Madeleine Sherwood, Mother Superior Of ‘Flying Nun,’ Dies At 93

Madeleine Sherwood, best known for playing Mother Superior of the Convent San Tanco in the 1960s sitcom The Flying Nun, died in her home in Lac Cornu, Quebec. The Hollywood Reporter said the Canadian actress was 93.

Madeleine Sherwood was loved by fans for her portrayal of Reverend Mother Lydia Placido in The Flying Nun. She played the head of the convent where Sister Bertrille (played by Sally Field) was a novice at the convent who, because of the high winds in Puerto Rico, her habit’s large, starched cornette, and her slight build, was able to fly. The show ran from 1967 to 1970. Sherwood mentored Sally Field off-screen as well as on, and helped her with acting lessons.

Madeleine Sherwood was also respected for her roles on Broadway, reported TV Guide. She was perhaps best known for creating the role of Mae Pollitt in Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, directed by Elia Kazan. She reprised the role in the 1958 film.

Madeleine Sherwood is also justly famous for playing Miss Lucy in Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth, both on Broadway (directed by Elia Kazan) and in the movie version (rewritten and directed by Richard Brooks). She was in eighteen Broadway productions, including Arturo Ui, Do I Hear a Waltz?, All Over, The Chase, Invitation to a March, The Night of the Iguana, and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

Madeleine Sherwood won an Obie Award for Best Actress for Best Actress in the 1963 off-Broadway production of Hey You, Light Man! She was in other off-Broadway plays, including Getting Out, Brecht on Becket, and Older People.

Madeleine Sherwood was born as Madeleine Louise Hélène Thornton in Montreal, Quebec, November 13, 1922. Her first acting experience was at the age of four, in a church play. She married Robert Sherwood in 1940; they had one child together, Chloe. The Sherwoods eventually divorced. Although Madeleine Sherwood lived and worked in the United States for decades, she always retained her Canadian citizenship and returned to Canada for her retirement. She died in Lac Cornu, Quebec, on Saturday, April 23.

Madeleine Sherwood acted in both Canadian and American soap operas. One of her best known soap opera roles was as Betty Eilers on Guiding Light. She also appeared in The Secret Storm as Carmen, the diner owner.

Madeleine Sherwood’s movie roles ranged from Otto Preminger’s Hurry Sundown to George Schaefer’s Pendulum to Arthur Hiller’s Teachers. She recreated her roles in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Sweet Bird of Youth on film. Her career on television was wide-ranging, with far more than just soap operas and The Flying Nun. Madeleine Sherwood guest-starred on You Were There, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Fugitive, Bonanza, Love American Style, Columbo, Cagney & Lacey, Dynasty, and many others.

In addition to her work as an actress, Madeleine Sherwood was an activist for equal rights. The Los Angeles Times confirmed Sherwood was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. She marched for civil rights in the 1960s and joined the Congress on Racial Equality. She was arrested for “Endangering the Customs and Mores of the People of Alabama” and sentenced to six months hard labor. She was the first white woman to be represented by an African-American attorney in a southern courthouse. It was while she was in jail that she incurred the hearing loss that plagued her the rest of her life. In the 1970s, Sherwood became an activist for women’s rights.

Madeleine Sherwood wrote, directed and acted in the short film, Good Night Sweet Prince. She, Joanne Woodward, and Cicely Tyson received grants from the American Film Institute to direct short films in the 1980s.

Madeleine Sherwood retired from acting in 1989. Her final performance was in “Madeleine’s Method,” a short documentary about her acting career made in 2010.

Madeleine Sherwood is survived by her daughter, Chloe, two grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and millions of fans.

[Image via ABC]