Oscar Actors: Tandy, Jessica–Background, Career, Awards (Cum Advantage, Tonys, Emmys)

Jessica Tandy Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: No

Nationality: UK to US; she moved to NYC in 1940; aged 31

Social Class:


Formal Education:


Stage debut, 1927; 18

Broadway Debut: Tony Award, Streetcar, 1948; aged 39

Popular: Cocoon, 1985; aged 76

Oscar Awards: Driving Miss Daisy, 1989, aged 80

Oscar Nominations: 2; supp. 1991

Span of Nominations: 2 years

Other Awards:

Marriages: 2, Jack Hawkins, NYC in 1940, where she met and married Hume Cronyn.


Death: 85

Jessie Alice Tandy (June 7, 1909 – September 11, 1994) was an English-American actress. Tandy appeared in over 100 stage productions and had more than 60 roles in film and TV, receiving such accolades as Oscar Award, four Tony Awards, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe Award, and a Primetime Emmy Award.

Born in London, she was only 18 when she made her professional debut on the London stage in 1927. During the 1930s, she acted in many plays in London’s West End, playing roles such as Ophelia (opposite John Gielgud’s legendary Hamlet) and Katherine (opposite Laurence Olivier’s Henry V).

During this period, she also worked in a number of British films. Following the end of her marriage to the British actor Jack Hawkins, she moved to New York City in 1940, where she met Canadian actor Hume Cronyn. He became her second husband and frequent partner on stage and screen.

She received the Tony Award for best performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for her performance as Blanche DuBois in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948. Tandy shared the prize with Katharine Cornell (who won for the female lead in Antony and Cleopatra) and Judith Anderson (for the latter’s portrayal of Medea) in a three-way tie for the award. Over the following three decades, her career continued sporadically and included a supporting role in Alfred Hitchcock’s horror film, The Birds (1963), and a Tony Award-winning performance in The Gin Game (1977, playing in the two-hander play opposite Hume Cronyn). Along with Cronyn, she was a member of the original acting company of the Guthrie Theater.[3]

In the mid-1980s she had a career revival. She appeared with Cronyn in the Broadway production of Foxfire in 1983 and its television adaptation four years later, winning both a Tony Award and an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Annie Nations. During these years, she appeared in films such as Cocoon (1985), also with Cronyn.

She became the oldest actress to receive the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Driving Miss Daisy (1989), for which she also won a BAFTA and a Golden Globe, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Fried Green Tomatoes (1991). At the height of her success, she was named as one of People’s “50 Most Beautiful People”. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1990, and continued working until shortly before her death.

The youngest of three siblings, Tandy was born in Geldeston Road in Hackney, London to Harry Tandy and his wife, Jessie Helen Horspool.[4] Her mother was from a large fenland family in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, and the head of a school for mentally handicapped children, and her father was a travelling salesman for a rope manufacturer.[5] She was educated at Dame Alice Owen’s School in Islington.

Her father died when she was 12, and her mother subsequently taught evening courses to earn an income. Her brother Edward was later a prisoner of war of the Japanese in the Far East.[6]

In 1947, Jessica Tandy (left, with Kim Hunter and Marlon Brando) created the role of Blanche DuBois in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire, and received the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play.
Tandy began her career at the age of 18 in London,[1] establishing herself with performances opposite such actors as Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud. She entered films in Britain, but after her marriage to Jack Hawkins failed, she moved to the United States hoping to find better roles. During her time as a leading actress on the stage in London she often had to fight for roles over her two rivals, Peggy Ashcroft and Celia Johnson.[7] In 1942, she married Hume Cronyn and over the following years played supporting roles in several Hollywood films. Tandy became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1952.

Like many stage actors, Tandy also worked in radio. Among other programs, she was a regular on Mandrake the Magician[8] (as Princess Nada), and then with husband Hume Cronyn in The Marriage[9] which ran on radio from 1953–54, and then segued onto television.

