Anne Jackson, who collaborated extensively with husband Eli Wallach, together comprising one of the best-known acting couples of the American theater, died Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 90.
As a couple, Jackson and Wallach (together above) came close to the level of celebrity of Lunt and Fontanne or, later, Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. For five decades beginning in the early 1950s and ending in 2000, when they starred Off Broadway in Anne Meara’s comedy “Down the Garden Paths,” they energized theater audiences with a wide range of synergistic emotions, from loving to combative.
While Wallach had his own big-screen career (he died on June 24, 2014, at age 98) that included “Baby Doll” and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” Jackson had a stage carer that was impressive all on its own. She was critically hailed for her range of chracterizations in David V. Robison’s “Promenade, All!” (1972) and as a housewife on the point of hysteria in Alan Ayckbourn’s “Absent Friends” (1977). Earlier, she had been nominated for a Tony for playing the daughter of a manufacturer (Edward G. Robinson) in Paddy Chayefsky’s “Middle of the Night” (1956).
But she was most celebrated for her work with her husband, with whom she appeared in the classics, including Chekhov and Shaw; dramas by Tennessee Williams and Ionesco; and, perhaps most memorably, Murray Schisgal’s offbeat comedies.
They won twin Obies for their efforts in Schisgal’s 1963 Off Broadway double bill, “The Typists” and “The Tiger,” then starred together, directed by Mike Nichols, in Schisgal’s hit 1964 Broadway comedy “Luv” (it ran 901 performances and won three Tonys) and, two decades later, in a second pair of the playwright’s one-acts, “Twice Around the Park,” on Broadway in 1982.
According to the New York Times, Jackson and Wallach “appeared together 13 times on Broadway, seven times Off Broadway, and occasionally in movies and on television, where they did most of their work (both together and apart) in the later years of their careers.”
Anna Jane Jackson was born into a working-class family in Millvale, Pa., a town near Pittsburgh. When the girl was 7, the family moved to Brooklyn, where life was difficult for a varitety of reasons and Anna became a problem to her squabbling parents.
Movies proved an escape, and she was soon doing celebrity impressions; in high school she excelled in drama, and she began to take acting lessons.
When Jackson was 14, her mother suffered a breakdown and was subsequently institutionalized for the rest of her life.
She met Wallach, who was a decade older, in 1946, when both were cast in a production of Tennessee Williams’ “This Property Is Condemned.” They joined Eva Le Gallienne’s American Repertory Theater on Broadway, appearing in productions of “Henry VIII,” “Androcles and the Lion” and “What Every Woman Knows.” They married in 1948.
Jackson and Wallach were dedicated students of method acting under the tutelage of Lee Strasberg.
Jackson drew kudos for her work in Williams’ “Summer and Smoke” (1948), Shaw’s “Arms and the Man” (1950) and Edward Chodorov’s comedy “Oh, Men! Oh, Women!” (1953).
She appeared with Wallach and Charles Laughton in Shaw’s “Major Barbara” (1957). Other plays in which they starred included “The Glass Menagerie” (1959), Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros” (1961) and Jean Anouilh’s “The Waltz of the Toreadors” (1973).
In 1978 they appeared together in an Off Broadway revival of “The Diary of Anne Frank” together with their two daughters: Roberta Wallach played Anne, and Katherine Wallach essayed Anne’s sister, Margot.
Jackson appeared frequently on TV anthology shows in the 1950s including “Armstrong Circle Theater” and “Robert Montgomery Presents.” She also guested over the years on series ranging from “Gunsmoke” to “The Defenders” and, much later, “Law & Order” and “ER.” Her film credits included “The Shining” (1980), “Funny About Love” (1990) and “Sam’s Son” (1984)in which she appeared with Wallach as the parents of Michael Landon’s character.
Jackson published a memoir in 1979 in which she discussed neither her career nor her illustrious encounters. In “Early Stages,” she instead analyzed the early years of psychological turmoil that made her who she became. She also discussed the deaths of her parents and her early years with Wallach.
Jackson is survived by her two daughters, Roberta and Katherine; a son, Peter; a sister; three grandchildren; and a great-grandson.