Jane Wyatt

Jane Wyatt
Gabor Rona / CBS


Jane Wyatt
TV: South side of the 6300 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Born Aug. 12, 1910 in Campgaw, N.J.
Died Oct. 20, 2006 in Bel-Air, Calif.

Jane Wyatt was a three-time Emmy Award winner for her portrayal of the patient, understanding housewife and mother on the classic 1950s family situation comedy "Father Knows Best."

A Broadway veteran who made her screen debut in 1934, Wyatt appeared in more than 30 movies in leading and supporting roles, including "None But the Lonely Heart" with Cary Grant, "Gentleman's Agreement" with Gregory Peck, "Canadian Pacific" with Randolph Scott, "Task Force" with Gary Cooper, "Boomerang" with Dana Andrews and "Pitfall" with Dick Powell.

Her most memorable screen role was the ethereal young Shangri-la beauty who enchants Ronald Colman in "Lost Horizon," Frank Capra's 1937 film version of the James Hilton novel.

But Wyatt, who regularly left Hollywood to return to Broadway in the 1930s and '40s, never attained the kind of stardom on the big screen that she achieved on television opposite Robert Young on "Father Knows Best."

As the warm and charming Jim and Margaret Anderson, Young and Wyatt presided over their idealistically wholesome family at 607 South Maple St. in the typical Midwestern community of Springfield.

The series, which ran from 1954 to 1960 and in prime-time reruns for three more years, featured Elinor Donahue as eldest child Betty, or "Princess"; Billy Gray as Bud; and Lauren Chapin as Kathy, or "Kitten."

When the show debuted in 1954, a reviewer for the New York Times praised Young and Wyatt for restoring "parental prestige on TV." The same year, the series won a Sylvania Award for excellence.

She made her first appearance on the New York stage in "Give Me Yesterday" in 1931 and in 1933 succeeded Margaret Sullavan in "Dinner at Eight" on Broadway.

Signed to a short-term contract by Universal in 1934, she made her screen debut that year playing the heroine's supportive sister in James Whale's "One More River." Her first female on-screen lead was in "Great Expectations" in 1934.

Throughout the late '30s and '40s, she alternated between stage and screen, including starring on Broadway in 1945 opposite Franchot Tone in "Hope for the Best."

Wyatt had a brush with the Hollywood blacklist for several years in the early 1950s, when her film work dried up.

Wyatt, who had joined Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and other Hollywood stars on a flight to Washington in 1947 to protest the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings, told the Chicago Tribune in 1989 that she would get a job offer on a film, "then all of a sudden it would be rescinded."

After "Father Knows Best" ended, Wyatt continued acting, including an appearance as Spock's mother on TV's "Star Trek," a role she reprised in the 1986 film "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home." She also was moderator-host of an ABC daytime series, "Confidential for Women," in 1967.

Over the next three decades, she continued to appear in regional theater and make TV guest shots, including a recurring role as Norman Lloyd's (Dr. Auschlander's) wife on "St. Elsewhere."

Decades after leaving "Father Knows Best" behind, Wyatt was often recognized in public as the iconic Margaret Anderson. But in a 1990 interview, she acknowledged that she wasn't much like her famously domesticated TV character.

"I never vacuumed at home wearing my pearls," she said. "In fact, I never vacuumed at all; I was always working at the studio.

"I would have gone crazy staying at home like Margaret Anderson, and my family knew that."

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