She made her American film debut in The Seventh Cross (1944). The Hollywood studio system did not know what to do with Tandy. Failing to gain leading roles, she was relegated to supporting appearances in The Valley of Decision (1945), The Green Years (1946, as Cronyn’s daughter), Dragonwyck (1946) starring Gene Tierney and Vincent Price and Forever Amber (1947).[2] She had a flashy role as the insomniac murderess in the 1948 film-noir adapted by Aldous Huxley from his short story “The Gioconda Smile”.

Over the next three decades, her film career continued sporadically while she found better roles on the stage. Her roles during this time included The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951) opposite James Mason, The Light in the Forest (1958), and a role as a domineering mother in Alfred Hitchcock’s film, The Birds (1963).[2]

Tandy in Alfred Hitchcock Presents “The Glass Eye” (1957)
On Broadway, she won a Tony Award for her performance as Blanche Dubois in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948. After this (she lost the film role to actress Vivien Leigh), she concentrated on the stage. In 1976, she and Cronyn joined the acting company of the Stratford Festival, and returned in 1980 to debut Cronyn’s play Foxfire.[10][11] In 1977, she earned her second Tony Award, for her performance (with Cronyn) in The Gin Game and her third Tony in 1982 for her performance, again with Cronyn, in Foxfire.

The beginning of the 1980s saw a resurgence in her film career, with character roles in The World According to Garp, Best Friends, Still of the Night (all 1982) and The Bostonians (1984). She and Cronyn were now working together more regularly on stage and television, including the films Cocoon (1985), *batteries not included (1987) and Cocoon: The Return (1988) and the Emmy Award winning television film Foxfire (1987, recreating her Tony winning Broadway role).[2]

However, it was her colourful performance in Driving Miss Daisy (1989), as an ageing, stubborn Southern-Jewish matron, that earned her an Oscar.[12]

She received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her work in the grassroots hit Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), and co-starred in The Story Lady (1991 TV film, with her daughter Tandy Cronyn), Used People (1992, as Shirley MacLaine’s mother), television film To Dance with the White Dog (1993, with Cronyn), Camilla (1994, with Cronyn). Nobody’s Fool (1994) proved to be her last performance, at the age of 84.[2]

Other awards
Tandy was chosen by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the world in 1990.[13]

1979 – Induction into the American Theatre Hall of Fame[14]
1979 – Sarah Siddons Award Chicago theatre
1986 – Drama Desk Special Award
1986 – Kennedy Center Honors Recipient.
1990 – National Medal of Arts
1991 – Women in Film Crystal Award[15]
1994 – Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement shared with her husband, Hume Cronyn

In 1932 Tandy married English actor Jack Hawkins and together they had a daughter, Susan Hawkins (1934–2004). Susan became an actress and was the daughter-in-law of John Moynihan Tettemer, a former Passionist monk who authored I Was a Monk: The Autobiography of John Tettemer, and was cast in small roles in Lost Horizon and Meet John Doe.

After Tandy and Hawkins divorced in 1940, she then married her second husband, Canadian actor Hume Cronyn, in 1942. Prior to moving to Connecticut, she lived with Cronyn for many years in nearby Pound Ridge, New York, and they remained together until her death in 1994. They had two children, daughter Tandy Cronyn, an actress who would co-star with her mother in the TV film The Story Lady, and son Christopher Cronyn.

In 1990, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and she also suffered from angina and glaucoma. Despite her illnesses and age she continued working. On September 11, 1994 she died at home in Easton, Connecticut, at the age of 85.

