Jane Wyatt had a career in movies, theatre, and television that spanned over sixty years. She made about thirty movies, of which the most memorable would be "Lost Horizon", "None But The Lonely Heart", and "Gentlemen's Agreement". (I would have added "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home", but I'll have more on that later.)
It will be her role as Margaret Anderson on 'Father Knows Best', however, for which she'll always be remembered by fans of Classic TV. As wife to Jim Anderson in Springfield, Margaret was on equal footing with her husband, unlike many sitcoms of the day. "Father Knows Best", but many times Mother knew better.
The show lived on in syndication. This embedded the characters deeply enough into the collective memory of the Trueniverse audience so that a reunion movie almost twenty years later was a feasible project.
For many TV fans, especially those who are Trekkers, Miss Wyatt will always be remembered for another motherly role, even though she played it only once on television. This would be Amanda, wife of Sarek and mother of Mr. Spock in the 'Star Trek' episode "Journey To Babel". She later returned to this role in the theatrical movie "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home", where she took advantage of Spock's death and rebirth as a second chance to help her son discover his human side.
And for me, there is yet one more TV character in her resume who should be noted - that of Katherine Auchslander, the wife of Dr. Daniel Auchslander, the administrator of St. Eligius Teaching Hospital on 'St. Elsewhere'.
Jane Waddington Wyatt was born Aug. 12, 1910, in Campgaw, N.J. Herancestry was traced to early American statesmen and educators. Her father was an investment banker, and her mother, from the Van Rensselaer family line, wrote drama criticism.
Ms. Wyatt won three Emmy Awards playing Margaret Anderson, the wife of a Midwestern insurance agent, played by Robert Young and the mother of their three children, portrayed by Elinor Donahue, Billy Gray and Lauren Chapin. She was the first consecutive winner of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Emmy Award.
After its cancellation, she took a variety of television parts, appearing on "Alfred Hitchock Presents," "The Virginian" and "Fantasy Island," among others.
She also accepted a part in "Amityville: The Evil Escapes" (1989), a TV movie that was a chapter in the "Amityville Horror" scare flicks. Unfamiliar with the series, she initially thought the script was about Andersonville, the Civil War prisoner-of-war camp.
However, she said she embraced the role of an embittered crone of a woman who must take in her daughter, played by Patty Duke, and three grandchildren, one of whom is taken over by an evil spirit.
Her character, Alice, "is VERY different," Ms. Wyatt told the Chicago Tribune. "Margaret Anderson would have welcomed her daughter and grandchildren [and had them] stay for a year, two years.
"Alice, on the other hand, didn't exactly roll out the welcome wagon. She had been living alone for a long time. Then suddenly four people move in. You get fussy and a little used to your own ways. Plus the kid's possessed."
After a period in stock, she arrived on Broadway in 1931 at the bottom of the cast in A.A. Milne's "Give Me Yesterday" (1931). She went on to appear in George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's "Dinner at Eight" as the ingenue Paula, who has an affair with an older, alcoholic matinee idol.
Soon after, Ms. Wyatt made her screen debut as a secondary character in James Whale's "One More River" (1934), followed by Estella in a version of Charles Dickens's "Great Expectations" with Phillips Holmes as Pip.
She later said her work dried up in the early 1950s because of her association with a group of politically liberal actors campaigning against the anti-Communist blacklist, including Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart. She said that she was never a Communist and that the worst label that anyone applied to her was "prematurely anti-fascist."
The offer to appear in "Father Knows Best," long a fixture on radio, came as a surprise. The show ran first on CBS, and that network's decision to cancel the program resulted in loud protests. NBC picked it up from 1955 to 1958 before the show returned to CBS.
Although Ms. Wyatt said in later years that she found aspects of the show dated, she took some comfort in its ability to appeal to audiences across the world.
"When we did it we had no idea it would make such a big splash," she told the Associated Press in 1989. "I went to Peru on a botanical trip last year. The stewardesses on the plane were all over us. In Lima, we were besieged by people. The show's called 'Papa Lo Sabe Todo' there."
