Jessica Tandy

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Jessica Tandy
Jessica Tandy Publicity Photo.jpg
Tandy, c. 1950s
Jessie Alice Tandy

(1909-06-07)7 June 1909
Died11 September 1994(1994-09-11) (aged 85)
Years active1927–1994
(m. 1932;div. 1940)

(m. 1942)

Jessie Alice Tandy (7 June 1909 – 11 September 1994) was a British actress. Tandy appeared in over 100 stage productions and had more than 60 roles in film and TV, receiving an Academy Award, four Tony Awards, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe Award, and a Primetime Emmy Award. She acted as Blanche DuBois in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948. Her films included Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds and The Gin Game . At 80, she became the oldest actress to receive the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Driving Miss Daisy .


Early life

The youngest of three siblings, Tandy was born in Geldeston Road in Hackney, London to Harry Tandy and his wife, Jessie Helen Horspool. [1] Her mother was from a large fenland family in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, and the head of a school for mentally handicapped children, and her father was a travelling salesman for a rope manufacturer. [2] She was educated at Dame Alice Owen's School in Islington.

Her father died when she was 12, and her mother subsequently taught evening courses to earn an income. Her brother Edward was later a prisoner of war of the Japanese in the Far East. [3]

Acting career

Tandy (left, with Kim Hunter and Marlon Brando) portrayed Blanche in the original 1947 Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire, a role that earned her the 1948 Tony Award for Best Actress. Jessica Tandy with Kim Hunter and Marlon Brando. cph.3b23243.jpg
Tandy (left, with Kim Hunter and Marlon Brando) portrayed Blanche in the original 1947 Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire , a role that earned her the 1948 Tony Award for Best Actress.

Born in London, she was 18 when she made her professional debut on the London stage in 1927. During the 1930s, she acted in many plays in London's West End, playing Ophelia (opposite John Gielgud's legendary Hamlet) and Katherine (opposite Laurence Olivier's Henry V). [4]

She entered films in Britain, but after her marriage to Jack Hawkins failed, she moved to the United States hoping to find better roles. During her time as a leading actress on the stage in London she often had to fight for roles over her two rivals, Peggy Ashcroft and Celia Johnson. [5] In 1942, she married Hume Cronyn and over the following years played supporting roles in several Hollywood films. Tandy became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1952.

Like many stage actors, Tandy also worked in radio. Among other programs, she was a regular on Mandrake the Magician [6] (as Princess Nada), and then with husband Hume Cronyn in The Marriage [7] which ran on radio from 1953 to 1954, and then segued onto television.

She made her American film debut in The Seventh Cross (1944). She had supporting appearances in The Valley of Decision (1945), The Green Years (1946, as Cronyn's daughter), Dragonwyck (1946) starring Gene Tierney and Vincent Price and Forever Amber (1947). She appeared as the insomniac murderess in A Woman's Vengeance (1948), a film-noir adapted by Aldous Huxley from his short story "The Gioconda Smile".

Over the next three decades, her film career continued sporadically while she found better roles on the stage. Her roles during this time included The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951) opposite James Mason, The Light in the Forest (1958), and a role as a domineering mother in Alfred Hitchcock's film, The Birds (1963).

Tandy in Alfred Hitchcock Presents "The Glass Eye" (1957) Jessica Tandy The Glass Eye Hitchcock 1957.JPG
Tandy in Alfred Hitchcock Presents "The Glass Eye" (1957)

On Broadway, she won a Tony Award for her performance as Blanche Dubois in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948. After this (she lost the film role to actress Vivien Leigh), she concentrated on the stage. In 1976, she and Cronyn joined the acting company of the Stratford Festival, and returned in 1980 to debut Cronyn's play Foxfire. [8] [9] In 1977, she earned her second Tony Award, for her performance (with Cronyn) in The Gin Game and her third Tony in 1982 for her performance, again with Cronyn, in Foxfire.

The beginning of the 1980s saw a resurgence in her film career, with character roles in The World According to Garp , Best Friends , Still of the Night (all 1982) and The Bostonians (1984). She and Cronyn were now working together more regularly on stage and television, including the films Cocoon (1985), *batteries not included (1987) and Cocoon: The Return (1988) and the Emmy Award winning television film Foxfire (1987, recreating her Tony winning Broadway role).

However, it was her colourful performance in Driving Miss Daisy (1989), as an ageing, stubborn Southern-Jewish matron, that earned her an Oscar. [10]

She received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her work in the grassroots hit Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) and co-starred in The Story Lady (1991 TV film, with her daughter Tandy Cronyn), Used People (1992, as Shirley MacLaine's mother), television film To Dance with the White Dog (1993, with Cronyn), Camilla (1994, with Cronyn). Nobody's Fool (1994) proved to be her last performance, at the age of 84.

