Jessica Tandy

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Jessica Tandy
Tandy, c. 1950s
Jessie Alice Tandy

(1909-06-07)7 June 1909
Stoke Newington, London, England
Died11 September 1994(1994-09-11) (aged 85)
  • United Kingdom
  • United States (from 1952)
Years active1927–1994
(m. 1932; div. 1940)
(m. 1942)

Jessie Alice Tandy (7 June 1909 – 11 September 1994) was an English-American actress. Tandy appeared in over 100 stage productions and had more than 60 roles in film and TV, receiving an Academy Award, four Tony Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Primetime Emmy Award. She won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for playing Blanche DuBois in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948, also winning for The Gin Game and Foxfire. Her films included Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, Cocoon, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Nobody's Fool. At 80, she became the oldest actress to win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Driving Miss Daisy.

Early life[edit]

The youngest of three siblings, Tandy was born in Geldeston Road in Hackney, London, to Harry Tandy and his wife, Jessie Helen Horspool.[1] Her mother was from a large fenland family in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, and the head of a school for mentally handicapped children, and her father was a travelling salesman for a rope manufacturer.[2] She was educated at Dame Alice Owen's School in Islington.

Her father died when she was 12, and her mother subsequently taught evening courses to earn an income. Her brother Edward was later a prisoner of war of the Japanese in Asia.[3]

Acting career[edit]

Tandy (left, with Kim Hunter and Marlon Brando) portrayed Blanche in the original 1947 Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire, a role that earned her the 1948 Tony Award for Best Actress.

Tandy was 18 years old when she made her professional debut on the London stage in 1927. During the 1930s, she acted in many plays in London's West End, playing Ophelia (opposite John Gielgud's legendary Hamlet) and Katherine (opposite Laurence Olivier's Henry V).[4]

She entered films in Britain, but after her marriage to Jack Hawkins failed, she moved to the United States hoping to find better roles. During her time as a leading actress on the stage in London, she often had to fight over roles with her two rivals, Peggy Ashcroft and Celia Johnson.[5] In the following years, she played supporting roles in several Hollywood films.

Like many stage actors, Tandy also worked in radio. Among other programs, she was a regular on Mandrake the Magician[6] (as Princess Narda), and then with her second husband Hume Cronyn in The Marriage[7] which ran on radio from 1953 to 1954, and then segued onto television.

She made her American film debut in The Seventh Cross (1944, appearing alongside Cronyn). She had supporting appearances in The Valley of Decision (1945), The Green Years (1946, as Cronyn's daughter), Dragonwyck (1946) starring Gene Tierney and Vincent Price and Forever Amber (1947). She appeared as the insomniac murderess in A Woman's Vengeance (1948), a film noir adapted by Aldous Huxley from his short story "The Gioconda Smile".

Over the next three decades, her film career continued sporadically while she found better roles on the stage. Her roles during this time included The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951) opposite James Mason, The Light in the Forest (1958), and a role as a domineering mother in Alfred Hitchcock's film The Birds (1963).

Tandy in Alfred Hitchcock Presents "The Glass Eye" (1957)

On Broadway, she won a Tony Award for her performance as Blanche Dubois in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948. After this (she lost the film role to actress Vivien Leigh), she concentrated on the stage. In 1976, she and Cronyn joined the acting company of the Stratford Festival, and returned in 1980 to debut Cronyn's play Foxfire.[8][9] In 1977, she earned her second Tony Award, for her performance (with Cronyn) in The Gin Game and her third Tony in 1982 for her performance, again with Cronyn, in Foxfire.

The beginning of the 1980s saw a resurgence in her film career, with character roles in The World According to Garp (with Cronyn), Best Friends, Still of the Night (all 1982) and The Bostonians (1984). She and Cronyn were now working together more regularly on stage and television, including the films Honky Tonk Freeway (1981), Cocoon (1985), *batteries not included (1987), Cocoon: The Return (1988), and the Emmy Award winning television film Foxfire (1987, recreating her Tony winning Broadway role).

However, it was her colourful performance in Driving Miss Daisy (1989), as an aging, stubborn Southern Jewish matron, that earned her an Oscar.[10]

She received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her work in the grassroots hit Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) and co-starred in The Story Lady (1991 TV film, with her daughter Tandy Cronyn), Used People (1992, as Shirley MacLaine's mother), television film To Dance with the White Dog (1993, with Cronyn), and Camilla (1994, with Cronyn). Nobody's Fool (1994) proved to be her last performance, at the age of 84.

