It’s that marvelous time again, when one of the most enjoyable Blogathons has come around, it’s the 7th Annual What A Character Blogathon. And the reason I adore it so much –it’s purpose is essential in paying tribute to the memorable character actors who have often added the sparkle to the cinematic sky of movie stars– they touch our lives so profoundly because of their unique contribution as the characters they bring to life!
I want to thank Aurora of Once Upon a Screen, Paula Guthat of Paula’s Cinema Club, and Kellee Pratt of Outspoken & Freckled. for giving me the opportunity to once again show my sincerest love for the actors & actresses who are so discernible within the art of film, television and theatre. It is their unforgettable performances that make it a much richer, more compelling experience — as they are as much the stars who inhabit the dream of art because of their singular personalities.
I’ve been participating now for 7 years, and it’s always a great expedition to delve deeper into the careers of the people who I’ve found the most enigmatic, extraordinary, and uniquely engaging. This year I’ve been excited to pay special attention to two remarkable women, Eileen Heckart, and Louise Latham.
For years I have always thought of these two women together, as one of those odd associations–yet inexplicable– that makes you put certain faces or impressions together in your head. Another example of two actors that often seem to merge in that vast noggin of mine — I’m always thinking of E.G. Marshall and Eli Wallach together. Heck, maybe, next year I’ll do the same double feature for them. As I adore them both!
It struck me that I should pair Eileen and Louise as a kind of sisterhood, for both of their uniquely extraordinary styles stand out and somehow stand together for me. And an interesting confluence happened as I went on my more intensive journey of discovering of these two fine actresses. I found out that Eileen Heckart and Louise Latham appeared together in a rare episode of The Doctors and The Nurses an hour-long television medical drama that ran from 1962-1965. In a macabre tale reminiscent of a Robert Bloch story — the episode is called Night of the Witch, about a woman (Eileen Heckart) who is tortured by the loss of her 6-year-old daughter, and seeks her own brand of retribution from the medical staff she believes is responsible. The hospital receptionist who is cold and unfeeling is portrayed by none other than Louise Latham. The fascination I’ve had to see this performance led me to hunt down a rare copy and now I own it and have put together a sample of it here for you. It’s a rather long clip of the episode in honor of their appearing together. It showcases both their talents. I hope you enjoy the excerpt And I am praying that the television series itself will someday find a full release as it is worthy of being re-visited for its groundbreaking content, incredible cast, and performances.
As in past What A Character Blogathons, Burgess Meredith, Ruth Gordon, Agnes Moorehead, Martin Balsam, and Jeanette Nolan–each of these actors– had a way of elevating every single project they were involved in, making it just that much more fascinating, delightful, heart-wrenching and unquestionably memorable because of their performance–no matter how small their presence, they changed the landscape and impacted the narrative.
It is my absolute honor this year to feature two of the most remarkable women whose legacy still lives on.
Eileen Heckart was born Anna Eileen Herbert, on March 29, 1919, in Columbus Ohio. Nicknamed Heckie… Eileen Heckart moved to New York and began working in summer stock, taking classes at the American Theatre Wing. She referred to herself as ‘that lace curtain shanty Irish’. Heckart is a beloved American actress of screen, stage, and television, with a body of work that spans the course of 58 years. She made her breakthrough performance in William Inge’s play ‘Picnic’ on Broadway in 1953, directed by Josh Logan. Heckart received a Theatre World award and Outer Critic’s Circle award for ‘Picnic’ in the role of forlorn schoolteacher Rosemary Sydney- Heckart relates the story of how she landed the part in a hilarious clip I’ve included here.
Heckart was disappointed when she lost her bid on revising her Broadway role in the film version of Picnic, as it went to Rosalind Russell. Yet Eileen Heckart did in fact get the opportunity to transfer her dynamic stage role as the drunk and despairing Hortense Daigle in the film version of The Bad Seed.
Eileen Heckart started working on Broadway as an assistant stage manager and understudy for The Voice of the Turtle in 1943. Her illustrious stage career includes Picnic, The Bad Seed, A View from the Bridge, A Memory of Two Mondays, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, A Family Affair, And Things That Go Bump in the Night, Barefoot in the Park, Butterflies Are Free, You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running, Veronica’s Room, and The Cemetery Club. Her Off-Broadway performances include The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds where she enthralled audiences with her unique and brilliant acting skills.
Produced and Directed by Glenn Jordan–co-starring Elizabeth Berger and Barbara Dana who appeared as Beverly with Burgess Meredith and Eileen Heckart in Naked City episode Hold For Gloria Christmas.
