Jo Van Fleet

Jo Van Fleet
Los Angeles Times


Jo Van Fleet
Film: South side of the 7000 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Born Dec. 29, 1915 in Oakland, CA
Died June 10, 1996 in Queens, NY

Jo Van Fleet was an Academy Award and Tony winner who played mother to Paul Newman, James Dean and Cinderella.

Van Fleet won the Academy Award for best supporting actress in 1955 — her first movie role, at age 35 — for her portrayal of James Dean's madam mother in Elia Kazan's "East of Eden."

Two years later, she won a Tony Award as best featured actress for her role as the irritable Jessie Mae Watts in Horton Foote's "Trip to Bountiful."

Van Fleet, who was a member of the Actors Studio, often credited Kazan with having a major influence on her career. Her other films included "The Rose Tattoo," "Cool Hand Luke," "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral," "This Angry Age" and "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight."

Over the years, Van Fleet played mother to many: She was Anthony Perkins' mother in "Look Homeward, Angel" on Broadway, Paul Newman's mother in "Cool Hand Luke," and Cinderella's wicked stepmother in the 1965 television revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella."

During her first year in Hollywood, the actress played the mother of Susan Hayward, then 37, in the film "I'll Cry Tomorrow."

After her success in "East of Eden," Van Fleet told a Los Angeles Times interviewer that she worried about being typecast in tragic roles.

She began her stage career at Washington's National Theater in 1944 in "U Harry" and quickly established herself as a powerful character actress.

Van Fleet first appeared on Broadway in 1946 in "The Winter's Tale," before moving on to successes with "The Trip to Bountiful" in 1953, "Look Homeward, Angel" in 1957 and "The Glass Menagerie" in 1959 and again in 1965.

She appeared most recently in Robin Williams' "Seize the Day," in 1986, which was rebroadcast in 1987 on PBS.

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    Academy Awards

    Year Category Work
    1955 Best Supporting Actress East of Eden Win

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