The queen of playing mean onscreen, Anne Ramsey hailed from a blueblood family and enjoyed a distinguished theatrical career, founding the Theatre of the Living Arts with her husband Logan Ramsey. Beginning her film career later in life, her distinctively gruff voice and demeanor quickly set her apart. Immediately recognizable and unforgettable, she booked small appearances in high-profile projects throughout the 1970s, including "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble" (ABC, 1976), "Fun with Dick and Jane" (1977), "Goin' South" (1978) and "Any Which Way You Can" (1980). In 1984, she underwent surgery for esophageal cancer, which necessitated the removal of part of her tongue and jaw, which added to her trademark slurred speech and gravelly voice, which she used to wonderful effect as the villainous Mama Fratelli in "The Goonies" (1985), for which she won a Best Supporting Actress Saturn Award. Sweet in real life but hilariously abusive and deliciously mean-spirited onscreen, Ramsey scored again with small bits in "Deadly Friend" (1986) and "Love at Stake" (1987), and won her second Saturn Award as Danny DeVito's mother-from-hell in "Throw Momma from the Train" (1987), as well as nominations for an Oscar and Golden Globe. Sadly, her cancer returned and she died on Aug. 11, 1988, with several projects already in the can, including a cameo in Bill Murray's "Scrooged" (1988). Much loved for her one-of-a-kind character work, Anne Ramsey earned enormous critical and popular acclaim for her unexpectedly lovable characters.
Born March 27, 1929 in Omaha, NE, Anne Mobley was born into a high-society family; her mother could trace her lineage back to the Pilgrims. She became interested in theater while attending Bennington College, and went on to appear in several Broadway productions. In 1954, she married actor Logan Ramsey, taking his last name, and the two moved to Philadelphia, PA, where they formed the Theatre of the Living Arts. Her film career began later in life, in tandem with her husband's, and they appeared together in "The Sporting Club" (1971). Because of her distinctive appearance, gruff demeanor and voice which made her an immediate standout in small roles and bit parts, Ramsey made the most of each one, notching memorably fun cameos in everything from the John Travolta TV movie "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble" (ABC, 1976), "Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway" (NBC, 1976) and "Fun with Dick and Jane" (1977) to the Jack Nicholson Western "Goin' South" (1978) and the Clint Eastwood classic "Any Which Way You Can" (1980).
At the time of her growing success, the actress suffered a severe health crisis. Her trademark slurred speech and gravelly voice was caused, in part, to her having had some of her tongue and jaw removed during surgery for esophageal cancer in 1984, but she used her distinctive appearance and instrument to maximum effect. Immensely talented at making a huge impression with even a small amount of screen time, she continued to score a slew of TV and film guest spots before landing her star-making role. Playing the snarling villainess Mama Fratelli in the kids' adventure classic "The Goonies" (1985), Ramsey achieved pop cultural immortality and showcased her one-of-a-kind charisma as the ultimate battle-axe. Adding to the film's delightfulness with her inimitable performance, she won a Best Supporting Actress Saturn Award. With no one else like her in Hollywood, Ramsey made the most of her unexpected and unprecedented success. Heavily in demand after "The Goonies," the actress booked guest spots on "Hill Street Blues" (NBC, 1981-87), "Night Court" (NBC, 1984-1992) and "Night Rider" (NBC, 1982-86) before Kristy Swanson killed her with a basketball in a memorably bizarre scene in Wes Craven's cult hit "Deadly Friend" (1986).
She made a cameo as the true form of sexy witch Barbara Carrera in the Puritan parody "Love at Stake" (1987), but earned her biggest success as Danny DeVito's overbearing mother-from-hell in his blacker-than-black comedy "Throw Momma from the Train" (1987). The film and Ramsey's wonderfully wicked performance were hugely success, and the actress won a second Best Supporting Actress Saturn Award and earned nominations for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and Golden Globe. Tragically, even as she enjoyed her greatest professional successes, her cancer returned, and she died on Aug. 11, 1988. She had kept working up until the end, however, booking a guest spot on "ALF" (NBC, 1986-1990) and lensing another fun cameo in the Bill Murray holiday comedy "Scrooged" (1988). Although many audiences knew her best for her late-career work as delightfully devilish harridans, Anne Ramsey was in real life a kindhearted and talented actress who made the most of her unique success.
By Jonathan Riggs