Eileen Heckart would joke that she would be most known for her role as the devastated mother of the young classmate Claude Daigle, Rhoda Penmark murders with her lethal tap shoes. Though a small role, it was mighty, as she summoned up from the depths of a mother’s despair, the inebriated and grieving “Drunk and unfortunate Ladies and Gentlemen” -Hortense Daigle in The Bad Seed 1956. An incisive performance is like a spark that ignites anguish in your heart and hits you like a ton of bricks.
Heckart would go on to play the Mrs. Baker who over-protectively smothers her blind son Edward Albert in Butterflies Are Free in 1972. A role she not only originated on Broadway, her performance won her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress that year. In the running for the Oscar were Geraldine Page in Pete and Tillie, Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure, and Susan Tyrrell in Fat City.
Heckart would win a Golden Globe for her role in The Bad Seed, and an Emmy Award for the PBS performance in Save Me a Place at Forest Lawn.
Eileen Heckart won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her appearance as Rose Stein on Love & War. She was nominated for a Tony Award in 1970 for Butterflies Are Free on both stages in New York and London, in 1961 for Invitation to a March, and Best Supporting or Featured Actress (Dramatic) in 1958 for William Inge’s The Dark at the Top of the Stairs for which she picked up a New York Drama Critics award in 1957 for her role as Mavis Pruitt.
Then given the honor of the Lucille Lortel Award for her outstanding body of work which was presented to her by friend Mary Tyler Moore. Eileen Heckart was pregnant with her third child at the time of filming The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960), subsequently, Angela Lansbury took over the role.
In 2000 Eileen Heckart appeared on stage in the Off-Broadway production of Kenneth Lonergan’s The Waverly Gallery, where she garnered acclaim for her simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking performance of a grandmother in decline from Alzheimer’s disease. In 2000, after winning the Drama Desk Award, the Lucille Lortel Award, the Drama League Award for her distinguished performance as Gladys Green and the Outer Critics Circle Award, she was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame and received an honorary Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement and “excellence in theater” an unfortunately too late attempt at rectifying her lack of well-deserved missed Tony Awards for earlier accomplishments.
It seems like Eileen Heckart would often inhabit the role of mother. Ranging from the unyielding, overprotective, meddling Jewish mother, Mrs. Brummel in No Way to Treat a Lady 1968, the sympathetic tortured Ma Barbella in Somebody Up There Likes Me 1956 to the downright slovenly drunk in her performance as Beatrice Hunsdorfer in her stage performance of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds. From Shirley Booth’s friend -the quirky Alma in Hot Spell 1958, or as Henrietta Pastorfield in Up the Down Staircase 1969 and even Roz Allardyce alongside Burgess Meredith (Eileen would co-star with Meredith as Mildred Pepper in the incredible television series Naked City 1961 episode Hold For Gloria Christmas) in Burnt Offerings 1976 to the sublimely sage Ma in Zandy’s Bride 1974. She even portrayed mother Ruth Perkins, on the daytime soap opera One Life to Live in the 1980s. And her very last role as Diane Keaton’s mother Catherine MacDuggan in The First Wives Club (1996).
One of her most beloved roles was that of Mary Richard’s Aunt Flo Meredith, in one of the most groundbreaking and memorable television series of all time The Mary Tyler Moore Show. As Flo, she embodies the independent spirit of a feisty journalist, a role she would reprise in the spin-off Lou Grant.
Eileen Heckart, the Tony Award-honored actress whose stage farewell at age 81 in 2000 was as an ailing grandmother Gladys Green in The Waverly Gallery, Off-Broadway.
The great actress died on Dec. 31, 2001, at the age of 82 after a battle with lung cancer. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her devoted son, author Luke Yankee released a biography about his phenomenal mother in 2006 –Just Outside the Spotlight: Growing up with Eileen Heckart.
I have been drawn to Eileen Heckart’s theatrical genius and inimitable style as far back as I can remember first hearing that uniquely recognizable voice, a combination of well-traveled ‘gravel’ road and the finely intricate intonations and depth of an oboe. There’s a fiery, feisty, and gutsy resolve in the manner of her wisdom, her droll temperament, and her innate gumption. She possesses that rare quality of acting that cuts through the narrative and transforms by way of her performance the story which now opens up realms of emotion. Fine character actors like Eileen Heckart stand out as consequential to the work.
