Blacklisted actress, radio star
Frances Chaney, a radio star whose budding film career was stifled after she and her husband, Ring Lardner Jr., were placed on a Hollywood blacklist, died Nov. 23 in Manhattan of Alzheimer’s disease. She was 89.
Lardner was one of the Hollywood 10, jailed in 1950 for contempt of Congress for refusing to answer whether they were Communists. Chaney was blacklisted because she was correctly assumed to be, as Mr. Lardner’s wife, a Communist.
Chaney found herself unemployed after years appearing on popular radio series like “Topper,” “Gangbusters” and “Mr. District Attorney.” At one point, she spent her mornings playing an ingenue in “House in the Country” and her afternoons playing Burma in “Terry and the Pirates.”
She had parlayed her radio work into a few screen parts before the blacklist started costing her jobs, but she was able to win parts in Off Broadway and Broadway plays, including understudying for Maureen Stapleton, Kim Stanley and Claudette Colbert.
By the time the blacklist’s power faded, Chaney was entrenched as a stage actress. She was often typecast as a Jewish mother, a part she played in “Golda” on Broadway with Anne Bancroft, in James Lapine’s Off Broadway “Table Settings,” and in three separate productions of Clifford Odets’s “Awake and Sing.”
In the 1960s, she had a recurring role on the soap opera “The Edge of Night.”
Chaney’s first husband, David Lardner, was a younger brother of Ring Lardner Jr.’s. David Lardner died in 1944. Ring Lardner Jr. died in 2000.
She is survived by two sons; a daughter; two stepchildren; seven grandchildren; and eight great-granddaughters.