Classic Video Showplace

Jane Wyatt

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For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

 Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

Before you check out the star-studded cast in the film, Katherine, on ATVN over the next week, you may be interested in the fascinating background about one of the movie’s central characters–that of Katherine’s mother–played by Jane Wyatt.

Jane Waddington Wyatt was born on August 12, 1910 in the unique village of Franklin Lakes, New JerseyFranklin Lakes was formed by an act of the New Jersey Legislature from portions of Franklin Township, based on the results of a referendum and was named for William Franklin, the illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin.  

At a young (undisclosed) age, she moved to attend Miss Chaplin’s School in New York City and starred in the roles of Joan of Arc and Shylock.  She attended Barnard College for two years before leaving to join the Berkshire Playhouse in Stockbridge, Massachusetts for six months and took on a variety of roles.

Wyatt then auditioned for and won an understudy role in the Broadway play, Trade Winds.  When her turn came to perform, she received terrific reviews and earned a motion picture contract from Universal Studios.

For nearly 15 years, she made a name for herself starring alongside some of Hollywood’s best known actors of the era, including Frank Capra‘s Lost Horizon with Ronald Coleman, Gentleman’s Agreement with Gregory Peck, Task Force with Gary Cooper, None But The Lonely with Cary Grant, and with Randolph Scott in the western drama, Canadian Pacific.

Wyatt’s film career came to a screeching halt in the early 1950s when she was blackballed for criticizing Senator Joseph McCarthy and his anti-Communism investigation campaigns.

She went back to New York City and performed once again on the stage until television came calling.

Wyatt won the role as Robert Young’s on-screen wife in the popular family comedy, Father Knows Best – winning three Emmy Awards in consecutive years for Outstanding Lead Actress in a TV comedy in 1958, 1959 and 1960.

She then made a number of guest appearances on shows throughout the 1960s, including Wagon Train, Going My Way, Here Comes The Brides, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Love, American Style.

But her best-remembered television appearance was as the human mother of the alien character, Mr. Spock, on Star Trek.

Wyatt would go on performing on television shows and films sporadically in the 1970s and early 1980s–her most memorable roles were as Emily Alman in Katherine, Anna, mother of the Virgin Mary, in 1978’s The Nativity and a recurring role in the medical drama, St. Elsewhere.

Her final acting gig was a return to playing Spock’s mother in the 1986 motion picture, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Wyatt was quoted as saying that she received more fan mail from those two appearances on the original “Star Trek” show/film series than any other acting performance she had throughout her career.

Wyatt suffered a stroke in 1995 and never acted again.

She died peacefully in her home on October 20, 2006 at the tender age of 96.

Be on the lookout for Jane Wyatt’s standout performance in the 1975 film, Katherine, coming up on the ATVN Movie Vault, this Saturday at 9:30 pm on ATVN.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on the Astound TV Network, check out the weekly listings here.


The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.