“All My Children” original cast member Mary Fickett, who played Ruth Martin, died Thursday in her home in Callao, Va. She was 83. No cause of death was given.
Fickett was passionately opposed to the Vietnam war, and “AMC” creator Agnes Nixon carried that over in an episode where the matriarch of the Martin clan spoke out when her adopted son Phil Brent was sent to Vietnam. For her perf, Fickett took home a Daytime Emmy in 1973, the first thesp to receive the honor for her role in a sudser. She played Ruth Martin from 1970-95 and, after a break during which Lee Meriwether did the role, returned for two years in 1998, retiring in 2000.
Fickett, the daughter of radio announcer Homer Fickett, studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City and started as a stage actress. She won a Theater World Award for her part in Broadway’s “Tea and Sympathy,” after stepping into Deborah Kerr’s shoes in 1955.
Seguing to TV in 1953, she performed in “Kraft Theater” for four years and had parts in other series. Fickett continued her stage work, earning a 1958 Tony nom for her portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt in “Sunrise at Campobello.”
But she didn’t breakthrough on TV until 1961, when she played bad girl Emmy Sarver on “The Untouchables.”
Other TV roles followed on such shows as “Bonanza” and “The Defenders.” In the early 1960s she also co-hosted the Eye’s “Calendar” breakfastcast with Harry Reasoner.
And when “All My Children” launched on the Alphabet in 1970, Fickett was cast as one of the original denizens of Pine Valley along with Susan Lucci, Ruth Warrick and Ray MacDonnell (who played Fickett’s onscreen husband, Dr. Joe Martin).
In the early years her character had an affair and was raped, but later she was the steady rock opposite MacDonnell to several children, including one whom Carol Burnett always joked went upstairs in one episode and then was forgotten for several decades.
In 1995 she took a leave of absence from the sudser to nurse her third husband, soap helmer Allan Friestoe. He died in 2008.
“AMC,” which is going off the air Sept. 23, will dedicate its Sept. 21 episode to Fickett.
Survivors include a son, a daughter, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Donations may be made to the Alzheimers Assn., Greater Richmond Chapter, 4600 Cox Road, Suite 130, Glen Allen, VA 23060.