Some of my favorite and memorable performances are Vera in Josh Logan’s Bus Stop (1956), Morris’ (George Segal) mother in No Way to Treat a Lady, and the powerfully heartbreaking performance as Hortense Daigle in The Bad Seed. As Sister Veronica in the dramatic television series The Fugitive, and of course Aunt Flo on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. As Bea Miller in the episode called, There Should Be an Outfit Called Families Anonymous! in the 1963 series The Eleventh Hour -a television show starring Wendell Corey that dealt with psychiatric problems. As a spinster, Lucille Baldwin is saddled with her domineering mother played by Madge Kennedy in Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode Coming Mother (1961), and Paul Newman’s mother, Ma Barbella in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956).
The great lady of theatre Zoe Caldwell pays tribute and presents the Lucille Lortel Award to friend Eileen Heckart in perhaps the most poetic and perfect terms–
“In 1946 Eileen Heckart played in a play called “Burlesque” with Burt Lahr. Robert Whitehead was also in the company. And he said that even then… he knew that Eileen would someday play Gladys Green (The Waverley Gallery). Eileen Heckart doesn’t ever ‘play’ anything. Eileen Heckart is some sort of ‘strange magician’ who was seemingly bold… is subtle, and intricate and you can never ever find out how she does it.
I go always whenever I know Eileen is playing and I never ever can see how she does it. We went to the promenade to see Waverley Gallery and there was Eileen, the very focus of life while heading toward death- She made us laugh and laugh and laugh while she was gradually falling apart… And she made us weep and weep and weep. And I really still have Gladys Green in my head. And as she was limping off stage, I said to Robert we can’t possibly go back. And he said why not? I said because Eileen has become too dilapidated. And he said ‘Well I’m going.’ So we went, the door opened, and sitting before her mirror was the most elegant woman, in white linen trousers and white silk shirt and a glorious glorious jacket. And I thought –Oh my god she’s done it again! She isn’t dilapidated, but she made -me feel- all the humanity. And now she’s back, just being Eileen.”
Mary Tyler Moore on Eileen Heckart- Presenting the Lucille Lortel Award for her outstanding body of work and her extraordinarily acclaimed performance in The Waverly Gallery. Mary is struck by the simple kindness of Eileen Heckart as well as her bold and unapologetic humor!
“…for little kindnesses that nobody would even know about if I didn’t tell you about this one. When Eileen and I were working together on the series and she played my Aunt Flo, my husband and I were building a house in the country and I was describing to her this unimaginable wonderful country kitchen with everything you could ever want including a upholstered furniture by the fireplace it was just so great and I said but I feel like such a fool because I don’t cook, and I don’t know how to do anything. Well that Christmas I received her own needle pointed Sampler that came in a beautiful silver frame and it says, and it’s on my wall today, “Screw Gourmet Cooking.”
“If she were acting in Europe, she’d be queen of the boards. The barbarism of Hollywood typecasting deprives the world of her true talents.” -Marlene Dietrich
The one time she managed to quit smoking in her life, she had dinner with Bette Davis and wound up starting again.You can see how that could happen right! Bette could possibly make you do anything!
In order to get Heckart to agree to do “Bus Stop”, director Josh Logan read the entire script over the phone to her. It took two and a half hours while her whole family was waiting for dinner. She was in Arizona at the time because her son had recently contracted meningitis.
Heckart has always considered herself primarily as a stage actress. On the night she won her Oscar, she said to a reporter that the award was “nice”, but it’s not my life.”
“I don’t like sitcoms, it’s instant acting; it has nothing to do with talent. They shoot everything close-up… It’s very boring. You do television to make money so you can afford to act in the theater… Now who can afford (theater?) And people don’t want to think… You never used to hear them talk during a performance. Now they talk.”
(on entering the auditorium as a nominee on Oscar Night) “I just hope they pan the camera on me once. I paid a lot of money for this dress, and I want my mother in Columbus, Ohio to be able to see it.”
From 1994 Breathing Lessons (tv movie) as Mabel
Special Mention: Ellen (tv series) 1997 as Grandma, *The First Wive’s Club (1996) as Diane Keaton’s interfering mother Catherine MacDuggan, *The Five Mrs. Buchanans (tv series) 1994-1995 as the Gorgon Mother-In-Law Emma Buchanan, *Breathing Lessons (tv movie) 1994 as Mabel, *Tales from the Darkside (tv series) 1988 as Rose Pennywell in Do Not Open this Box, *Heartbreak Ridge 1986 as Vietnam War widow Little Mary, *The Hiding Place (tv movie) 1976 as Katje the nurse working inside a concentration camp. *Alice (tv series) 1976 as Rose Hyatt in Mother-in-Law parts 1 & 2, *The Streets of San Francisco (tv series) 1972 as Stella ‘Stell’ Charnovski in The Thirty Year Pin, *The Defenders (tv series) 1964 as Dr. Katherine Tasso in All the Silent Voices, *The Eleventh Hour (tv series) 1963 as Bea Miller in There Should be an Outfit Called Families Anonymous. *Ben Casey (tv series) 1963 as Polly Jenks in Dispel the Black Cyclone that Shakes the Throne, *The New Breed (tv series) 1961 as Harriet Dawson in Til Death Do Us Part (1961), *Heller in Pink Tights (1960) as Mrs. Lorna Hathaway, *Kraft Theatre (tv series) 1949-1957 4 episodes, * The Doctors and The Nurses (tv series) 1965 Night of the Witch as Harriet Watts, *The Little Foxes (tv movie) 1956 as Birdie, *The Trip to Bountiful (tv movie) 1953 as Jessie Mae Watts.
