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Ruth Cracknell

Australian actress

Ruth Cracknell, one of the most popular Australian actress of her generation, died of respiratory illness in a Sydney nursing home on Monday May 13. She was 76.

In recent years a stalwart of the Sydney Theatre Company, deteriorating health forced her to bow out of headlining the “Lady and The Van” in January. Her last stage appearance was in the STC’s “Salt” last August.

Her professional career began in 1945 as a radio actor. She worked in theater with the John Alden Company from 1948 and went to England in 1953-54 to work with the BBC before returning to Australia, where her credits traverse radio, repertory, theater, film and TV.

She starred in such leading Australian films as “The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith,” “Lillian’s Story” and “Spider and Rose” but fully came to national acclaim in the sitcom “Mother and Son.” Six series of the two-hander were taped between 1983 and ’93, with she playing a dotty elderly mother to Garry McDonald’s hapless son. The pair remain one of Australian TV’s best-loved duos.

Among many other TV appearances and stage roles, she played Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” in three different stage productions between 1988 and ’92.

In 2001 she was bestowed a lifetime achievement award at the inaugural Helpmann Awards for the performing arts. The same year the TV industry awarded her the Gold Logie Hall of Fame.

Her autobiography “A Biased Memoir” was published in 1997, followed by a second book, “Journey From Venice,” detailing the death of her husband Eric Phillips “Journey From Venice.”

She is survived by three children and seven grandchildren.