Madeleine Sherwood
Date of Birth
Nov 13, 1922
Birth Place:
Montreal, Quebec, Canada


The daughter of the dean of McGill University's school of dentistry, Madeline Thornton made her first stage appearance at age 4 in a staging of the Passion Play. At 17, Madeline married Robert Sherwood (not the playwright of the same name), who left for parts unknown after their child was born.. Compelled to fend for herself, Madeline Sherwood (as she now billed herself) opted to stay in the theatre, working with the Montreal Repertory and co-starring in the popular wartime CBC radio serial Laura Lrd. And Her Daughter Terry. She moved to New York in 1949, where she studied at Yale and the Actor's Studio while appearing in dozens of live TV dramas. Sherwood made her first Broadway appearance in 1953, playing the troublemaking Abigail in Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Director Elia Kazan, impressed by her ability to convey unvarnished wickedness, wanted to cast her as James Dean's whorish mother in the 1955 film East of Eden. That role went instead to Jo Van Fleet, so Kazan cast Sherwood in the "consolation" role of the vituperative, eternally pregnant Sister Woman in the original 1956 Broadway staging of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Sherwood went on to repeat this role in the 1958 filmization of Streetcar Named Desire, and later played Miss Lucy in another Williams cinemadaptation, Sweet Bird of Youth (1963). Her television credits of the 1960s include stints on several soap operas, and a three-year hitch as the remonstrative Mother Superior on the Sally Field sitcom The Flying Nun (1967-70). As was the case with many "professional villains," Madeline Sherwood was anything but nasty and self-centered in real life. Her activities on behalf of the Civil Rights movement landed her in a Southern jail in 1962, a fact which forever remained a source of pride for her. And after undergoing therapy in the 1960s (playing one villainess after another had finally taken its toll), Madeline Sherwood became so fascinated with psychiatric work that, from 1970 through 1971, she studied at the GROW institute to become a psychotherapist and group counselor. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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