1930 The Matriarch Toni Rakonitz
1930 The Last Enemy Cynthia Perry
1938 Time and the Conways Kay
1939 The White Steed Nora Fintry
1940 Geneva Deaconess
1940 Jupiter Laughs Dr. Mary Murray
1941 Anne of England Abigail Hill
1942 Yesterday’s Magic daughter Cattrin
1947 A Streetcar Named Desire Blanche DuBois Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play
1950 Hilda Crane Hilda Crane
1951 Madam, Will You Walk Mary Doyle
1951 The Fourposter Agnes
1955 The Man in the Dog Suit Martha Walling
1955 The Honeys Mary
1959 Triple Play In Bedtime Story: Angela Nightingale
In Portrait of a Madonna: Miss Lucretia Collins In A Pound on Demand: The Public

1959 Five Finger Exercise Louise Harrington
1964 The Physicists Fraulein Doktor Mathilde von Zahnd
1966 A Delicate Balance Agnes
1970 Camino Real Marguerite Gautier
1970 Home Marjorie
1971 All Over The Wife
1972 Not I[22] Mouth Obie Award for Best Actress
1974 Noël Coward in Two Keys In A Song at Twilight: Hilde Latymer
In Come Into the Garden, Maud: Anna Mary Conklin

1977 The Gin Game Fonsia Dorsey Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play
1981 Rose Mother Nominated—Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play
Nominated—Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
1982 Foxfire Annie Nations Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play
1983 The Glass Menagerie Amanda Wingfield
1986 The Petition Lady Elizabeth Milne Nominated–Tony for Best Actress in a Play


1932 The Indiscretions of Eve Maid
1938 Murder in the Family Ann Osborne
1944 The Seventh Cross Liesel Roeder
1944 Blonde Fever Diner at Inn Uncredited
1945 The Valley of Decision Louise Kane
1946 The Green Years Kate Leckie
1946 Dragonwyck Peggy O’Malley
1947 Forever Amber Nan Britton
1948 A Woman’s Vengeance Janet Spence
1950 September Affair Catherine Lawrence
1951 The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel Frau Lucie Maria Rommel
1956 Producers’ Showcase Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1957 The Glass Eye Julia Lester Short film presented in “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”
1958 The Light in the Forest Myra Butler
1962 Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man Helen Adams Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actres
1963 The Birds Lydia Brenner
1975 Bicentennial Minute for August 31, 1775, Destruction of Boston’s Liberty Tree Herself CBS Television Network, August 31, 1975 – Sponsor: Royal Dutch Shell
1976 Butley Edna Shaft
1981 Honky Tonk Freeway Carol
1982 The World According to Garp Mrs. Fields
1982 Still of the Night Grace Rice
1982 Best Friends Eleanor McCullen
1984 The Bostonians Miss Birdseye
1984 Terror in the Aisles Herself Archival footage
1985 Cocoon Alma Finley Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actress
1987 Foxfire Annie Nations TV movie; Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1987 *batteries not included Faye Riley Saturn Award for Best Actress
1988 The House on Carroll Street Miss Venable
1988 Cocoon: The Return Alma Finley Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actress
1989 Driving Miss Daisy Daisy Werthan, Best Actress Oscar; BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role; Boston Society of Film Critics; David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actress; Golden Globe Award for Best Actress–Comedy
Silver Bear for the Best Joint Performance (with Morgan Freeman)[23]
Nominated—American Comedy Award for Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture
Nominated—National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress
Nominated—NYFC Circle Award for Best Actress
1991 The Story Lady Grace McQueen TV movie
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress–Miniseries or TV Film
1991 Fried Green Tomatoes Ninny Threadgoode Nominated, Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—American Comedy Award, Funniest Supporting Actress in Motion Picture
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1992 Used People Freida
1993 To Dance with the White Dog Cora Peek TV movie; Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1994 A Century of Cinema Herself documentary
1994 Camilla Camilla Cara Released posthumously
1994 Nobody’s Fool Beryl Peoples Released posthumously, (final film role)
*Re-issued on DVD as The Christmas Story Lady


1956 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Edwina Freel Episode: “Toby”
1957 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Julia Lester Episode: “The Glass Eye”
1958 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Laura Bowlby Episode: “The Canary Sedan”
1994 ER Mrs Backer Episode: “Going Home”