One of the best things about television in the 1970's and 1980's, was that the public still revered theater and movie stars of previous generations enough to give them plenty of work on the small screen. For many a young gayling, our first exposure to the greats of the past was via their guest appearances, talk show chats, or commercials. Long before we knew of their MGM glory days, we loved Nanette Fabray as Bonnie Franklin's mom on One Day at a Time; Betty Garrett on Laverne & Shirley; and Nancy Walker as Rosie, that indefatigable champion of Bounty, the Quicker Picker Upper.
Eileen Heckart was another grande dame (and great dame) of the theatah who we first discovered through the boob tube. As we grew up, we realized that the tough old broad who played Mary's feisty Aunt Flo on The Mary Tyler Moore Show was the same lady who supported Marilyn in Bus Stop, and went off the deep end in The Bad Seed.
WITH MARILYN MONROE IN BUS STOP (1956)
Digging a little deeper, we learned of Heckart's long list of Broadway credits: the original stage productions of The Bad Seed, Picnic, and Butterflies Are Free (the film version of which netted her a 1972 Best Supporting Actress Oscar), among many.
WITH RALPH MEEKER IN THE BROADWAY PRODUCTION OF PICNIC (1953)
It could be argued that Eileen Heckart more or less played "an Eileen Heckart type" nearly every time she stepped in front of the camera (especially on television), but boy, she never played it wrong. We miss her tart-tongued wit, which was matched by her broad, good humored smile. There aren't any "Eileen Heckart types" around anymore, so more's the pity that she's gone.
BOTTOMS UP: EILEEN HECKART IN HOT SPELL (1958)