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Obituaries

Anne Haney; Actress

June 07, 2001|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Anne Haney, the late-in-life character actress who portrayed the family court supervisor in "Mrs. Doubtfire," Michael Douglas' secretary in "The American President" and a nun in "Changing Habits," had a novel explanation for going into the movie business.

"My husband died, my daughter went to college, the dog got fleas, and the maid quit," she told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1985. "So I had to come to Hollywood."

Haney, who appeared in about 50 motion pictures and television programs over the last two decades, died May 26 of congestive heart failure at her Studio City home. She was 67.

The actress' unlikely Hollywood career, which began in her mid-40s, ran the gamut of mothers, secretaries, teachers, judges, patients, nurses, nuns and bag ladies.

She played a housekeeper on Robert Wagner's 1985 television series "Lime Street" and on boxing champion George Foreman's 1993 series "George." She was a tough divorce lawyer on "Murder One," the mother of a decapitated gay man on "NYPD Blue" and a leukemia patient on "ER."

On the big screen she appeared in Albert Brooks' "Mother," in Jim Carrey's "Liar, Liar" and in 1999's "The Out-of-Towners."

Born in Memphis, Tenn., she studied drama and then radio and television at the University of North Carolina, where she met her husband, John Haney. After working briefly at a Memphis TV station, she settled with him in Atlanta, and was devoted to bringing up their daughter.

"We were raised to be wives and mothers. Those were our choices. . . . There were no choices," she said five years ago. "I was a lovely faculty wife. We made ambrosia salad. We did good works. We played a lot of bridge."

In the 1970s, Haney began performing in local theater and commercials. She also played the maid in a touring company of Noel Coward's "Fallen Angels" for two years.

In Atlanta, she became a member of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of TV and Radio Artists.

The couple planned to move to Hollywood after John Haney retired so she could try big-time acting. He died of kidney disease in 1980, and she came alone.

In less than two months she had an agent. She appeared in "Hopscotch" with Walter Matthau and stayed so busy that she barely had time for her garden.

The actress also appeared in plays for Theatre West, including "Verdigris" in 1985. Starring as salty-tongued Margaret Fielding, Haney earned accolades from Times reviewer Don Shirley, who wrote: "Anchoring the show is Anne Haney's powerful portrayal of Margaret. . . . [S]he projects a country-style hauteur that demands attention."

Despite Haney's steady if belated success, she had no illusions about becoming a star. "This is gravy to me," she said in 1996. "It's a wonderful way to spend the last third of my life."

Haney is survived by her daughter, Melissa Hacker of Philadelphia; a sister, Liza Minesinger of Atlanta; and one granddaughter.

A service is scheduled for Friday at 2 p.m. in the Neighborhood Church in Pasadena.

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