Nancy Marchand

Active - 1957 - 1996  |   Born - Jun 19, 1928 in Buffalo, New York, United States  |   Died - Jun 18, 2000   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Following extensive dramatic training at Carnegie Tech, American actress Nancy Marchand did some stage work, then entered the infant TV medium with a 1950 production of Little Women. One year later she appeared on Broadway for the first time; for the rest of the '50s she fluctuated between on-stage classics (Shakespeare, Euripedes) and TV anthologies and soap operas. In later years, Nancy explained that she retreated to contemporary characters on TV because she was "tired of being a queen or a poor put-upon Greek" on stage. A handsome woman, but not voluptuously beautiful in the then-fashionable Marilyn Monroe tradition, Ms. Marchand was usually cast in character roles: she was the dateless "dog" with whom lonely Bronx butcher Rod Steiger fell in love in the original 1953 telecast of Paddy Chayefsky's Marty. Marchand made her movie bow in another Chayefsky work, The Bachelor Party (1957). In 1960, Ms. Marchand won an Obie for her stage performance as the Madam of a fantasy-granting brothel in Genet's The Balcony (also in the cast were future TV stars Michael Conrad and Jack Dodson). From 1977 through 1982, Ms. Marchand played Mrs. Margaret Pynchon, a powerful newspaper executive said to be patterned after the Washington Post's Katherine Graham, on the TV series Lou Grant; she won four Emmies, one for each year of the series' existence. When at one point her character suffered a stroke and spent several weeks recovering, Ms. Marchand was besieged with get-well cards from fans who believed that the actress' fictional stroke was genuine. Recent film appearances for Nancy Marchand include the role of the long-suffering mayor in The Naked Gun (1988).

Movie Highlights

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  • Met her husband, actor Paul Sparer, while appearing in a production at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, Mass.
  • Acted onstage in multiple productions with her husband.
  • Made her Broadway debut in Miss Isobel in 1957.
  • Received get-well cards when her character on Lou Grant suffered a stroke.
  • Final role was as Tony Soprano's mother, Livia, in The Sopranos. The actress died before the start of Season 3, but appeared in the third-season premiere via computer-generated images.