Blythe Danner

Active - 1971 - 2019  |   Born - Feb 3, 1943 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Comedy Drama

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American actress Blythe Danner brings a kind of classy elegance to her work that betrays her real-life background: the daughter of a Philadelphia bank executive, she enjoyed an expensive prep school education and undergraduate study at Bard College. Her earliest theatrical work was with the Theater Company of Boston and the Trinity Square Playhouse of Boston; by the time she was 25, Danner had won the Theatre World Award for her performance in the Lincoln Center Rep's production of The Miser. In 1970, she earned a Tony for her performance in Butterflies are Free; based on the true story of a blind attorney, Danner played the central character's free-spirit love interest. Given the tenor of '70s newspaper publicity, Danner was featured in several magazine and newspaper photo spreads because she spent much of Butterflies' first act clad in nothing but her underwear. Subsequently, the actress was frequently cast opposite fellow up-and-comer Ken Howard, notably in the short-lived 1973 TV sitcom Adam's Rib. She worked so well with Howard that many fans assumed that the two were married; in fact, Danner's longtime husband is Broadway and TV producer Bruce Paltrow.

A "critic's darling" thanks to her husky voice and pleasantly mannered acting style, Danner has worked with distinction in TV and on stage, though her film roles have tended to be few and far between. She was memorable as Robert Duvall's long-suffering wife in The Great Santini (1980) and as Nick Nolte's wife in The Prince of Tides (1991), while in 1986's Brighton Beach Memoirs, the decidedly WASPish Danner surprised fans by portraying a middle-aged Jewish woman. Danner's film appearances became more frequent during the latter half of the '90s: she did starring work in such films as To Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995), The Myth of Fingerprints (1997), The X-Files (1998), and The Love Letter (1999). A memorable turn opposite Robert DeNiro in the 2000 comedy found the established dramatic actress reaching the apex of a particularly impressive comedy run, and a year after reprising her role in the 2004 sequel Meet the Fockers, Danner would make showbiz history by earning a record three Emmy nominations for her roles in Huff, Will and Grace, and Back when We Were Grownups. When the smoke cleared and all of the winners had been announced, Danner did ineed come out on top when she took home the "Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series" award for Huff, with nominations for both Huff and Will and Grace at the following year's ceremony offering telling testament as to just how strong her work truly was. In 2006 Danner could be seen performing opposite Zack Braff in the romantic comedy drama remake The Last Kiss. She continued to work steadily, often in comedies such as Paul, Little Fockers, and What's Your Number, and she starred in the 2012 drama The Lucky One.

Frequently seen in TV guest roles (she managed to make her Mrs. Albert Speer in 1982's Inside the Third Reich sympathetic, no mean feat), Danner could be seen on television on a regular basis in the brief 1989 series Tattingers, produced by her husband. In 1992, she did stellar work in the made-for-TV movie Cruel Doubt, in which she played the matriarch of a broken family. Her daughter Gwyneth Paltrow was also featured in the movie.

Movie Highlights

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  • In 1974, during her first of many summers at the Williamstown Festival, played Nina in The Seagull; 20 years later, appeared as Arkadina in the same play, while Nina was played by daughter Gwyneth Paltrow.
  • Has played Paltrow's mother on screen in the miniseries Cruel Doubt (1992) and the feature film Sylvia (2003).
  • Played mother to Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer in the pilot of the sitcom Two and a Half Men; claimed that she didn't have a feel for the role and was replaced by Holland Taylor.
  • Had a recurring role as Will's mother on Will & Grace.
  • Received three Emmy nominations in 2005: Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for Will & Grace; Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for Back When We Were Grownups; and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Huff. She won for Huff