Eileen Heckart Cause of Death: How the Oscar-Winning Actress Lost Her Battle with Cancer

Eileen Heckart was an American actress who had a long and distinguished career in stage, film, and television. She was known for her versatile and memorable character roles, often playing eccentric, witty, or strong-willed women. She won an Academy Award, two Emmy Awards, and a special Tony Award for her lifetime achievement in theater. She also received several other nominations and honors for her work. But how did she die and what was her cause of death?

Early Life and Career

Eileen Heckart was born Anna Eileen Herbert on March 29, 1919, in Columbus, Ohio. Her mother Esther (née Stark) married Leo Herbert (not the biological father of Eileen) at her own mother’s insistence so that her child would not be born with the stigma of illegitimacy. Eileen was later legally adopted by her maternal grandmother’s wealthy second husband, J.W. Heckart, who gave her his surname. She had two stepsisters, Anne and Marilyn.

She graduated from Ohio State University with a B.A. in drama and moved to New York to pursue an acting career. She began her Broadway career as the assistant stage manager and an understudy for The Voice of the Turtle in 1943. Her breakthrough role was as the lonely schoolteacher Rosemary Sidney in William Inge’s Picnic in 1953, for which she won the Theatre World Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award.

She went on to star in many other Broadway plays, such as The Bad Seed, A View from the Bridge, A Memory of Two Mondays, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, A Family Affair, And Things That Go Bump in the Night, Barefoot in the Park, Butterflies Are Free, You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running, and The Cemetery Club. She received Tony Award nominations for Butterflies Are Free, Invitation to a March, and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs. In 2000, at age 81, she appeared off-Broadway in Kenneth Lonergan’s The Waverly Gallery, for which she won several awards, including the Drama Desk Award, the Lucille Lortel Award, the Drama League Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award.

She also appeared in many live television shows in the 1950s and 1960s, such as Goodyear Television Playhouse, Kraft Television Theatre, Studio One, Suspense, The Alcoa Hour, and Playhouse 90. She had starring roles in The Five Mrs. Buchanans, Out of the Blue, Partners in Crime, and Backstairs at the White House (Emmy nomination as Eleanor Roosevelt).

Film Career and Awards

Eileen Heckart made her film debut in Miracle in the Rain in 1956. She also appeared in Somebody Up There Likes Me (Paul Newman), Bus Stop (Marilyn Monroe), Heller in Pink Tights (Sophia Loren), Up the Down Staircase (Sandy Dennis), The First Wives Club (Diane Keaton), and many more.

She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in the 1972 movie adaptation of Butterflies Are Free and was nominated in 1956 for her performance as the bereaved Mrs. Daigle in The Bad Seed (both roles she originated on Broadway). She also appeared in The Hiding Place (1976) as a nurse working inside a concentration camp and Heartbreak Ridge (1986) as a Vietnam War widow.

She won two Emmy Awards for her television work: one in 1967 for Save Me a Place at Forest Lawn and one in 1994 for Love & War. She also created a memorable character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show as Mary Richards’ Aunt Flo, a globe-trotting reporter who had an old romance with Lou Grant (Ed Asner).

In 2000, she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame and received an honorary Tony Award for lifetime achievement. She also received three honorary doctorates from Sacred Heart University, Niagara University, and Ohio State University.

Personal Life and Death

Eileen Heckart married John Harrison Yankee Jr., an insurance broker, in 1942. They had three sons: Mark (a writer), Luke (a director), and Philip (a musician). Their marriage lasted until John’s death in 1997.

Heckart was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1998 and underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She continued to work until shortly before her death. She died on December 31, 2001, at her home in Norwalk, Connecticut. She was 82 years old.

According to her son Mark Yankee, she was “one of the great ladies of stage, TV and movies” and “just as wonderful a mother, grandmother as an actress and an all-around wonderful woman.” She was cremated and her ashes were scattered in the Atlantic Ocean.

Eileen Heckart cause of death was cancer, but her legacy lives on in her impressive body of work and her many fans and admirers. She was a talented and versatile actress who could play comedy and drama with equal skill and charm. She was also a strong and independent woman who had a long and successful career in a male-dominated industry. She was an inspiration to many aspiring actors and actresses who followed her footsteps. She will always be remembered as one of the greats of American theater, film, and television.

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