And live performances on television for prominent early television shows such as Philco-Goodyear Playhouse Television 1949-1955 appeared in 6 performances. Kraft Television Theatre, Studio One, Suspense 1949-1955 appeared in 7 episodes, The Alcoa Hour, and Playhouse 90. And Robert Montgomery Presents (tv series ‘Ride the Pink Horse’ 1950.
*Burnt Offerings (1976) as Roz Allardyce
*Mary Tyler Moore (tv series) as Flo Meredith in Lou Proposes and Mary’s Aunt Returns 1975-76
*Zandy’s Bride (1974) as Ma Allan
*The F.B.I. Story: The FBI versus Alvin Karpis, public enemy number one (tv movie) 1974 as Ma Barker
*The Victim (tv movie) 1972 as Mrs. Hawkes
*Butterflies are Free (1972) as Mrs. Baker
*No Way to Treat a Lady 1968 as Mrs. Brummel
*Up the Down Staircase 1967 as Henrietta Pastorfield
*The Fugitive (tv series) 1964-1967 as Sister Veronica in The Breaking of the Habit, Angels Travel on Lonely Roads Part 1 & 2
*Naked City (tv series) featured below as Mildred Pepper co-starring with Burgess Meredith as poet Duncan Kleist in Hold for Gloria Christmas 1962-1963 and as Virginia Cort in Her Life in Moving Pictures (not shown)
*Naked City (tv series) 1962 in Her Life in Moving Pictures
*Dr. Kildare (tv series) 1962 as Nurse Jenny Freesmith in The Soul Killer
*Alfred Hitchcock Presents (tv series) 1961 as Lucy Baldwin in Coming, Mama (1961)
*Hot spell 1958 as Alma’s friend
*The Bad Seed 1956 as Hortense Daigle
*Bus Stop 1956 as Vera
*Somebody Up There Likes Me 1956 as Ma Barbella
*Suspense (tv series) 1949-1952 appeared in 7 episodes
–The Murderer (1949) as Mollie
–Telephone Call as (1951) Mrs. Haskell
Louise Latham is a beautiful woman who always exudes quiet resilience. She was born Johnie Louise Latham on September 23, 1922, in Hamilton Texas. Latham began her career working on stage at the Margo Jones Theatre in Dallas. Sadly Latham died this year at 95 on February 12, 2018.
She is best known for her memorable performance in director Alfred Hitchcock’s psycho-sexual thriller Marnie in 1964. Latham turns in a compelling performance as Tippi Hedren’s mother, when in fact she was merely 8 years older than the actress. As the Mother-Whore Archetype Louise Latham manifested a portrayal of unease and reticent. A bible spouter- unemotional and hating to be touched by her daughter. We glimpse this as Marnie kneels down and tries to rest her head on her mother’s lap, who coldly tells her, “Marnie, mind my leg.” while showing affection to the neighborhood child, breaking Marnie’s heart as she witnesses the contradiction.
Bernice, Marnie’s mother who was a prostitute does a number on her daughter that now she’s so traumatized by her childhood she suffers from kleptomania, and fear of the color red.
It is Latham’s performance that elevates Marnie to a whole other realm of chilling. While it is considered a romantic thriller, I’ve always had an issue with Connery’s controlling patriarchal dominance over the already damaged Marnie. What is intriguing about the film is the most quintessentially shocking and disturbing aspect of the story for me–it is the mother/daughter relationship. That is what is at the core of the film’s mesmerizing fascination. Perhaps her role as Bernice Edgar led to Louise Latham’s inroad into popular mysteries on television, including Columbo 1973, Perry Mason, Ironside, Kojak and The Streets of San Francisco, and feature thrillers like White Lightning, Winter Kill and The Sugarland Express.