Other awards

Tandy was chosen by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the world in 1990. [11]

Personal life

Tandy and Hume Cronyn, 1988 Jessica Tandy & Hume Cronyn.jpg
Tandy and Hume Cronyn, 1988

In 1932 Tandy married English actor Jack Hawkins and together they had a daughter, Susan Hawkins. [14] Susan became an actress and was the daughter-in-law of John Moynihan Tettemer, a former Passionist monk who authored I Was a Monk: The Autobiography of John Tettemer, and was cast in small roles in Lost Horizon and Meet John Doe . [15] After Tandy and Hawkins divorced in 1940, she married her second husband, Canadian actor Hume Cronyn, in 1942. [14] Prior to moving to Connecticut, she lived with Cronyn for many years in nearby Pound Ridge, New York, and they remained together until her death in 1994. They had two children, daughter Tandy Cronyn, an actress who would co-star with her mother in the TV film The Story Lady, and son Christopher Cronyn.


In 1990, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and she also suffered from angina and glaucoma. Despite her illnesses and age she continued working. On 11 September 1994 she died at home in Easton, Connecticut, at the age of 85. [16] [17] [18]


U.S. stage credits

1930 The Matriarch Toni Rakonitz
1930 The Last Enemy Cynthia Perry
1938 Time and the Conways Kay
1939 The White Steed Nora Fintry
1940 Geneva Deaconess
1940 Jupiter Laughs Dr. Mary Murray
1941Anne of EnglandAbigail Hill
1942Yesterday's Magicdaughter Cattrin
1947 A Streetcar Named Desire Blanche DuBois Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play
1950Hilda CraneHilda Crane
1951Madam, Will You WalkMary Doyle
1951 The Fourposter Agnes
1955 The Man in the Dog Suit Martha Walling
1955 The Honeys Mary
1959Triple PlayIn Bedtime Story: Angela Nightingale

In Portrait of a Madonna : Miss Lucretia Collins In A Pound on Demand : The Public

1959 Five Finger Exercise Louise Harrington
1964 The Physicists Fraulein Doktor Mathilde von Zahnd
1966 A Delicate Balance Agnes
1970 Camino Real Marguerite Gautier
1970 Home Marjorie
1971All OverThe Wife
1972 Not I [19] Mouth Obie Award for Best Actress
1974Noël Coward in Two KeysIn A Song at Twilight : Hilde Latymer

In Come Into the Garden, Maud : Anna Mary Conklin

1977 The Gin Game Fonsia Dorsey Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play
1981RoseMotherNominated—Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play
Nominated—Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
1982 Foxfire Annie Nations Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play
1983 The Glass Menagerie Amanda Wingfield
1986The PetitionLady Elizabeth MilneNominated—Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play


1932 The Indiscretions of Eve Maid
1938 Murder in the Family Ann Osborne
1944 The Seventh Cross Liesel Roeder
1944 Blonde Fever Diner at InnUncredited
1945 The Valley of Decision Louise Kane
1946 The Green Years Kate Leckie
1946 Dragonwyck Peggy O'Malley
1947 Forever Amber Nan Britton
1948 A Woman's Vengeance Janet Spence
1950 September Affair Catherine Lawrence
1951 The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel Frau Lucie Maria Rommel
1956 Producers' Showcase Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1957The Glass EyeJulia LesterShort film presented in "Alfred Hitchcock Presents"
1958 The Light in the Forest Myra Butler
1962 Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man Helen AdamsNominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1963 The Birds Lydia Brenner
1975Bicentennial Minute for 31 August 1775, Destruction of Boston's Liberty TreeHerselfCBS Television Network, 31 August 1975 - Sponsor: Royal Dutch Shell
1976 Butley Edna Shaft
1981 Honky Tonk Freeway Carol
1982 The World According to Garp Mrs. Fields
1982 Still of the Night Grace Rice
1982 Best Friends Eleanor McCullen
1984 The Bostonians Miss Birdseye
1984 Terror in the Aisles HerselfArchival footage
1985 Cocoon Alma FinleyNominated—Saturn Award for Best Actress
1987 Foxfire Annie NationsTV movie
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1987 *batteries not included Faye Riley Saturn Award for Best Actress
1988 The House on Carroll Street Miss Venable
1988 Cocoon: The Return Alma FinleyNominated—Saturn Award for Best Actress
1989 Driving Miss Daisy Daisy Werthan Academy Award for Best Actress
BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress
David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actress
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
Silver Bear for the Best Joint Performance (with Morgan Freeman) [20]
Nominated—American Comedy Award for Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture
Nominated—National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress
Nominated—New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
1991The Story LadyGrace McQueenTV movie
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
1991 Fried Green Tomatoes Ninny ThreadgoodeNominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1992 Used People Freida
1993 To Dance with the White Dog Cora PeekTelevision movie
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1994 A Century of Cinema Herselfdocumentary
1994 Camilla Camilla CaraReleased posthumously
1994 Nobody's Fool Beryl PeoplesReleased posthumously, (final film role)

*Re-issued on DVD as The Christmas Story Lady


1956 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Edwina FreelEpisode: "Toby"
1957 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Julia LesterEpisode: "The Glass Eye"
1958 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Laura BowlbyEpisode: "The Canary Sedan"
1994 ER Mrs BackerEpisode: "Going Home"

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