Before taking her role in the television series, Wyatt had already established herself as a television pioneer, serving as host of the 'Bell Telephone Hour'.
In addition to acting, Ms. Wyatt spent much of her life raising funds for the March of Dimes.
Survivors include two sons, Christopher Ward of Piedmont, Calif., and Michael Ward of Los Angeles; three grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
"Father Knows Best" .... Margaret Anderson
[The Andersons lived in the town of Springfield. This is the same Springfield where 'Guiding Light' takes place - at least as far as this Caretaker is concerned. And although the city of Altoona was mentioned in the series several times, that doesn't necessarily mean that this Springfield was located in Pennsylvania. Also, it is not the Springfield of 'The Simpsons', as that takes place in the Tooniverse.]
"St. Elsewhere" .... Katherine Auschlander
[Those who follow the Westphallian Splainin of the TV Universe - that it is all connected in the mind of autistic Tommy Westphall on 'St. Elsewhere' - might argue that Katherine was no more than a character based on Tommy's viewing of 'Father Knows Best' repeats. I'm one of those televisiologists who believe that 'St. Elsewhere' actually did take place in the TV Universe, and that it was the show's final scenes that were the fantasy.]
SEQUELS & PREQUELS
Father Knows Best: Home for Christmas (1977) (TV) .... Margaret Anderson
Simisola (1996) (TV) .... Newsreader
Amityville: The Evil Escapes (1989) (TV) .... Alice Leacock
Ladies of the Corridor (1986) (TV)
Missing Children: A Mother's Story (1982) (TV) .... Judge Eloise Walker
[It's possible that Judge Walker is the mother of Ellie Walker, the young pharmacist who dated Sheriff Andy Taylor for awhile on 'The Andy Griffith Show'. At the very least, she could be an aunt or other close relative for whom Ellie was named. Of course, it would just be a coincidence that Eloise Walker and Ellie Walker shared the same tele-genetic characteristics as the mother and daughter Margaret and Betty Anderson of 'Father Knows Best'.]
The Millionaire (1978) (TV) .... Mrs. Mathews
The Nativity (1978) (TV) .... Anna
A Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Story (1978) (TV) .... Eleanor's Mother
Superdome (1978) (TV) .... Fay Bonelli
Amelia Earhart (1976) (TV) .... Amy Earhart
Katherine (1975) (TV) .... Emily Alman
Tom Sawyer (1973) (TV) .... Aunt Polly
You'll Never See Me Again (1973) (TV) .... Mary Alden
Neighbors (1971) (TV)
Weekend of Terror (1970) (TV) .... Sister Frances
See How They Run (1964) (TV) .... Augusta Flanders
TV RELATED MOVIES
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) .... Amanda
TV GUEST APPEARANCES
"The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles"
- London, May 1916 (1992) TV Episode .... Older Vicky
- Revelations (1987) TV Episode .... Katherine Jenkins
- Christmas (1983) TV Episode .... Agnes Simpson
- The Gift (1986) TV Episode .... Stella Forrester
- Midnight Waltz/Let Them Eat Cake (1983) TV Episode .... Martha Wilson
- King for a Day/Instant Family (1978) TV Episode .... Mrs. Grayson
[The character of Mrs. Grayson could be part of the same family tree that would eventually bring forth Amanda Grayson, the mother of Mr. Spock on 'Star Trek'. The fact that both women, although separated by centures, bore an amazing likeness to each other suggests that this theory of tele-genetic kinship is likely.]
"The Love Boat"
- Captain's Replacement, The/Sly as a Fox/Here Comes the Bride...Maybe (1983) TV Episode
- Crew Confessions/Haven't I Seen You?/Reunion (1979) TV Episode .... Mrs. Fluro
- Empty Nest (1982) TV Episode .... Joan
- New Blood (1980) TV Episode .... Mrs. Bridges
- How Old, How Young (1976) TV Episode
- The Eighth Deadly Sin (1975) TV Episode .... Louise
"Marcus Welby, M.D."
