Jessica Alice Tandy (7 June 1909 – 11 September 1994) was a British-American stage and film actress, who spent most of her 67-year career in the United States. She appeared in over 100 stage productions and had more than 60 roles in film and TV.
Born in London to a headmistress and a travelling salesman, she made her professional debut on the London stage in 1927, at the age of 18. During the 1930s, she appeared in a large number of plays in London’s West End, playing roles such as Ophelia, opposite John Gielgud‘s legendary Hamlet, and Katherine, opposite Laurence Olivier‘s Henry V. In the 1930s, she also worked in a couple of British films. Following the end of her marriage to the British actor Jack Hawkins, she moved to New York in 1940, where she met Canadian actor Hume Cronyn. He became her second husband and frequent partner on stage and screen.
She received a nominee for the Tony Award for her performance as Blanche Dubois in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948, sharing the prize with Katharine Cornell (who won for the female lead in Antony and Cleopatra). Judith Anderson (for the latter’s portrayal of Medea) won the Tony Award. Over the following three decades, her career continued sporadically and included a supporting role in Alfred Hitchcock’s horror film, The Birds (1963), and a Tony Award-winning performance in The Gin Game (1977, playing in the two-hander play opposite Hume Cronyn). Along with Cronyn, she was a member of the original acting company of the Guthrie Theater.
In the mid-1980s she had a career revival. She appeared with Cronyn in the Broadway production of Foxfire in 1983 and its television adaptation four years later, winning both a Tony Award and an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Annie Nations. During these years, she appeared in films such as Cocoon (1985), also with Cronyn.
She became the oldest actress to receive the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Driving Miss Daisy (1989), for which she also won a BAFTA and a Golden Globe, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Fried Green Tomatoes (1991). At the height of her success, she was named as one of People’s “50 Most Beautiful People”. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1990, and continued working until shortly before her death.
The youngest of three siblings, Tandy was born in Geldeston Road in Hackney, London. Her mother, Jessie Helen (née Horspool), was the head of a school for mentally handicapped children, and her father, Harry Tandy, was a travelling salesman for a rope manufacturer. Her father died when Tandy was 12, and her mother subsequently taught evening courses to earn an income. Tandy was educated at Dame Alice Owen’s School in Islington. Her birth name was Jessie Alice Tandy.
Tandy began her career at the age of 18 in London, establishing herself with performances opposite such actors as Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud. She entered films in Britain, but after her marriage to Jack Hawkins failed, she moved to the United States. 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 so many stage actors, Tandy had a hand in radio, as well. Among other programs, she was a regular on Mandrake the Magician (as Princess Nada), and then with husband Hume Cronyn in The Marriage 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 also appeared 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). Over the next three decades, her film career continued sporadically, including 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).
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 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 (play).
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 aging, stubborn Southern-Jewish matron, that earned her an Oscar.
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 telefilm, with daughter Tandy Cronyn), Used People (1992, as Shirley MacLaine’s mother), television film To Dance with the White Dog (1993, with Cronyn), Nobody’s Fool (1994), and Camilla (also 1994, with Cronyn). Camilla proved to be her last performance, at the age of 84.
Tandy was chosen by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the world in 1990.
- 1979 – Induction into the American Theatre Hall of Fame
- 1979 – Sarah Siddons Award Chicago theatre
- 1986 – Drama Desk Special Award
- 1990 – National Medal of Arts
- 1991 – Women in Film Crystal Award
- 1994 – Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement shared with her husband, Hume Cronyn
Tandy’s first marriage to British actor Jack Hawkins in 1932, produced one daughter, Susan Hawkins (born 1934). The couple divorced in 1940. Tandy married her second husband, Canadian actor Hume Cronyn, in 1942; the marriage lasted until her death in 1994. They had two children, daughter Tandy Cronyn (an actress who would co-star with her mother in the NBC telefilm The Story Lady), and son Christopher.
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. In 1990, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and fought it for the next four years. Tandy also suffered from angina and glaucoma. Despite all this and her advancing age, she continued working. She died at home on 11 September 1994 in Easton, Connecticut at age 85.
