Who is that woman?

June 15, 2010

ANNE SEYMOUR

At last, I know. I have been wondering for decades about an actress who had a brief role in an episode of “The Honeymooners,” and last night I found out by chance who she was.

The episode – one of the so-called “classic 39” – is a Christmas story in which Ralph Kramden saves money to buy Alice a present, but spends it on a bowling ball. Then he uses what money he has to buy a hairpin box that’s made of  2,000 match sticks glued together, believing the salesman’s story that the box came from the home of the Emperor of Japan. On Christmas Eve, before Ralph gives Alice this present, a neighbor – Mrs. Stevens – comes to the door and says she’s going to be away for the holiday and wants to give Alice a present before leaving. Of course, when Alice opens the  package it’s a box just like the one Ralph bought, and the neighbor says she bought it at a novelty shop near the subway station.

ANNE SEYMOUR

The rest of that story doesn’t matter. What matters — to me, at least — is that I have always felt that the woman who played that small part was a wonderful actress. She created such a strong impression of Mrs. Stevens as warm and self-effacing that, even as a kid, I had a feeling that I’d like her to be my neighbor or even a member of my family — an aunt, maybe. Every time I see that episode, I’m entranced by that actress’s performance. But “The Honeymooners” producers were stingy with the credits, so the actress wasn’t identified.

So the other might I watched the 1949 version of “All the King’s Men” on TCM. The film is based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Robert Penn Warren, and it is the story of Willie Stark, a corrupt politician modeled after Huey Long. I had not seen it before, and the first time I heard the voice of the actress playing Stark’s wife, Sally, I knew my question had been answered. A little Googling confirmed that the Kramdens’ neighbor was portrayed by Anne Seymour.

ANNE SEYMOUR and RALPH BELLAMY

Anne Seymour, it turns out, had an extensive career. The International Movie Database lists 121 film and television appearances for her between 1944 and 1988. “All the King’s Men” was her second movie. Her last was “Field of Dreams.” She played the newspaper publisher in Chisolm, Minnesota who helped Ray Kinsella learn about Dr. Archie “Moonlight” Graham.

The actress’s birth name was Anne Eckert, and her family was in the theater for at least seven generations dating back to the early 18th century in Ireland. Her brothers, James and John Seymour, were screen writers. Anne made her stage debut in 1928, and she later also worked in radio drama. Though she spent the bulk of her career working in television, she played Sara Delano Roosevelt, the mother of Franklin Roosevelt, in the 1958 Broadway production of “Sunrise at Campobello,” for which Ralph Bellamy won a Tony award for his portrayal of FDR. Although Anne Seymour got good review for her work in that play, she was not cast in the film version.

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4 Responses to “Who is that woman?”

  1. bronxboy55 Says:

    I have the original 39 on DVD and, thanks to you, I’m going to watch that episode tonight. (We saw “TV or Not TV” just a few days ago.) I watched “The Honeymooners” every night for years when it was on channel 11 in New York. For some reason, the Christmas episode was rarely shown. It’s a treat to see the shows on DVD, because the original footage is in there. On television, so much good stuff has been deleted to make room for commercials.

    Thanks for another great post, pal o’ mine!

  2. charlespaolino Says:

    I also have the series, and I used one of the episodes in an English class last semester. I showed the students the episode in which Ralph tries to impress a former suitor of Alice’s by pretending to be president of the bus company. I also showed them an episode of “Amos n Andy” in which the Kingfish tries to impress an friend from Marietta High School by pretending to be a millionaire. I had the students write essays comparing and contrasting various aspects of the shows, which were made within a couple of years of each other.

    I interviewed Joyce Randolph at her home in New York many years ago. She’s a nice woman.

  3. shoreacres Says:

    Though I couldn’t have told you her name, I surely have seen Anne Seymour, since I watched both All the King’s Men and Field of Dreams.

    I enjoyed being reminded of The Honeymooners – we always watched it as a family and laughed ourselves silly.

    But the mystery of your entry was the name – Anne Seymour. It kept nagging and nagging at me. I knew I was remembering something that had nothing to do with films. Finally, I realized I was conflating Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour. My European history teacher would be proud of me.


  4. My wife and I watched the episode last night. You’re right, she was impressive. Unlike many of the incidental characters on that show, she actually knew her lines and delivered them with poise. I was also surprised at the ending, when the four main actors “step out of character” and look directly at the audience (and the camera) to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Either I had forgotten about that part or it was another casualty in the war between content and commercial.

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