Madeleine Sherwood, a character actress who found a home in the work of playwright Tennessee Williams, both on Broadway and on screen, died on April 23 in Lac Cornu, Quebec, in her native Canada. She was 93.
Ms. Sherwood originated the role of “Sister Woman” Mae in Williams Cat of a Hot Tin Roof. The fertile, greedy character is memorably described in the play by Maggie, he sister-in-law, as the progenitor of a brood of “no-neck monsters.” In 1959, she play Miss Lucy, the vengeful mistress of the vicious Boss Finley in Sweet Bird of Youth. She recreated both roles in the film versions of each play.
She returned to the work of Williams in 1962, stepping into the role of Maxine Faulk in the Broadway bow of The Night of the Iguana. On film, she appeared in the Williams-penned film Baby Doll.
Ms. Sherwood appeared regularly on the New York stage from the early 1950s. She inhabited roles in plays by Horton Foote (The Chase), Arthur Miller (The Crucible, in which she originated the role of Abigail Williams), Arthur Laurents (Invitation to a March), Bertolt Brecht (Arturo Ui), Stephen Sondheim and Richard Rodgers (Do I Hear a Waltz?), John Osborne (Inadmissible Evidence) and Edward Albee (All Over).
On television, she gained a degree of wider fame playing the Mother Superior on the Sally Field comedy The Flying Nun, which ran from 1967 to 1970. She and Field remained close friends thereafter.
She was born Madeleine Louise Hélène Thornton In Quebec on November 13, 1922, and attended the Yale School of Drama. She became a member of the Actors Studio Active in the Civil Rights movement, she was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. She worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and was a member of the Congress on Racial Equality. In 1963, she was arrested in Alabama during a Freedom Walk, jailed, and sentenced to six months hard labor. In 1981, she was part of a movement by Actors’ Equity to halt the destruction of three Broadway theatres to make way for a hotel.
Her marriage to Robert Sherwood ended in divorce. She is survived by their daughter, Chloe Fox.