- Designs (1974) TV Episode .... Edwina
"Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law"
- The Break In (1974) TV Episode .... Margaret Wilson
"Alias Smith and Jones"
- The Reformation of Harry Briscoe (1971) TV Episode .... Sister Julia
- The Price of the Hanging (1970) TV Episode .... Mrs. Lori Kinkaid
- The Secret of Brynmar Hall (1964) TV Episode .... Mrs. Sarah Brynmar
"Here Come the Brides"
- Two Women (1970) TV Episode
"Love, American Style"
- Love and the Big Leap/Love and the Former Marriage/Love and the Good Deal (1969) TV Episode .... (segment "Love and the Good Deal")
- Love and a Couple of Couples/Love and the Hustler/Love and the Pill (1969) TV Episode .... (segment "Love and the Pill")
- Journey to Babel (1967) TV Episode (as Miss Jane Wyatt) .... Amanda
- The Edith Stein Story (1967) TV Episode
- The Thousand-Mile Journey (1967) TV Episode .... Mrs. Daniels
"The Alfred Hitchcock Hour"
- The Monkey's Paw--A Retelling (1965) TV Episode .... Anne White
"Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre"
- Echo of Evil (1964) TV Episode .... Sarah
"The Bell Telephone Hour" .... Hostess
- Blow High, Blow Clear (1963) TV Episode .... Martha Ellison
"Going My Way"
- Don't Forget to Say Goodbye (1963) TV Episode .... Kitty McMullen
- The Heather Mahoney Story (1962) TV Episode .... Heather Mahoney
"The United States Steel Hour"
- Little Lost Sheep (1961) TV Episode .... Phyllis Bannister
"Play of the Week"
- The Wingless Victory (1961) TV Episode
"General Electric Theater"
- Labor of Love (1961) TV Episode .... Beatrice Freeman
- The Laughing Willow (1958) TV Episode .... Bunny Gates
- The Walsh Girls (1953) TV Episode
- Lovers and Friends (1952) TV Episode
- Daisy, Daisy (1955) TV Episode .... Glenda Bingham
"The Motorola Television Hour"
- The Family Man (1954) TV Episode .... Ruth Updyke
- Outlaw's Reckoning (1953) TV Episode
"The Philip Morris Playhouse"
- To Love and to Cherish (1953) TV Episode
"Robert Montgomery Presents"
- Betrayed (1953) TV Episode
- The Inward Eye (1952) TV Episode
- The Wall (1952) TV Episode
- The Awful Truth (1950) TV Episode
- Kitty Foyle (1950) TV Episode
"The Ford Television Theatre"
- Protect Her Honor (1952) TV Episode
"Schlitz Playhouse of Stars"
- A Southern Lady (1952) TV Episode
- The Intruder (1952) TV Episode
"Nash Airflyte Theatre"
- The Lipstick (1951) TV Episode
THE LEAGUE OF THEMSELVES
Frank Capra's American Dream (1997) (TV) .... Herself
The Silent Feminists: America's First Women Directors (1993) (voice) .... Narrator
Legacy of the Hollywood Blacklist (1987) (TV) .... Herself
NBC 60th Anniversary Celebration (1986) (TV) .... Herself
"The Bell Telephone Hour"
- A Trip to Christmas (1961) TV Episode (as Miss Jane Wyatt) .... Herself
"Confidential for Women" (1966) TV Series .... Narrator (1966)
Story of a Family (1960) (TV) .... Narrator
"Your Show of Shows" - Episode dated 8 January 1952 (1952) TV Episode
"This Is Your Life"
- Vincent Price (1973) TV Episode .... Herself
- Jane Wyatt vs. Richard Boone (1963) TV Episode .... Panelist
"The Steve Allen Show"
- Episode #5.12 (1959) TV Episode .... Herself - Recipient
"What's My Line?"
- Episode dated 21 September 1958 (1958) TV Episode .... Mystery Guest
"Toast of the Town"
- Episode #12.2 (1958) TV Episode .... Herself