Elizabeth Wilson, Actress on Stage and Screen, Dies at 94

Elizabeth Wilson, a character actress who appeared in films including “The Graduate” and “9 to 5” but also had a long career on the stage, died on Saturday in New Haven, Conn.. She was 94.

In a career that spanned almost seven decades, she won a Tony in 1972 for her portrayal of a Vietnam veteran’s emotionally scarred mother in David Rabe’s antiwar drama “Sticks and Bones.” She won Obie Awards for performances in “Taken in Marriage” in 1979 and “Anteroom” in 1986.

She was nominated for an Emmy for the based-on-a-true-story miniseries “Nutcracker: Money, Madness and Murder” (1987) in which she played the wealthy but helpless mother of a woman (Lee Remick) who’s plotting to kill her father.

Her best-known film performance was in the 1980 hit “9 to 5,” in which she played Roz, the office snitch and the nemesis of the workers played by Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda.

Wilson specialized in mother roles — even though she never had children. She first played a mother while still in her 20s, in a production of “Springtime for Henry” that toured Japan through the U.S.O. after WWII.

On screen, she played the rather befuddled mother of Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin Braddock in “The Graduate” (1967), the patrician mother of Ralph Fiennes’ Charles Van Doren in “Quiz Show” (1994) and the scheming mother of an impostor (Christopher Lloyd) claiming to be Uncle Fester in 1991’s “The Addams Family.” Earlier, she played the personal secretary of Kim Stanley’s doomed movie star in “The Goddess” (1958) and a waitress in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” (1963).

Stage roles included Mrs. Peachum, whose daughter marries Mack the Knife, in a 1976 revival of “The Threepenny Opera.”

Wilson’s last role of any kind was in 2012’s “Hyde Park on Hudson” — in which she played the mother of Bill Murray’s Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Elizabeth Welter Wilson was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., and studied with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York.

She made her Broadway debut role in 1953 in “Picnic,” playing the spinster schoolteacher — a role she would reprise in the movie version two years later. She last appeared on Broadway in the 1999 revival of Noël Coward’s “Waiting in the Wings.” She was acclaimed for performances in the 1980 production of “Morning’s at Seven” and the 1996 revival of Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance.”

She began her smallscreen career with the 1955 Rod Serling drama “Patterns” and last appeared on TV in an episode of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” in 2002. She played Edith Bunker’s cousin in an episode of “All in the Family” and Barnard Hughes’ wife on the sitcom “Doc” in 1975-76.

Wilson appeared in a number of films directed by Mike Nichols, starting with “The Graduate” and continuing with the films “Catch-22” (1970), “The Day of the Dolphin” (1973) and “Regarding Henry” (1991) and, on Broadway, in his 1973 revival of “Uncle Vanya.”

The actress, who never married, is survived by a sister and several nieces and nephews.

 

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