Personal life and death[edit]

Tandy and Hume Cronyn, 1988

In 1932 Tandy married English actor Jack Hawkins and together they had a daughter, Susan Hawkins.[11] Susan became an actress and was the daughter-in-law of John Moynihan Tettemer, a former Passionist monk who authored I Was a Monk: The Autobiography of John Tettemer, and was cast in small roles in Lost Horizon and Meet John Doe.[12]

Tandy and Hawkins divorced in 1940. She married Canadian actor Hume Cronyn in 1942.[11] Prior to moving to Connecticut, she and Cronyn lived for many years in nearby Pound Ridge, New York, and they remained together until her death in 1994. They had two children, daughter Tandy Cronyn, an actress who would co-star with her mother in the TV film The Story Lady, and son Christopher Cronyn. Jessica Tandy became a naturalized citizen of the US in 1952.

In 1990, Jessica Tandy was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and she also suffered from angina and glaucoma. Despite her illnesses and advancing age she continued working. On September 11, 1994, she died at home in Easton, Connecticut, at the age of 85.[4][13][14]


US stage credits[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1930 The Matriarch Toni Rakonitz
1930 The Last Enemy Cynthia Perry
1938 Time and the Conways Kay
1939 The White Steed Nora Fintry
1940 Geneva Deaconess
1940 Jupiter Laughs Dr. Mary Murray
1941 Anne of England Abigail Hill
1942 Yesterday's Magic Daughter Cattrin
1947 A Streetcar Named Desire Blanche DuBois Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play
1950 Hilda Crane Hilda Crane
1951 Madam, Will You Walk Mary Doyle
1951 The Fourposter Agnes
1955 The Man in the Dog Suit Martha Walling
1955 The Honeys Mary
1959 Triple Play In Bedtime Story: Angela Nightingale
In Portrait of a Madonna: Miss Lucretia Collins
In A Pound on Demand: The Public
1959 Five Finger Exercise Louise Harrington
1964 The Physicists Fraulein Doktor Mathilde von Zahnd
1966 A Delicate Balance Agnes
1970 Camino Real Marguerite Gautier
1970 Home Marjorie
1971 All Over The Wife
1972 Not I[15] Mouth Obie Award for Best Actress
1974 Noël Coward in Two Keys In A Song at Twilight: Hilde Latymer
In Come Into the Garden, Maud: Anna Mary Conklin
1977 The Gin Game Fonsia Dorsey Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play
1981 Rose Mother Nominated—Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play
Nominated—Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
1982 Foxfire Annie Nations Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play
1983 The Glass Menagerie Amanda Wingfield
1986 The Petition Lady Elizabeth Milne Nominated—Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play


Year Title Role Notes
1932 The Indiscretions of Eve Maid
1938 Murder in the Family Ann Osborne
1944 The Seventh Cross Liesel Roeder
1944 Blonde Fever Diner at Inn Uncredited
1945 The Valley of Decision Louise Kane
1946 The Green Years Kate Leckie
1946 Dragonwyck Peggy O'Malley
1947 Forever Amber Nan Britton
1948 A Woman's Vengeance Janet Spence
1950 September Affair Catherine Lawrence
1951 The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel Frau Lucie Maria Rommel
1958 The Light in the Forest Myra Butler
1962 Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man Helen Adams Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1963 The Birds Lydia Brenner
1976 Butley Edna Shaft
1981 Honky Tonk Freeway Carol
1982 The World According to Garp Mrs. Fields
1982 Still of the Night Grace Rice
1982 Best Friends Eleanor McCullen
1984 The Bostonians Miss Birdseye
1984 Terror in the Aisles Herself Archival footage
1985 Cocoon Alma Finley Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actress
1987 *batteries not included Faye Riley Saturn Award for Best Actress
1988 The House on Carroll Street Miss Venable
1988 Cocoon: The Return Alma Finley Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actress
1989 Driving Miss Daisy Daisy Werthan Academy Award for Best Actress
BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress
David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actress
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
Silver Bear for the Best Joint Performance (with Morgan Freeman)[16]
Nominated—American Comedy Award for Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture
Nominated—National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress
Nominated—New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
1991 Fried Green Tomatoes Ninny Threadgoode Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1992 Used People Freida
1994 A Century of Cinema Herself Documentary
1994 Camilla Camilla Cara Released posthumously
1994 Nobody's Fool Beryl Peoples Released posthumously (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1948 Actors Studio Miss Lucretia Collins Episode: "Portrait of a Madonna"
1950 Masterpiece Playhouse Hedda Episode: "Hedda Gabler"
1951 Lights Out Episode: "Bird of Time"
1951 Somerset Maugham TV Theatre Episode: "The Man from Glasgow"
1951 Prudential Family Playhouse Jane Crosby Episode: "Icebound"
1951 Betty Crocker Star Matinee Episode: "The Weak Spot"
1951–1957 Studio One Various 2 episodes
1953–1956 Omnibus Various 5 episodes
1954 The Marriage Liz Marriott 8 episodes
1955 Producers' Showcase Agnes Episode: "The Fourposter"
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1955 The Philco Television Playhouse Liz Marriott Episode: "Christmas 'til Closing"
1955–1956 Goodyear Television Playhouse Various 2 episodes
1956 The United States Steel Hour Alice Wiggims Episode: "The Great Adventure"
1956 Star Stage Episode: "The School Mistress"
1956 The Alcoa Hour Olivia Crummit Episode: "The Confidence Man"
1956 General Electric Theater Laura Whitemore Episode: "The Pot of Gold"
1956 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Edwina Freel Season 2 Episode 6: "Toby"
1957 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Julia Lester Season 3 Episode 1: "The Glass Eye"
1957 Studio 57 Miss Bedford Episode: "Little Miss Bedford"
1957 Suspicion Episode: "Murder Me Gently"
1957–1958 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Various 2 episodes
1958 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Laura Bowlby Season 3 Episode 37: "The Canary Sedan"
1958 Telephone Time Bertha Kinsky Episode: "War Against War"
1959 The Ed Sullivan Show The Public Episode #12.34
1959 DuPont Show of the Month Mrs. Baines Episode: "The Fallen Idol"
1959 The Moon and Sixpence Blanche Stroeve Television movie
1964 Breaking Point Roberta Duncan Episode: "Glass Flowers Never Drop Petals"
1968 Judd, for the Defense Helen Wister Episode: "Punishments, Cruel and Unusual"
1972 O'Hara, U.S. Treasury Genevieve Episode: "Operation: Dorias"
1972 The F.B.I. Ardyth Nolan Episode: "The Set-Up"
1972 Norman Corwin Presents Episode: "A Foreign Field"
1975 Bicentennial Minutes Herself Episode #1.424
1981 The Gin Game Fonsia Dorsey Television movie
1987 Foxfire Annie Nations Television movie
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1991 The Story Lady Grace McQueen Television movie
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
1993 To Dance with the White Dog Cora Peek Television movie
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie

