Frances Sternhagen, known for her Tony-winning Broadway career and an unforgettable role in Sex and the City, has died.
The actress passed away aged 93 on Monday, November 27, of natural causes in her residence in New Rochelle, NY, which she called home for more than 60 years. Her son Tony Carlin confirmed her passing Wednesday.
Born on January 13, 1930, in Washington, D.C., after getting her start on the stage – and taking on a varying list of what later became her signature role, that of a mother – among her most beloved characters was as the ever preppy and steely Bunny MacDougal opposite Kristin Davis and Kyle MacLachlan on SATC.
An only child, her father John Meier Sternhagen was a United States tax court judge while her mother Gertrude (née Wyckoff) Sternhagen was a nurse during World War I and later a homemaker.
After graduating from highschool in Virginia, the Emmy-nominated sitcom fixture studied at Vassar College, initially history though later drama, and graduated in 1951.
Early in her career, starting on the stage, Sternhagen quickly developed a penchant for playing mature and matriarchal roles, so much so that the New York Times reports at times she had to wear aging makeup.
Reminiscent of the Golden Girls and how younger generations have been shocked to learn how much younger its lead characters were than their hair and wardrobe made them look, Sternhagen notoriously played women several years her senior.
In 1979, when she was 49, she played a "retirement-age wife," per NYT, on Off Broadway play "On Golden Pond." Countless similar roles followed, such as her portrayal of a Southern widow in her 70s in another Off Broadway production, "Driving Miss Daisy," when she was in her 50s.
On the television screen it was no different. She was a controlling mom on Cheers, a grandmother on ER, Kyra Sedgwick’s mom on The Closer, and of course, there's arguably her most iconic and hard-hearted rendition of a mother yet: as Bunny, Charlotte York's very own "monster-in-law" on Sex and the City. The role earned her an Emmy nomination, and surely made many wives of "mama's boys" with overbearing mothers recoil.
In real life, Sternhagen had six children with her husband Thomas Carlin, who she married in 1956; he died in 1951. She is survived by her four sons, Tony, Paul, Peter and John, two daughters, Amanda and Sarah, as well as nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
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