Actress Lois Nettleton dies at 80

Starred in 'In the Heat of the Night'

Two-time Emmy winning actress Lois Nettleton died Jan. 18 in Woodland Hills, Calif., after a long bout with lung cancer. She was 80.

A veteran of the Broadway stage, films and television, Nettleton recieved Emmys for the daytime special “The American Woman: Profiles in Courage” (1977) and for “A Gun for Mandy,” (1983) an episode of the syndicated religious anthology “Insight.” She received an additional three noms as guest star in “Last Bride of Salem” and “Golden Girls” and supporting actress in “In the Heat of the Night.” On Broadway, she became identified with the work of playwright Tennessee Williams.

Born in Oak Park, Ill. Nettleton competed in beauty pageants as Miss Chicago and Miss Illinois, then studied acting in Chicago before moving to New York to join the Actors’ Studio. She made her Broadway debut in 1949’s “Darkness at Noon” and “The Biggest Thief in Town,” and returned to Chicago to co-star with Burt Reynolds in “The Rainmaker.” The 1955 Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” staged by Eliza Kazan, brought her to the attention of theater critics. She went on to star in “Silent Night, Lonely Night,” “The Wayward Stork,” won the Clarence Derwent Award for “God and Kate Murphy” and was nominated for a Tony Award in 1976 for “They Knew What They Wanted.”

Playing Blanche DuBois in the 1973 revival of Williams’ “Streetcar Named Desire,she won rave reviews in New York and throughout the country.

Nettleton played a bit part in Kazan’s classic film, “A Face in the Crowd,” but made her official film debut in 1962 in the film adaptation of Williams’ “Period of Adjustment.” Among her other film appearances were “Mail Order Bride,” ‘Valley of Mystery,” “The Man in the Glass Booth,” “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” and “Come Fly With Me.”

A regular on “Twilight Zone,” she was a frequent guest at the series’ annual conventions. She was a series regular in “In the Heat of the Night,” “All That Glitters” and “You Can’t Take It With You,” recurring in “Crossing Jordan,” “Murder She Wrote,” “Full House” and “The Golden Girls,” and guest-starred in numerous series, miniseries and TV movies.

Her marriage to disk jockey/writer Jean Shepherd, which began with a call-in on his WOR-AM radio show on which she developed into a regular guest, ended in divorce.

Donations are suggested to The Actors’ Fund for Everyone In Entertainment, 729 Seventh Avenue, 14th Fl., New York, New York 10019.

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  1. Karen Carroll says:

    One of my all time favorite actresses, who was so terribly under-rated, it’s hard to understand.

  2. Carol Davis says:

    She was on a soap opera, I think The Secret Storm, but not too sure on that. And what was the last thing she did? Was it Hallmark’s ” The Christmas Card.”

  3. sam kane says:

    Always had an good feeling whenever l would
    see Lois perform or just to see her still shot
    her inner and outer beauty and calm deep soul
    always jumped into my reality.
    I fell in love at first sight as a boy.

    • Dante Quinn says:

      What a beautiful Woman…. Her eyes fixated you into the character she was portraying.she also was guest star in a lot of Quinn Martins TV shows , including “The Invaders” and “Route 66. I agree she showed very deep confused characters, trying to find themselves.

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