A stage actress, Louise now leans to make films because “Marnie’ changed my life, satisfied my soul,” she says, “now I want some more of the same.-Louise Latham
From The Hollywood Reporter written by Mike Barnes
“She was 42 and late for her audition when she got her first movie role, one that changed her career. Louise Latham, the actress who made her big-screen debut by portraying the manipulative mother of Tippi Hedren’s character in Alfred Hitchcock’s suspense thriller Marnie, has died. She was 95. Latham died Feb. 12 in a retirement home in Montecito, California, it was announced. On television, Latham showed up as Olivia’s (Michael Learned) Aunt Kate on a 1977 episode of The Waltons, and she portrayed Perky, the mother of Julia and Suzanne Sugarbaker (Dixie Carter and Delta Burke, respectively) in 1986 on Designing Women. She also appeared on the first episode of Family Affair as Aunt Fran in 1966 and in the final, highly rated installment of The Fugitive a year later.
Latham was 42, just eight years older than Hedren, when she portrayed Bernice Edgar, a former prostitute who years earlier had a rough time with a drunken sailor (Bruce Dern), in Marnie (1964). (She was made up to look as if she were about 24 in the movie’s revealing flashback scene.) Before that high-profile gig, the native of Hamilton, Texas, had worked primarily on the stage, at the Margo Jones Theatre in Dallas and on Broadway in a revival of Major Barbara and for a week in the Isle of Children, directed by Jules Dassin.
After Latham couldn’t find a taxi during her first visit to Los Angeles and arrived a half-hour late at Universal for her Marnie audition, she spotted Hitchcock leaving the studio in a limousine and ran over to him, she recalled in Tony Lee Moral’s 2002 book, Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie. The director invited her into the car, and during their 20-minute drive he said, “You’re supposed to be older.” She replied, “Believe me, I’ve just aged 10 years.” She got the part. “Marnie changed my life, that’s all,” Latham said in 1965. “All I want from acting is to satisfy my soul; now I want some more of the same.”
She went on to appear in other movies like Firecreek (1968) with James Stewart and Henry Fonda; White Lightning (1973) with Burt Reynolds; The Sugarland Express (1974) in Steven Spielberg’s first feature; Mass Appeal (1984) with Jack Lemmon; Paradise (1991) with Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson; and Love Field (1992) with Michelle Pfeiffer.
Latham’s TV résumé also included guest shots on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; Bonanza; Gunsmoke; The F.B.I.; Kojak; Hawaii Five-O; Ironside; Columbo; Rhoda; The Streets of SanFrancisco; Murder, She Wrote and, in her final onscreen appearance, The X-Files in 2000.”
Bernice Edgar-“Oh, Marnie. You shouldn’t spend all your money on me like you do.”
Marnie Edgar-“But that’s what money’s for: to spend. Like the Bible says, “Money answereth all things.”
Bernice Edgar-“We don’t talk smart about the bible in this house Missy!”
Bernice Edgar -“A decent woman don’t have need for any man.”
Marnie Edgar-“Why don’t you love me mama? I’ve always wondered why you don’t. Why you never even give me one part of the love you give Jessie. (Marnie goes to touch her mother’s hand and she pulls it back quickly) Why do you always move away from me what’s wrong with me?”
While I am a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock and his contribution to the history of Suspense masterworks, Marnie (1964) has never been one that I can swallow easily as Hitch’s misogyny is blatantly inherent in so much of his films, Marnie and Vertigo (1958) are prime examples of where the fulcrum of the narrative swings on the male protagonist controlling, dominating and subjugating the female heroine. In Marnie, her psychosis unfolds, because of an unloving, cold, and hypocritical mother whose past as a prostitute (another unspoken condemnation of women’s primacy) triggers Marnie’s fears and nightmares leading her to become a master thief. Sean Connery inducing her into a marriage as blackmail is likened to sexual violence and hostage-taking, setting Marnie up to either face incarceration by the law or become a prisoner of his Patriarchal bondage. I find the whole situation so distasteful that it’s hard for me to watch it, though of course as a psycho-traumatic thriller painted with Hitchcock’s colorful brush strokes while it is captivating, I’ve not been able to stomach witnessing it over and over like most other of his films. Marnie’s journey of childhood abuse, into adulthood where she is yet again victimized by the male gaze is painful to watch.
Louise Latham is perhaps best known for her role as Tippi Hedren’s icy exemplification of motherhood. For its time it imposes a serious frame of the psychiatric undercurrents of the Suspense genre as Hitchcock is more spare with his cinematic thriller’s acrobatics, stratagems, and elaborate set pieces— laying bare a more brutal sense of realism in Marnie based on the novel by Winston Graham published in 1964.
