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Mildred Natwick; Stage, Film, TV Actress

October 27, 1994|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mildred Natwick, a renowned character actress who built her career around some 40 Broadway plays and who also performed on television and in film, has died. She was 89.

Miss Natwick, who excelled in comedic as well as dramatic roles, died Tuesday at her home in Manhattan.

When she appeared in Neil Simon's Broadway comedy, "Barefoot in the Park," in 1963, New York Times critic Walter Kerr called her "the most hilarious woman in the Western Hemisphere."

She earned an Academy Award nomination as best supporting actress for her work in the film version in 1967.

Later, she paired with veteran actress Helen Hayes in a motion picture and four-part television miniseries titled "The Snoop Sisters," about two aging amateur sleuths.

Los Angeles Times critic Mary Murphy said Miss Natwick "shines above her material," but added: "It is a waste of talent to let Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick play sweet, slightly doddering, clever old ladies instead of wise old women with real humanity and depth of emotion."

Miss Natwick won an Emmy for the 1973 television show. Despite her versatility in all media, the stage remained her first love.

"I miss what you have in the theater," she told The Times when she was doing the "The Snoop Sisters" on television. "You try things (there) until you get them right. I miss the four weeks' rehearsal, five weeks out of town. I don't really like this instant acting."

Among Miss Natwick's outstanding Broadway roles were as a secretary in George Bernard Shaw's "Candida," a medium in Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit," and a shrewish wife in Jean Anouilh's "Waltz of the Toreadors."

A native of Baltimore, she graduated from Bryn Mawr School and Bennett Junior College in New York. She studied drama with the University Players on Cape Cod, along with Henry Fonda, James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan.

Miss Natwick made her Broadway debut in "Carrie Nation" in 1932.

On film, she appeared in "The Enchanted Cottage" in 1945, "Cheaper by the Dozen" in 1950, "If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium" in 1967, "Daisy Miller" in 1974 and as the aunt in "Dangerous Liaisons" in 1988.

Her television roles included "Blithe Spirit," for which she received an Emmy nomination, and guest roles on "McMillan and Wife," "Hawaii Five-O" and "Love Boat."

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