Body of Work
|1940||Jupiter Laughs||Dr. Mary Murray|
|1942||Yesterday’s Magic||daughter Cattrin|
|1947||Streetcar Named Desire, AA Streetcar Named Desire||Blanche DuBois||Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play|
|1950||Hilda Crane||Hilda Crane|
|1951||Fourposter, TheThe Fourposter||Agnes|
|1959||Five Finger Exercise||Louise Harrington|
|1966||Delicate Balance, AA Delicate Balance||Agnes|
|1977||Gin Game, TheThe Gin Game||Fonsia Dorsey||Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding 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||Glass Menagerie, TheThe Glass Menagerie||Amanda Wingfield|
|1986||Petition, TheThe Petition||Lady Elizabeth Milne||Nominated — Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play|
|1932||Indiscretions of Eve, TheThe Indiscretions of Eve||Maid|
|1938||Murder in the Family||Ann Osborne|
|1944||Seventh Cross, TheThe Seventh Cross||Liesel Roeder|
|1944||Blonde Fever||Diner at Inn||uncredited|
|1945||Valley of Decision, TheThe Valley of Decision||Louise Kane|
|1946||Green Years, TheThe Green Years||Kate Leckie|
|1947||Forever Amber||Nan Britton|
|1948||Woman’s Vengeance, AA Woman’s Vengeance||Janet Spence|
|1950||September Affair||Catherine Lawrence|
|1951||Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel, TheThe Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel||Frau Lucie Marie Rommel|
|1956||Producers’ Showcase !Producers’ Showcase||Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie|
|1957||Glass Eye, TheThe Glass Eye||Julia Lester||Short film presented in “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”|
|1958||Light in the Forest, TheThe Light in the Forest||Myra Butler|
|1962||Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man||Helen Adams||Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture|
|1963||Birds, TheThe Birds||Lydia Brenner|
|1981||Honky Tonk Freeway||Carol|
|1982||World According to Garp, TheThe World According to Garp||Mrs. Fields|
|1982||Still of the Night||Grace Rice|
|1982||Best Friends||Eleanor McCullen|
|1984||Bostonians, TheThe Bostonians||Miss Birdseye|
|1984||Terror in the Aisles||archival footage|
|1985||Cocoon||Alma Finley||Nominated — Saturn Award for Best Actress|
|1987||*batteries not included||Faye Riley||Saturn Award for Best Actress|
|1987||Foxfire||Annie Nations||TV movie
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
|1988||House on Carroll Street, TheThe House on Carroll Street||Miss Venable|
|1988||Cocoon: The Return||Alma Finley||Nominated — 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)
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
|1991||Fried Green Tomatoes||Ninny Threadgoode||Nominated — 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
|1991||Story Lady, TheThe Story Lady*||Grace||TV movie
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
|1993||To Dance with the White Dog||Cora Peek||TV movie
Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
|1994||Century of Cinema, AA Century of Cinema||Herself||documentary|
|1994||Nobody’s Fool||Beryl Peoples|
- New York Times 12 September 1994: Jessica Tandy, a Patrician Star Of Theater and Film, Dies at 85 Retrieved 2012-06-12
- Internet Movie Database: Jessica Tandy Filmography Retrieved 2012-06-12
- Jessica Tandy’s family to unveil plaque to commemorate star’s Hackney birthplace 19 November 1998 accessed 10 May 2007
- The Academy Awards: A Look At Jessica Tandy
- Cronyn, Hume (1991). Terrible Liar. New York: William Morrow and Company. p. 159. ISBN 0688128440.
- Cronyn, Hume (1991). Terrible Liar. New York: William Morrow and Company. pp. 253–254. ISBN 0688128440.
- “Miss Daisy, Jessica Tandy Win Top Oscars”. Chicago Tribune. 27 March 1990. Retrieved 7 November 2010.
- Notes for Jessica Tandy
- “Past Recipients: Crystal Award”. Women In Film. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
- “Berlinale: 1990 Prize Winners”. berlinale.de. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
- Jessica Tandy at the Internet Broadway Database
- Jessica Tandy at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Jessica Tandy at the Internet Movie Database
- Movie Magazine International Tribute
- Lifetime Honors – National Medal of Arts
- Obituary New York Times 12 September 1994
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