Tom Cruise’s mother, Mary Lee South, died peacefully in her sleep, at the age of 80, according to People magazine. Cruise’s mother battled with health issues for the last several years. South’s unwavering support and guidance played an integral part in developing her son into the megastar that he is today.
This weekend, Cruise, 54, attended a memorial service for his beloved mother at her local Church of Scientology. Cruise’s sisters, Lee Ann DeVette, 57, Cass Mapother, 55, and Marian Henry, 52, were also in attendance.
— E! News (@enews) February 13, 2017
Cruise’s mother is a Louisville, Kentucky native and was born under the name, Mary Lee Pfeiffer. Tom Cruise’s dad, Thomas Cruise Mapother III, was an electrical engineer. At the time of their turbulent marriage, Cruise’s mother worked as a special-education teacher.
“He was the kind of person where, if something goes wrong, they kick you. It was a great lesson in my life—how he’d lull you in, make you feel safe and then, bang! For me, it was like, ‘There’s something wrong with this guy. Don’t trust him. Be careful around him.’ There’s that anxiety.”
According to Fox News, in 2006, Cruise opened up to Parade magazine about life with his father, calling him “a bully and a coward.” Mary Lee’s union with Mapother broke down and Tom’s mother ended the marriage in 1974.
Ten years later, Cruise says he reunited with his father, who was in the hospital and dying of cancer. According to Fox News, Cruise’s father would only meet with him if he agreed to not bring anything up from the past.
“When I saw him in pain, I thought, `Wow, what a lonely life’… He was in his late 40s. It was sad.”
According to People, Tom’s mother worked several jobs to keep their family out of the clutches of poverty. Cruise helped with money from a paper route. The sympathetic son even massaged his mother’s sore feet after she came home from long days at work.
— E! News (@enews) February 13, 2017
Tom’s passion for acting was developed and shaped by his mother. In 1986, Mary Lee told Rolling Stone magazine that she was interested in theater but never pursued it.
“When I was growing up, if you went to Hollywood, that was really risqué.”
When Cruise was young, his mother encouraged him to participate in a local theater group.
“I guess I was his greatest audience… He had it in him then.”
However, as time went on, Tom’s love of sports took precedence over acting. However, the close bond Tom had with his mom continued when the family relocated to Glen Ridge, New Jersey. In 1968, Mary Lee wed Jack South, when Cruise was 16-years-old.
“He loved my mother so much that he took us all in, all four young people.”
A serious knee injury on his varsity wrestling team derailed Tom’s athletic pursuits, so Mary Lee encouraged him to audition for the high school’s upcoming production of Guys and Dolls. After landing and executing a top role in the school’s show, Tom then asked his mother for her support for 10 years while he pursued a career in the entertainment industry. Mary Lee wholeheartedly obliged. As Tom searched for acting gigs, he waited tables in New York City.
When Cruise asked his mother and her second husband if they thought he had what it took to become a successful actor, Cruise’s mother told Rolling Stone that they both gave their support without hesitation.
“We both wholeheartedly agreed… Because we both felt it was a God-given talent … So to make a long story short, we gave him our blessing — and the rest is history.”
According to People, South never doubted her son would be a success. As Tom launched a successful movie career and became an internationally acclaimed actor, the close relationship he had with his mother continued.
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