Marnie is a psycho-sexual thriller starring Tippi Hedren who is a compulsive thief who ingratiates herself at each job, with her stunning looks and her charm giving her access to the safe. Once she gets what she came for, she adopts a new identity and moves on to another part of the country. Sean Connery plays a successful business tycoon who tracks her down and forces Marnie to marry him, lest he turn her over to the authorities. Connery as I’ve stated becomes her captor, but he also represents her ‘male savior’ archetype. Marnie is beautiful, cool calm, and detached. The question of her criminality if she is immoral, for her compulsions as a product of her whoring mother’s wicked past, the need to psychologically deconstruct her– to make her whole again, but only through the help of Mark is the ruse of the story, the more substantive scrutiny that needs undertaking is the relationship between mother and daughter.
Marnie’s childhood trauma leaves her incapable of loving anyone except her horse. She is sexually unapproachable. When Connery’s character Mark Rutland forces his rights as a husband on her, (which is essentially rape) Marnie tries to drown herself. While he is dashing and hyper-masculine, to me this supposition of hetero-normative love, is not in the least a romantic notion as I see it, but rather an example of sexual violence against women that is glossed over by Hollywood films of that era.
Marnie is triggered by the sight of the colour red. Marnie tells Mark that she is an orphan but he tracks down her mother Bernice (Louise Latham). The dynamic between Marnie and her mother is painfully evocative of the consequential damage of her past trauma. Louise Latham manifests the most chilling interpretation of an unemotional mother who is incapable of showing her daughter affection. Her childhood was a void of love, as her ‘whore mother’ brought men home until one night a sailor played by Bruce Dern gets rough with Bernice and Marnie kills him with a fireplace poker, the reasoning that the color of blood is so inescapable for her.
Louis Latham brings a pendulum of identities from her younger personification as the prostitute mother who is sensually sinful to the repressively frozen hostile anti-maternal figure Marnie later is forced to confront. Latham conveys an authentic coldness in her eyes it is no wonder she is so eternally identified as Bernice Edgar.
Louise Latham seems to gravitate toward suspense & science fiction thrillers, appearing in one of my most beloved series Columbo as the wife of a murder victim (Robert Middleton) who threatens to expose a blackmailing scheme, she is being framed for his murder by Robert Culp in the superb subliminal cuts episode Double Exposure in 1973.
Earlier in 1965 she appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Hour’s An Open Window co-starring Dana Wynter, a particularly spine-tingling episode. Louise Latham in The Invaders in 1967. Louise Latham would then appear in Sweet, Sweet Rachel, the pilot tv film for the series starring Gary Collins as a professor of parapsychology in The Sixth Sense, which she would later re-appear in the episode called Night of the Haunted and then a dystopian science fiction episode of The Name of the Game (1970) ‘LA 2017’. She co-starred in the television mystery thrillers, Winter Kill (1974) and Dying Room Only (1973). Not to mention the En Ami episode of The X-Files (2000), and the feature-length film The Philadelphia Experiment (1984). Not to mention one of my favorite gritty Burt Reynold’s thriller White Lightning (1973).
She appeared on the 1950s and ’60s stage in such venues as the Arena Stage Theatre and made her Broadway debut as a maid in “Major Barbara” (1956). She was awarded the 1988 Drama Logue Award for Outstanding Performance for “A Lie of the Mind” at the Mark Taper Forum Theatre in Los Angeles, California.
Came from a family of Texan ranchers. Her uncle once said to her “Louise, if you want your family to see you act, you’d better get yourself on Bonanza (1959)”.
If Eileen Heckart possesses that well-traveled gravel road voice merged with a gloriously evocative oboe, it could be said that Louise Latham’s voice drips like slow-flowing honey underscored with a sweet-sounding clarinet. Her tone and pace, both fluid and languid also set Louise Latham apart from other character actors, again as Eileen Heckart was thoroughly feisty, Louise Latham moved slowly like liquid, thoughtful and glowing warm with deep penetrating layers of nuance. A quiet storm underneath, that calm doesn’t hide her sassy spirit.
Louise Latham has over 100 film and television credits to her name.
She has appeared in a few of my favorite television series, the rare dramatic show The Doctors and The Nurses 1965 ‘Night of the Witch’ co-starring Eileen Heckart, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour 1965 ‘An Unlocked Window’, The Fugitive, The Invaders 1967, The Sixth Sense 1972 ‘Eye of the Haunted’, The Streets of San Fransisco 1973 as Harriet Sensibaugh In the Midst of Strangers, Columbo as Mrs. Norris in Double Exposure (1973), Quincy M.E. as Nurse Katherine Lowry in Matters of Life and Death 1978, Medical Center as Mrs. Tully in Heel of the Tyrant 1974 and films —Adam at Six a.m. (1970), Sweet, Sweet Rachel 1971, Winter Kill (1974) tv movie, The Sugarland Express 1974, Invitation to a March 1972, Dying Room Only (1973) tv movie, and of course as Martha Culpepper in White Lightning 1973 and The Haunted (1991) tv movie as Sally Kirkland’s mother-in-law. The film is a staple of our Halloween viewing tradition!