†Re-issued on DVD as The Christmas Story Lady

Other awards[edit]

Tandy was chosen by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the world in 1990.[17]


  1. ^ Jessica Tandy's family to unveil plaque to commemorate star's Hackney birthplace 19 November 1998[permanent dead link]; accessed 10 May 2007
  2. ^ "The Academy Awards: A Look At Jessica Tandy". Oxford University Press. February 2007.
  3. ^ Kelly, Terence (1977). Living with Japanese. Kellan Press. p. 136. ISBN 978-0-9530-1930-4.
  4. ^ a b Berger, Marilyn (12 September 1994). "Jessica Tandy, a Patrician Star Of Theater and Film, Dies at 85". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 April 2024.
  5. ^ "At Home with Cronyn and Tandy". The New York Times. 26 May 1994. Retrieved 12 September 2016.
  6. ^ Cronyn, Hume (1991). Terrible Liar: A Memoir. New York: William Morrow. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-6881-2844-9.
  7. ^ Cronyn 1991, pp. 253–54.
  8. ^ "Jessica Tandy acting credits". Stratford Festival Archives. Archived from the original on 31 May 2019. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  9. ^ Blackadar, Bruce (10 May 1980). "Hume Cronyn turns playwright with Foxfire". Toronto Star. p. F1.
  10. ^ "Miss Daisy, Jessica Tandy Win Top Oscars". Chicago Tribune. 27 March 1990. Retrieved 7 November 2010.
  11. ^ a b Champlin, Charles (18 June 1995). "Life After Jessie: For 52 years, Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy shared the love story of the century. Her death last year devastated him, but his love lives on". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  12. ^ "John Tettemer". American Film Institute Catalog. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  13. ^ Shipman, David (12 September 1994). "Obituary: Jessica Tandy". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 8 June 2022. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  14. ^ "From the Archives: Jessica Tandy, Star of Stage, Screen and TV, Dies at 85". Los Angeles Times. 12 September 1994. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  15. ^ Wickstrom, Gordon M. (March 1973). "Theatre in Review". Educational Theatre Journal. 25 (1): 102–104. JSTOR 3205842.
  16. ^ "Berlinale: 1990 Prize Winners". Berlin International Film Festival. Archived from the original on 24 January 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  17. ^ "Beautiful Through the Years". People. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  18. ^ "Notes for Jessica Tandy". Turner Classic Movies. Accessed 11 July 2016.
  19. ^ "Past Recipients: Crystal Award". Women In Film. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 10 May 2011.

External links[edit]