In Memoriam: Frances Sternhagen

Frances Sternhagen
(January 13, 1930 – November 27, 2023)

Frances Hussey Sternhagen, hailing from Washington, D.C. and tracing her lineage to German immigrants through her paternal great-grandparents, initially dedicated herself to teaching acting, singing, and dancing to young students. It was after this early experience that she made her debut performance with the Arena Stage Group. She wed actor Thomas A. Carlin in 1956 and the couple had six children (several of whom are also professional actors and musicians): Paul Carlin, Amanda Carlin, Tony Carlin, Sarah Carlin, Peter Carlin and John Carlin.

(Richard Drew / Associated Press)

Sternhagen graced the stages of both Broadway and Off-Broadway with her presence, appearing in a multitude of productions.

Frances Sternhagen and Milo O’Shea in a scene from the Off-Broadway play “The Return of Herbert Bracewell.” Swope, Martha

One of the most revered and cherished stars of the New York stage, she delivered unforgettable performances in works such as the 1972 rendition of The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, Equus in 1975, Angel in 1978, and on Golden Pond in 1979, where Sternhagen delighted Off-Broadway audiences for over two years with her feisty portrayal of the title character in “Driving Miss Daisy“. Her remarkable talent garnered Tony nominations for each of these five productions. She secured her Tony victories, awarded for Best Featured Actress/Play, in 1974 and 1995 for her roles in Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor and Augustus Goetz’s The Heiress, respectively.

Her film debut occurred in “Up the Down Staircase” (1967), followed by notable roles in “Fedora” (1978), “Starting Over” (1979), “Outland” (1981), and “Communion” (1989). On television, she gained recognition for her portrayal of Esther Clavin, the mother of Cliff Clavin, in the long-running series “Cheers” (1982). Additionally, she played Millicent Carter, a wealthy philanthropist, and society matron on “ER” (1994), and made appearances on “Sex and the City” (1998) and “Becker” (1998).

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