Special Mention : * The X Files (tv series) as Marjorie Butters in En Ami (2000)* ER (tv series) as Mrs. Cupertino in Faith (1997) * Love Field (1992) as Mrs. Enright * Murder, She Wrote (tv series) as Mrs. Oates in The Classic Murder (1992)* The Haunted (tv movie) 1991 as Mary, Sally Kirland’s mother-in-law *Designing Women (tv series) 1986 as Mrs. Perky Sugarbaker Mass Appeal (1984) as Margaret, *Family (tv series) 1980 as Elaine Hogan in The Ties that Bind * Eight is Enough (tv series) 1977-79 as Katherine Miitchell * 92 in the Shade (1975) as Mrs. Skelton, * Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill (1979) (tv movie) as Fanny* The Waltons (tv series) as Aunt Kate Grover Daly in The Milestone and The Children’s Carol (1977), * Making It (1971) *Firecreek (1968) **McCLoud (tv series) 1971 as Emily Cantrell in Encounter with Aries * *Longstreet (tv series) 1971 as Maxine Baileyin Spell Legacy Like Death * The Young Lawyers (tv series) (1969) as Maria Cannon in -The Young Lawyers * *The Doctors and The Nurses (tv Series) as Mrs. Franks (1965) in Night of the Witch.
Retro television and film credits.
The Haunted 1991 (tv movie) as Janet Smurl’s mother-in-law Mary
*Quincy M.E. (tv series) as Nurse Katherine Lowry in Matters of Life and Death (1978)
*Medical Center (tv series) as Mrs. Tully/Mrs.Whitlock in Heel of the Tyrant (1974) and Suspected (1971)(not shown)
*Winter Kill (tv movie) 1974 as Doris
*The Sugarland Express (1974) as Mrs. Looby
*Columbo (tv series) (1973) as Mrs. Norris in Double Exposure
*White Lightning (1973) as Martha Culpepper
*Dying Room Only (tv movie) as Vi (1973)
*Kojak (tv series) as Madge Donnelly in Requiem for a Cop (1973)
*The Streets of San Francisco (tv series 1972 as Harriet Sensibaugh In The Midst of Strangers
*The Sixth Sense (tv series 1972) as Mrs. Bennett in Night of the Haunted
*Sweet, Sweet Rachel (tv movie) 1971 as Lillian Piper
*Ironside (tv series) 1969-1971 as Martha Gordon and Wanda in The Priest Killer (1971)(not shown) and Poole’s Paradise (1969)
*The Name of the Game (tv series) 1970-1971 as Helen Bigelow and Miss Digby in LA 2017 & The King of Denmark
*Adam at Six A.M. (1970) as Mrs. Hopper
*The Fugitive (tv series) as Betsy Chandler-The Judgement Part 1 & II (1967)
*The Invaders (tv series) as Joan Corman in Genesis (1967)
*The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (tv series) as Maude Isles -An Unlocked Window (1965)
*Ben Casey (tv series) 1965 as Ellen Carter in If You Play Your Cards Right, You Too Can Be a Loser
This is your EverLovin’ Joey saying thanks again not only to the wonderful hosts of What A Character Blogathon but to the incredible actresses Eileen Heckart and Louise Latham whose contribution to film, stage, and television will always be remembered with great fondness in our collective hearts and minds.
24 thoughts on “What a Character! 2018 – Sassy Sisterhood: Eileen Heckart & Louise Latham”
Enjoyed this post very much. You are so right about character actors.Like seeing old friends again. Their roles are often more relateable than starring roles.And big THANKS for all your work and all the clips!
So true, they are like old friends, exactly! Cheers Joey
This is simply fantastic, Jo. Your posts are the meat and potatoes of blogging. We can’t do without them. Thank you so much for contributing this wonderful tribute to What a Character! What a ONE, TWO punch!!
On Heckart – OH MY GOD do I love her! I am particularly taken with how you describe her voice, which is what comes to mind immediately when I think of her. I am familiar with her films and – of course – her stint as Aunt Flo on MTM, but you mention quite a few TV turns I have not seen and MUST!!
