50-year career included stage, screen

Frances Helm, an actress whose 50-year career spanned Broadway, film and television, died Dec. 30 in New York after a long illness. Her death was only recently announced. She was 83.

Helm was performing in the national company of “Mr Roberts” opposite John Forsythe when she won her first Broadway role, as an ingenue in “Inherit The Wind” with Paul Muni in 1955. She later appeared on Broadway in plays including Ellis Raab’s revival of “You Can’t Take it With You,” with Jason Robards and “Morning’s At Seven” with Maureen O’Sullivan, Theresa Wright and Nancy Marchand. She played in regional theater with Miriam Hopkins in “Look Homeward, Angel” and with Joe E. Lewis in “Harvey” and “The Showoff.”

Making the transition from the stage to television, she appeared in soaps including “Edge of Night” and “All My Children.” She also appeared in “Gunsmoke,” “Kojak,” “Sunset Strip” and “Perry Mason,” as well as the drama series “Robert Montgomery Presents.” Most recently, she portrayed Mia Farrow’s mother, Maureen O’Sullivan, in the TV film “Love and Betrayal: the Mia Farrow Story.”

Raised in Richmond, Virginia, she attended William and Mary College, came to New York in 1944 and was soon cast in Ruth Gordon’s autobiographical play “Years Ago.” She was a member of The Players Club, where she served for many years on the Board of Directors, as a member of the Executive Committee and as Chair of the Membership Committee.

In 1963, Helm married attorney Walter Wallace, who had served as Assistant Secretary of Labor in the Eisenhower administration.

She is survived by her husband and a daughter.

Donations may be made to The Actors’ Home, Englewood, NJ.

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