Elizabeth Wilson, a Tony Award-winning character actress known for supporting roles in films like The Graduate and 9 To 5, has died. Elizabeth Morton, a close friend whom Wilson considered a daughter, confirmed that Wilson died on Saturday, although she did not establish a cause of death. Wilson was 94.
Wilson began her career in the theater, where, according to The New York Times, she was recruited by a movie company that offered her a contract. Balking at the studio’s suggestion that she would need plastic surgery, however, Wilson declined. She made her film debut in a small, uncredited role in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1946 film Notorious—Hitchcock would later go on to cast her as a waitress in The Birds—then left Hollywood for the theater, where she remained until 1955’s Picnic, reprising a role she had originated on Broadway.
Even in her 20s, Wilson—who never married or had children of her own—was frequently cast as a maternal figure, so many of her most famous roles are mothers. There’s Mrs. Braddock, mother of Dustin Hoffman’s Ben in The Graduate (1967); Ralph Fiennes’ patrician mother in Quiz Show (1994); and Abigail Craven, the mother of Christopher Lloyd’s Uncle Fester “impostor” in The Addams Family (1991). Even her last film role was motherly, playing the mom of Bill Murray’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Hyde Park On Hudson (2012).
But Wilson could play more than just mothers. She was a favorite of director Mike Nichols, who cast her in Catch-22, The Day Of The Dolphin, and Regarding Henry as well as in The Graduate. And her best-known role was as a career woman: Wilson memorably portrayed Roz, the office snitch and archenemy of the scheming trio of office workers played by Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda in the 1980 cult favorite 9 To 5.