On Latham – you know me and names. I never remember Latham’s, but MAN OH MAN was she ever great!! Of course in Columbo, but also – as you mention – in MARNIE. Not my fave Hitchcock by a long shot, you are absolutely right about the fact that it is Marnie’s relationship with her mother that creeps me out.
I am so thrilled that you like it. I put a lot of love into creating the clips. I feel like letting the actors speak for themselves! Heckart was one of those superbly talented magicians as Zoe Caldwell referred to her. I am so grateful that I get to participate every year for this essential blogathon! I’m also glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t find Marnie a romantic thriller, quite the same as Vertigo for me. Latham brings a chilling air to the mother/daughter relationship, and that’s what is compelling about Hitchcock’s film. And you know I adore his work. Thank you for your kind praise–Cheers, Joey
To echo Aurora’s sentiments I will simply state that THE LAST DRIVEIN is sui generis. Joey has the facility to communicate the depth and breadth of her passion and knowledge in an erudite and captivating manner. Her cerebral and visceral love of the art of cinema lovingly engages our hearts and minds. She is fluent in Scorsese coined “language of cinema”. Her translations of the nuances in the vocabulary of celluloid sight and sound enrich our understanding of the cinematic experience. My New Year wish for Joey is that she may have an abundance of strength and desire to continue this labor of love.
You as always are so kind, and once again, I must return the compliments to you, as your passion and insight is so valuable, I really wish you’d share it by creating a blog that would be filled with the same cinematic spirit! I value your opinions and wish you a wonderful New Year as well. There is so much I endeavor to write about, and I do hope I can continue to explore topics that entertain and interest my readers. It’s what keeps me writing–knowing that fans and film fanatics such as yourself are tuning in… with gratitude, Joey
Aurora said “your posts are the meat and potatoes of blogging.” not only that, but they come in “all you can eat” portions. If you came away from reading this post not knowing something about either of these two great actors, that’s nobody’s fault but your own. Mes compliments au chef!
Thank you so much for your wonderful comment! I’ll be heading over to read your contribution with George Kennedy a marvelous choice for the Blogathon! Cheers, Joey
Sarah! Thank you so much! Glad you enjoyed it–Cheers, Joey
Thank you for including all of those clips to accompany your riveting text. Seeing the work in this context helps to elevate our appreciation of these two fine actresses.
Now, I can add Eileen Heckart as Rosemary to another Broadway theatre stop when I get my time machine.
I have yet to see Marnie, but through television, particularly Gunsmoke, Ironside and E.R., my head is filled with indelible images of the characters created by Louise Latham.
Hi Patricia! Thank you for your wonderful comments. I’ve always been touched by Heckart’s performances, and the reason I adore and value this particular Blogathon is how it inspires me to delve deeper into their work. Creating the clips is my favorite part, because as you say, seeing the work in context is vital. I love creating a visual essay and letting the actors tell their stories themselves. I wish I could have seen her perform live on stage. I feel the same way about Louise Latham as you. She’s in my head too! I appreciate your stopping by here at The Last Drive In–Cheers, Joey
Love it Jo! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!
Hi Tom! Thank you and have a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year to you as well!
Hi! Really enjoyed your post and you’ve written a fantastic article on two outstanding actresses – so much depth and detail that it was a real joy to read. I always love blogathon because they’re a chance to discover other writers and learn more about classic film. Thanks your great work!
Hey there Jo ~ When you tackle a subject, you dive in…the deep end. These are two sassy dames that aren’t easy to pinpoint…complex characters they played. I’ll have to grab a nice glass of wine, turn off the tv and sit quietly with you, Eileen and Louise and go deep. Thanks for the chance to do this.
Hey T! I hope you enjoy touring the collection of clips I edited – and I hope it does them justice. They are both extraordinary actresses and should go nice with a Beaujolais nouveau if you can still get it during it’s limited release! Cheers, little me
What a wonderful post – loved it immensely. Thank you for those terrific clip – brought back so many memories of these 2 beloved ladies. Kudos!
Thank you Marsha for your kind words. It’s my pleasure to create a visual collective of these incredibly brilliant actresses work! Cheers, Joey
Seeing these clips from the 60’s and 70’s, particularly the Naked City episode “Hold For Gloria Christmas”, Marnie, The Invaders episode “Genesis” and the Alfred Hitchcock Hour “An Open Window” episode again, I remember them like it was yesterday when I first saw them and I can’t help thinking today’s TV shows as well as most Hollywood movies today pale dismally in comparison. So much history here and so much to pass on to others.
These things are to be remembered.
Thank you for all of this. This is a real gem of a blog.