An award-winning, apple-cheeked player Madeleine Sherwood worked extensively on Broadway in the 1950s, and was still playing occasional character parts in the 80s. She is perhaps best known as the stern, conservative Mother Superior on the frothy ABC sitcom "The Flying Nun" (1966-70). Often billed as Thornton-Sherwood since 1980, she has operated a theater workshop under her hyphenated name.
Sherwood made her stage debut in her native Montreal in "The Corn Is Green" and by the early 50s was in New York where she made her Broadway debut replacing Kim Stanley in Horton Foote's "The Chase". In 1953, she played Abigail, who "named names" of supposed witches in Arthur Miller's "The Crucible". Two years later, Sherwood was Mae (Sister Woman), mother of a brood of "no-necked monsters" in Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer-winning "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", directed by Elia Kazan, a role which she reprised in the 1958 film version, directed by Richard Brooks. She also played Miss Lucy in both the 1959 Broadway and 1962 film versions of Williams' "Sweet Bird of Youth". Her other impressive stage credits include Morgan Le Fey in the musical "Camelot" (1961), Maxine Faulk in Williams' "Night of the Iguana" (1962) and Mrs. Garnsey in "Inadmissible Evidence" (1965).
While amassing stage credits, Sherwood also worked in TV, making her debut in 1952 in an episode of "The Westinghouse Summer Theatre" (a.k.a. "Studio One") and she appeared in numerous live productions from New York in the 50s. After "The Flying Nun", she appeared for a short time on the NBC soap opera "The Doctors" (as the rustic Ma Thatcher) and also briefly appeared on ABC's "One Life to Live" and CBS' "The Guiding Light". Among her TV-movie credits are a particularly effective turn as a doctor in "Will There Really Be a Morning?" (1983), adapted from Frances Farmer's autobiography.
Sherwood made her film debut playing a nurse in Elia Kazan's "Baby Doll" (1956), written by Tennessee Williams, although it did not trigger an extensive screen career. Otto Preminger cast her as a dowager in "Hurry, Sundown" (1967) and in the 80s, she had supporting roles as the school secretary in "Teachers" (1984) and played grandmother to Jami Gertz in the direct-to-video thriller "Silence Like Glass" (1989).