Frances Sternhagen, Two-Time Tony-Winning Actor, Dies at 93

Sternhagen also appeared on Cheers and Sex and the City in notable roles.

Frances Sternhagen
Frances Sternhagen
(© David Gordon)

Legendary actor Frances Sternhagen died on Monday, November 27. She was 93, and a month and a half shy of her 94th birthday.

A two-time Tony winner for Best Featured Actress, Sternhagen earned those honors for Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor in 1974 and Ruth and Augustus Goetz’s The Heiress in 1995. She received five additional Tony nominations for her performances in The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window (1972), Equus (1975), Angel (1978), On Golden Pond (1979), and Morning’s at Seven (2002).

Sternhagen made her Broadway debut in the 1955 revival of Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth. She won an Obie that season for her off-Broadway performance in The Admirable Bashville. Her plethora of credits also include The Playboy of the Western World, All Over, You Can’t Take It With You, Steel Magnolias, and Seascape, which marked her final Broadway appearance in 2006. Off-Broadway, Sternhagen was seen in Driving Miss Daisy, Love Letters, A Perfect Ganesh, Long Day’s Journey Into Night (opposite her son Paul Carlin), The Foreigner, and The Madrid, her final off-Broadway production in 2013.

On screen, she played several notable mothers: Esther Clavin (mother of Cliff) on Cheers, Bunny MacDougal (mother of Trey) on Sex and the City, Willie Rae Johnson (mother of Brenda) on The Closer, and Blanche Braverman (mother of Zeek) on Parenthood, earning several Emmy nominations along the way. A soap opera veteran, she appeared in Another World and One Life to Live, and did a series of Colgate toothpaste commercials in the 1970s. Notable films include Independence Day, Raising Cain, Julie and Julia, Dolphin Tale, and And So It Goes, which was her final role before full retirement.

Sternhagen’s survivors include her six children and nine grandchildren. She is predeceased by her husband, Thomas Carlin, who died in 1991.