Actress Jane Darwell was typecast as the matronly grandmother type for most of her film career, the award winning actress of stage and film was born Mary “Patti” Woodward on October 15, 1879 in Palmyra, Missouri. Her father a high level rail road executive disapproved of initial foray into show business as a mezzo-soprano opera singer. Not wanting to offend him or the family, she changed her name. Her true calling came late, when in 1912, at the age of thirty-three, Darwell made her stage acting debut. A year later, she began a successful motion picture career that would span five decades (1913-1964), that included nearly two hundred film and television appearances. She won the Academy Award for best supporting actress in 1941 for her portrayal of Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940). Darwell was able to make a smooth transition from silent films to talking pictures because of her versatility as a character actress, notable film credits include: Tom Sawyer (1930), Curly Top (1935), The Zero Hour (1939), Gone with the Wind (1939), My Darling Clementine (1946), and Three Godfathers (1948). In 1964, she appeared in her final motion picture. Walt Disney personally persuaded her to come out of retirement to play the memorable role of “the bird woman” in Mary Poppins. Jane Darwell died at age eighty-seven on August 13, 1967 from a heart attack at the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. Jane Darwell is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.
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