former student Gerald Guitterez to replace the ailing Irene Worth in the 1999 Broadway revival of Jean Anouilh's "Ring Round the Moon." The pivotal role of the wheelchair-bound Madame Desmemortes allowed her to display her talents and Seldes earned a Best Actress Tony nomination for her efforts. Following the death of her second husband Garson Kanin in 1999, Seldes slowed but did not cease her theater and screen appearances, which included roles in Mike Newell's "Mona Lisa Smile" (2003) and George Clooney's period comedy "Leatherheads" (2008). She also appeared in the 2003 revival of the Broadway classic "Dinner At Eight." Marian Seldes died at home in Manhattan at the age of 86 on October 6, 2014.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Extra Man, The (2010)
2.
 Home (2009)
3.
 Visitor, The (2008)
4.
 Leatherheads (2008)
5.
 Toe Tactic, The (2008)
6.
 August Rush (2007)
7.
9.
 Plainsong (2004)
10.
 Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1997:
Acted alongside former student Kevin Kline in "Ivanov"; directed by Gerald Guitterez, another former student
1978:
Co-starred as the murdered wife of playwright Sydney Bruhl in the long-running "Deathtrap"; earned a Tony Award nomination for Featured Actress in a Play
1942:
Debuted as a dancer with the American Ballet in "Petrouchka"
2003:
Earned a Tony Award nomination for Featured Actress in a Play for her role in "Dinner at Eight"
1992:
First acted in Edward Albee's award-winning "Three Tall Women"; later appeared in the off-Broadway production in 1994
2001:
Had featured role in Neil Simon's Broadway comedy "45 Seconds from Broadway"
1999:
Had supporting role as a mysterious housekeeper in "The Haunting"
1949:
Made an early TV appearance in a production of "Macbeth"
1964:
Performed in Tennessee Williams' "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore"
1967:
Played Julia, the much married daughter of a warring couple (played by Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn) in Albee's "A Delicate Balance"
1974:
Played over 900 performances as the magistrate and later as Alan's mother in "Equus"
1983:
Played the starchy matron in the hit off-Broadway play "Painting Churches"
1998:
Played the terminally ill mother of the mentally-challenged Kevin Bacon in "Digging to China"
1995:
Portrayed former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in the HBO biopic "Truman"
1991:
Resumed film career portraying Alice B. Toklas to Jan Miner's Gertrude Stein in "Gertrude Stein and a Companion"
1995:
Appeared as the Widow Douglas in "Tom and Huck"
1990:
Co-starred in the ill-fated (and ill-conceived) musical sequel "Annie 2: Miss Hanigan's Revenge" at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC
2008:
Had a small role in the George Clooney directed "Leatherheads"
2007:
Had a supporting role in the independent film "The Visitor"
1992:
Had featured role in the screen comedy "The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag"
1948:
Made her Broadway theatre debut in a production of "Medea"
1992:
Offered a memorable turn as Aunt Brook on a holiday episode of "Murphy Brown" (CBS)
2001:
Played Andie MacDowell's mother in "Town & Country"
2007:
Played well-bred Midge Barker, opposite Angela Lansbury's blue collar Leona Mullen, in the Broadway production of "Deuce"
2003:
Portrayed the president of a woman's college in the 1950s in "Mona Lisa Smile"
1999:
Returned to Broadway, replacing an ailing Irene Worth, in the revival of "Ring Round the Moon"; earned a Best Actress Tony Award nomination as the wheelchair-bound Madame Desmermortes
2000:
Starred in Edward Albee's "The Play About the Baby" at the Alley Theater in Houston; reprised role in the off-Broadway production in 2001
1967:
Was a faculty member of the Juilliard School of Drama; among her students were Kevin Kline, Gerald Guiterrez and Frances Conroy
1996:
Was interviewed for the Oscar-nominated documentary "Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press"
1955:
Acted in the Broadway production of "The Chalk Garden"
2000:
Acted on stage as a theatrical grande dame in The Drama Dept. production of "The Torch-Bearers"
1965:
Appeared as Herodias in "The Greatest Story Ever Told"; last feature for over a decade
:
Appeared with Katharine Cornell in "That Lady" (1949) and "The Tower Beyond Tragedy" (1950)
2002:
Began teaching at Fordham University in New York City
1971:
Earned a Tony Award nomination for her role in Oliver Hailey's "Father's Day"; show opened and closed on the same night
1965:
Initial stage collaboration with Edward Albee, "Tiny Alice"
1945:
Made stage acting debut with the Cambridge Summer Theater
1977:
Portrayed the titular dancer in "Isadora Duncan Sleeps with the Russian Navy"
1978:
Published her memoirs <i>The Bright Lights</i>
1960:
Returned to Broadway to appear in "The Wall"
1997:
Cast as the grumpy woman who inadvertently passes a stolen computer chip to her next-door neighbor in "Home Alone 3"
1991:
Debuted as a series regular on the short-lived ABC sitcom "Good & Evil"
1952:
Feature acting debut, "The Lonely Night"
1977:
Made one-shot return to features as Harvey Kietel's mentally unbalanced mother in "Fingers"
1998:
Played Mr. Big's (Chris Noth) mother in an episode of HBO's "Sex and the City"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

School of the American Ballet: New York, New York - 1941
The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre: New York, New York - 1947

Notes

Seldes was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1996

"I thought ambition was an unattractive quality. I couldn't see the positive side of it. And I think it held me back, and I wish I'd been more ambitious." --Marian Seldes quoted in "The Lively Artist: 'Ring Round the Moon' Brings Actress Marian Seldes Unexpected Rewards" by Edward Karam in Playbill, May 12, 1999.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Julian Arnold Claman. Married in November 1953; divorced in November 1961.
husband:
Julian Arnold Claman. Had one.
husband:
Garson Kanin. Writer, director. Married from June 19, 1990 until his death on March 13, 1999.
husband:
Garson Kanin. Had three sons and a daughter who all survived him.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Gilbert Seldes. Critic, author. Son of Russian Jewish emigres.
mother:
Alice Seldes. From a prominent WASP family.
mother:
Alice Seldes. Hotel worker.
uncle:
George Seldes. Journalist, author. Born in 1890; died on July 2, 1995; subject of the 1996 Oscar-nominated documentary "Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press", in which Marian appears as an interviewee.
aunt:
Helen Seldes. Journalist. Wife of George.
aunt:
Helen Seldes. Had a second.
brother:
Timothy Seldes. Agent.
brother:
Timothy Seldes. Had five; survived her.
daughter:
Katharine Claman. Named for Katharine Cornell; named son Guthrie after Tyrone Guthrie.
daughter:
Katharine Claman. Set builder.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Bright Lights: A Theatre Life" Houghton Mifflin
"Time Together"

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