Jane Wyatt, the lovely, serene actress who for six years on “Father Knows Best” was one of TV’s favorite moms, has died. She was 96.
Wyatt died Friday in her sleep of natural causes at her home in Bel-Air.
Wyatt had a successful film career in the 1930s and ’40s, notably as Ronald Colman’s lover in 1937’s “Lost Horizon.”
But it was her years as Robert Young’s TV wife, Margaret Anderson, on “Father Knows Best” that brought the actress her lasting fame.
She appeared in 207 half-hour episodes from 1954 to 1960 and won three Emmys for actress in a dramatic series in the years 1958 to 1960.
“Being a family show, we all had to stick around,” she once said. “Even though each show was centered on one of the five members of the family, I always had to be there to deliver such lines as ‘Eat your dinner, dear,’ or ‘How did you do in school today?’ We got along fine, but after the first few years, it’s really difficult to have to face the same people day after day.”
The Anderson children were played by Elinor Donahue, Billy Gray and Lauren Chapin, and all grew up on the show. In later years, critics claimed that shows like “Father Knows Best” and “Ozzie and Harriet” presented a glossy, unreal view of the American family.
In defense, Wyatt commented in 1966: “We tried to preserve the tradition that every show had something to say. The children were complicated personally, not just kids. We weren’t just five Pollyannas.”