Anne Jackson, a theatre actress whose decades-long career was highlighted by frequent on-stage teamings with her husband Eli Wallach, died April 12 at her home in Manhattan. She was 90.
Though well-respected by colleagues and critics alike as an artist in her own right, the diminutive, flame-haired Ms. Jackson was most famous as part of one of the most enduring stage marriages in the history of the American theatre. With Eli Wallach, whom she wed in 1948, she appeared in dozens of productions. They co-starred in the massive 1960s Murray Schisgal comedy hit Luv, and she was Wallach's love interest in the American premiere of Ionesco's Rhinoceros in 1961. Among their other shared credits were Promenade, All!, The Waltz of the Toreodors, Twice Around the Park, a 1989 revival of Cafe Crown and a 1994 revival of Odets' The Flowering Peach, her final Broadway credit.
She won an Obie Award for playing opposite her husband in 1963 in the paired plays The Typists and The Tiger.
Reviewing In Persons, a 1993 Off-Broadway production in which the two actors reminisced about their career, Frank Rich wrote, “Mr. Wallach's beaming irascibility and Miss Jackson's elegant comic edginess (as well as her blue eyes and red hair) are as sharp and robust as ever... They remain frenzied, searching, lovable middle-class Jewish New Yorkers incarnate. Historians will note that the couple found their perfect bard in the playwright Murray Schisgal. Watching the Wallachs recreate their roles as ex-spouses who can't keep apart from each other in Luv is to remember, some 30 seasons later, just why that Schisgal play was one of the funniest ever seen on Broadway.”
On her own, she was in the 1953 comedy hit Oh Men! Oh Women! with Gig Young, and Paddy Chayefsky's The Middle of the Night in 1956, with Edward G. Robinson and Gena Rowlands. She received her sole Tony Award nomination for her performance in the latter, playing an adult daughter who unknowingly has a fixation on her father.
“I shall not easily forget,” wrote critic Eric Bentley of her work in the Chayefsky, “the energy that is in Miss Jackson's long silences, or how she can make the hammiest joke about a Freudian error sound like the wit of Oscar Wilde.”
Anne June Jackson was born Sept. 3, 1926 in Millvale, Pennsylvania, one of three sisters born to the Irish-Catholic Stella Germaine and Croatia-born John Ivan Jackson, a barber. She trained at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse and The Actor's Studio.
Ms. Jackson made her 1944 Broadway debut in The New Moon.
Her next few credits included King Henry VIII, Yellow Jack and What Every Woman Knows—all productions of the American Repertory Theatre, and featuring her future husband, Wallach, in the cast. The two married in 1948 and had three children, including actress Roberta Wallach.
She began working in live television and film in the 1950s. Among her notable screen credits were How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life, The Tiger Makes Out (in both of which she starred with Wallach), The Secret Life of an American Wife, Love and Other Strangers and The Shining.
“It is the Wallachs,” wrote the New York Times of Marriage, “in two beautifully shaded, seriocomic performances, who steady the frolic, even injecting a note of poignancy toward the end, while the others bounce around helter-skelter.”
Ms. Jackson used to try and trip up reporters when they came around to interview her husband. “I used to like to come into the room when Eli was being interviewed and say, ‘I have very sad news. Our relationship is not going to work out. We’re finished.’”