Frances Sternhagen, ‘Cheers’ and ‘Intercourse and the Metropolis’ actor, dies at 93


Frances Sternhagen, a stage and display screen actor who obtained popularity of her maternal roles on “Cheers,” “Intercourse and the Metropolis” and “The Nearer,” has died. She was 93.

Sternhagen died “peacefully at her house” in New Rochelle, N.Y., of pure causes on Monday night, based on her publicist and her son, John Carlin, who shared his mom’s loss of life in a press release posted Tuesday on social media.

“I’ll submit extra quickly, however for now I simply need to give thanks for the exceptional present of an artist and human being that was Frances Sternhagen,” Carlin wrote. “She was beloved by many. I’m very fortunate I used to be in a position to name her my mother, my pal, my tune and dance companion.

“Fly on, Frannie,” he continued. “The curtain goes down on a life so richly, passionately, humbly and generously lived.”

A veteran character actor, Sternhagen was a well-recognized maternal face to TV viewers in such reveals as “ER” and “The Nearer.”

For her flip in NBC sitcom “Cheers” as Esther Clavin, mom of the titular bar’s common Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger), Sternhagen was nominated twice for Primetime Emmys, in 1991 and ’92. A decade later, in 2002, she was once more Emmy-nominated for her “Intercourse and the Metropolis” efficiency as Bunny MacDougal, the primary mother-in-law of Charlotte York (Kristin Davis). She additionally was identified for her roles within the films “Distress” and “The Mist.”

“I need to say it’s enjoyable to play these snobby older girls. It’s all the time extra enjoyable to be obnoxious,” Sternhagen informed The Occasions in 2002. “I’ve identified ladies like that, and I can imitate them, I assume.”

On the stage, Sternhagen was an achieved performer. She gained a Tony for featured actress in a play in 1974 for Neil Simon’s “The Good Physician” and a second one in 1995 for a revival of “The Heiress.” Her final activate Broadway was in “Seascape” in 2005.

She was nominated for Tonys 4 different occasions, for starring or featured roles in “The Check in Sidney Brustein’s Window,” “Equus,” “Angel” and “Morning’s at Seven.” In 2013, she performed Edie Falco’s mom within the off-Broadway play “The Madrid.”

Daniel Sullivan, her director within the 2002 revival of the 1938 play “Morning’s at Seven,” praised her robust character and heat behind the scenes.

“She has spine; it’s not as if she is simply docilely going forward and doing something you need her to do,” Sullivan mentioned within the 2002 Occasions report. “Franny could be very particular, a real professional, however her form of candy nature actually is true in her working relationships.”

Playwright Paul Rudnick on Wednesday known as her “a beautiful actress, able to the very best comedy and deeply shifting drama,” who “might appear regal or plainspoken.” She was, he wrote on X, “an indelible presence.”

Maria Alex Beech, additionally a playwright, remembered working with Sternhagen on a play and described her as “self-effacing and humble.”

“She got here to rehearsal along with her personal sandwich and sat with us, simply considered one of us,” Beech wrote in a tweet. “She by no means let on that she had a protracted profession in leisure. She was a real artist’s artist. A real actor’s actor. And a dream playwright’s actor.”

Sternhagen was born in 1930 in Washington, D.C., the place her father was a tax courtroom choose. As a toddler she liked to carry out — she recalled herself as “a shameful show-off” — however she by no means thought of an performing profession. She entered Vassar as a historical past main, however a pleasant instructor recommended one other route: performing.

After graduating faculty, she taught drama, trendy dance and singing exterior Boston, incomes $2,000 for the yr earlier than deciding to pursue work within the theater.

“I assumed I might strive it, see if I appreciated it, after which get out,” she informed The Occasions in 1981. “However you by no means get out. It’s an dependancy, as a result of it touches your feelings, as a result of it’s the place you need to reside. … I believe these of us who can keep in it are simply plain fortunate.”

She met her husband, actor Thomas A. Carlin, whereas showing in a manufacturing in Maryland. Collectively they constructed a big household, one thing Sternhagen mentioned she had all the time wished. She stored up a flourishing profession whereas on the similar time elevating six kids. Carlin died of coronary heart failure in 1991.

Sternhagen and Carlin had 4 sons, Paul, Tony, Peter and John, and two daughters, Amanda and Sarah. She is also survived by 9 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

The Related Press contributed to this report.


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