A product of New York's Neighborhood Playhouse, Jo Van Fleet launched her career in 1944, specializing in playing women far older than herself. On the strength of her work in the 1954 Broadway play A Trip to Bountiful, she was cast as the slatternly mother of James Dean in the film version of Steinbeck's East of Eden, winning an Academy Award for her performance. Her later screen assignments included the role of an octogenarian in Elia Kazan's Wild River (1960) and the part of Paul Newman's dying mother in Cool Hand Luke (1967). Jo Van Fleet's TV resumé included three appearances on Alfred Hitchcock's anthology series and a virtuoso turn as the title character's wicked stepmother in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (1965). Van Fleet passed away in New York's Jamaica Hospital on June 10, 1996; she was 76.