Jo Van Fleet

Actor
This highly talented stage actress didn't make her film debut until she was almost 40 ("East of Eden", 1955), but it put her on the map and kept her working through the 1970s.

Van Fleet, a California native, was ... Read more »

Born: 12/29/1915 in Oakland, California, USA

Filmography

Actor (16)

Power 1979 - 1980 (TV Show)

Actor

The Tenant 1975 (Movie)

Madame Dioz (Actor)

Paradise Lost 1973 - 1974 (TV Show)

Actor

Satan's School For Girls 1973 - 1974 (TV Show)

Actor

The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight 1971 (Movie)

Big Momma (Actor)

Eighty Steps to Jonah 1969 (Movie)

Nonna (Actor)

I Love You, Alice B. Toklas 1968 (Movie)

Mother (Actor)

Cool Hand Luke 1967 (Movie)

Arletta (Actor)

Wild River 1960 (Movie)

Ella Garth (Actor)

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral 1957 (Movie)

Kate Fisher (Actor)

The King and Four Queens 1956 (Movie)

Ma McDade (Actor)

This Angry Age 1956 (Movie)

Madame Dufresne (Actor)

East of Eden 1955 (Movie)

Kate (Actor)

I'll Cry Tomorrow 1955 (Movie)

Katie Roth (Actor)

The Rose Tattoo 1955 (Movie)

Bessie (Actor)

The Family Rico (TV Show)

Actor

Biography

This highly talented stage actress didn't make her film debut until she was almost 40 ("East of Eden", 1955), but it put her on the map and kept her working through the 1970s.

Van Fleet, a California native, was schooled for her craft by Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse and by Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. She made her stage debut in "Uncle Harry" at Washington, DC's National Theater in 1944 and quickly made a name for herself as a forceful character actress. She made her Broadway debut in "The Winter's Tale" (1946), and went on to success after success: "The Trip to Bountiful" (1953, for which she won Tony and Donaldson Awards); "Look Homeward, Angel" (1957); "The Glass Menagerie" (1959, and again in 1965); and "Oh, Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad" (1962). She also acted in countless plays around the country.

"East of Eden" was her first film, and Van Fleet won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar as James Dean's mother, the tough madam of a brothel. She played supporting character roles, often hard-bitten in nature, in another dozen films, a respectable number of them hits. These included "The Rose Tattoo" (1955); "I'll Cry Tomorrow" (also 1955), as Susan Hayward's mother; "Gunfight at the OK Corral" (1957), "Wild River" (1960), strikingly effective as an 80-year old woman; "Cool Hand Luke" (1967); and "The Tenant" (1976). Her most recent onscreen appearance has been opposite Robin Williams in "Seize the Day" (1986, shown on PBS in 1987), the first film adaptation of a Saul Bellow novel.

TV also offered Van Fleet some nice opportunities; her most fondly remembered role was as Lesley Ann Warren's wicked stepmother in an adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" (CBS, 1965). She also guested on "Cosmopolitan Theater" (DuMont, 1951) and appeared in such TV-movies as "Heidi" (NBC, 1955), "The Family Rico" (CBS, 1972), "Satan's School for Girls" (ABC, 1973), and the miniseries "Power" (NBC, 1980). The imposing-looking actress has generally played older than her years, generally as mothers to performers ranging from Anthony Perkins to Ben Gazzara to Paul Newman. She died at the age of 80 in 1996.

Relationships

Roy H Van Fleet

Father

Elizabeth Van Fleet

Mother

William Bales

Husband
married until his death in 1990

Michael Bales

Son
father Willam Bales survived her

EDUCATION

Actors Studio

New York , New York
studied with Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg

The Neigborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre

New York , New York
studied with Sanford Meisner

College of the Pacific

Stockton , California

Milestones

1986

Appeared in "Seize the Day" with Robin Williams

1965

Appeared as the wicked stepmother in a TV adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella"

1959

Appeared in "The Glass Menagerie"; played role again in 1965

1957

Appeared in "Look Homeward, Angel" playing the role of Anthony Perkins' mother

1955

Screen debut in "East of Eden" playing James Dean's mother

1953

Appeared onstage in "The Trip to Bountiful"

1946

Broadway debut in "The Winters Tale"

1943

Stage career began at Washington's National Theater with a role in "U Harry"

Bonus Trivia

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Van Fleet received an honorary doctorate from the College of the Pacific.

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