Nancy Marchand dies; versatile on stage, TV

'Sopranos' role won't be continued sez HBO

Nancy Marchand, veteran stage actress who gained national fame in the 1970s as the crusty newspaper publisher on CBS’ “Lou Grant” and then made a sensation as the harridan Mafia mother in HBO’s hit series “The Sopranos,” died Sunday after a battle with emphysema and lung cancer.

Marchand, who died at her Stratford, Conn., home, would have celebrated her 72nd birthday on Monday.

The third season of “Sopranos” is slated to start filming in August. A source at the cabler said Marchand won’t be replaced with another actress; since the relationship of Livia Soprano and her son Tony was central to the series, the actress’s death clearly will affect storylines.

Matronly manner

The role of the cold-blooded, middle-class Italian matriarch Livia was an eye-opener, since Marchand had made a career as the queen of WASPs. She excelled at playing grande dames and matrons — sometimes serious, sometimes comic, occasionally heartless, but frequently wise — in such plays as A.R. Gurney’s “The Cocktail Hour,” films like “Sabrina” and “The Naked Gun,” and TV shows such as “Lou Grant” as the imposing Margaret Pynchon, for which the actress won four Emmys.

Her extensive TV credits include the famed 1952 Kraft Theater presentation of “Marty” opposite Rod Steiger. She also appeared in numerous telefilms and miniseries, such as “The Adams Chronicles” (1976), “Some Kind of Miracle” (1979), “Willa” (1979), “Sparkling Cyanide” (1983) and “North and South, Book II” (1986) as well as guest appearances on “Cheers,” “Coach,” “Night Court” and “Law & Order.”

She received a Tony nomination for her performances in a Broadway double bill of Peter Shaffer one-acts, “White Lies” and “Black Comedy.” She won Obie Awards for “The Cocktail Hour” and “The Balcony.” Other Broadway work included “The Octette Bridge Club,” “Morning’s at Seven,” “And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little” and “Forty Carats.” Besides her Obie-winning performances, she appeared in numerous other Off Broadway plays.

Onscreen career

Her film appearances included the 1957 “Bachelor Party,” “Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon” (1970), “The Hospital” (1971), “The Bostonians” (1984), “Jefferson in Paris” (1995) and “Dear God” (1996).

Marchand was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and attended Carnegie Tech. She first appeared on the stage in 1946 in Ogunquit, Maine, in “The Late George Apley” and made her first appearance in New York at City Center in 1951 in “The Taming of the Shrew.”

She played a great deal of Shakespeare at venues such as the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, Mass.; the Antioch, Ohio, Shakespeare Festival; Off Broadway’s Theater de Lys; and Connecticut’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival. She proved her versatility in a variety of plays around the country including such regional theaters as the Long Wharf in New Haven, Conn.; New York’s Lincoln Center Repertory Co.; Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum; and Chicago’s Goodman Theater.

She was also a member of the Assn. of Performing Artists, for which she appeared in a number of productions in New York and on tour.

Marchand married actor Paul Sparer in 1951; he died last year. She is survived by a son, two daughters and seven grandchildren.

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