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Obituary

Dorothy Stickney, 101; Broadway, Film Actress

June 04, 1998|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dorothy Stickney, a Broadway stage actress who originated the role of the mother in the record-running play "Life With Father," has died at the age of 101.

Stickney, who also appeared in such films as "I Never Sang for My Father," died Tuesday at her Manhattan home.

The actress and her husband, Howard Lindsay, who with Russel Crouse co-wrote "Life With Father," co-starred in the 1939 play for five years and occasionally returned to it as headliners. The play ran for seven years and holds the record as Broadway's longest-running nonmusical show.

Born in Dickinson, N.D., Stickney studied at North Western Dramatic School in Minneapolis, sang and danced as one of the four Southern Belles in vaudeville and began acting in summer stock.

She made her Broadway debut in 1926 in "The Squall" and had a string of hits, frequently playing eccentric characters. She was Liz, the mad scrubwoman in the original nonmusical version of "Chicago," and Mollie Molloy, who dives out the pressroom window in "The Front Page." With increasingly important roles, she moved on to "Philip Goes Forth," "Another Language," "On Borrowed Time," "The Small Hours," "To Be Continued" and "The Honeys."

Although her career remained primarily on the Broadway stage, Stickney ventured occasionally into motion pictures and, when it developed, into television. In 1934, she appeared in "The Little Minister," starring Katharine Hepburn, and years later, in 1970, she had a major role in "I Never Sang for My Father," starring Gene Hackman.

On the small screen, Stickney played a bootlegger on the classic series "The Waltons." She was also the queen in the rarely seen 1957 television production of "Cinderella" with Julie Andrews in the title role.

Stickney also wrote--publishing a poem in her youth based on her early rejections for stage roles, titled "You're Not the Type."

More memorably, she wrote and in 1960 performed a one-woman play about one of her favorite writers, Edna St. Vincent Millay, titled "A Lovely Light." It ran on Broadway, and Stickney performed it in Los Angeles at the old Huntington-Hartford (now Doolittle) Theater.

"Miss Stickney, for so long a comedienne, is clearly dedicated to this reading," wrote a Times theater critic in 1960, "and one can only applaud her for the conviction she brings to it--and for her courage in attempting single-handedly and single-mindedly to hold an audience for more than two straight hours."

The play has been performed several times around Southern California in the 1990s by Marion Ross, who played the mother in ABC's long-running sitcom "Happy Days."

A widow since 1968, Stickney had no immediate survivors.

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