‘Fences’, ‘Sparkle’ and ‘Matrix’ Star Turned 85 – The Hollywood Reporter

Mary Alice, the Tony and Emmy award-winning actress who starred in the original Broadway production of Fencesportrays the mother of three singing daughters in sparkled and appeared as the Oracle in The matrix revolutions, is dead. She was 85 years old.

Alice died at her New York home on Wednesday, an NYPD spokesperson said. The Hollywood Reporter.

In the 1990 films, Alice played Nurse Margaret opposite Robin Williams and Robert De Niro in alarm clocks, directed by Penny Marshall; the family matriarch grapples with a disruptive guest (Danny Glover) in Charles Burnett’s sleep with anger; and a woman whose son was hit by a car in the South Bronx in Brian De Palma’s The bonfire of vanities.

The former Chicago schoolteacher received back-to-back Emmy nominations in 1992 and 1993 – winning the second year – for her supporting role as Marguerite Peck, whose child is murdered, in the NBC legal drama Atlanta. I will fly awaywith Sam Waterston and Regina Taylor.

She also played dorm manager Lettie Bostic in the first two seasons (1988-89) of NBC. A different world; Oprah Winfrey’s Mattie Michael’s mother in the 1988 ABC miniseries The Women of Brewster Place; and Augustus Hill’s mother by Harold Perrineau Jr. in 2002 on HBO ounces.

In the cult favorite sparkled (1976), the rags-to-riches Harlem story inspired by The Supremes, Alice was memorable as Effie, the single mother raising daughters played by Irene Cara, Lonette McKee and Dwan Smith. (In her final role, Whitney Houston played the character in the 2012 reboot.)

“It wasn’t until her mid-thirties that she played the role, Alice beautifully crystallized – and saluted – all the mothers who went the extra mile for their children,” wrote Bob McCann in 2009. Encyclopedia of African American Film and Television Actresses.

After the death of Gloria Foster, who played the Oracle in the first two Matrix films, in 2001, Alice stepped in to pave the way for enlightenment in The matrix revolutions (2003). To explain the change in appearance, it was noted that the Oracle’s outer shell had been destroyed by the criminal program known as the Merovingian.

The distinguished Alice received her Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Play in 1987 for her role as Rose, wife of James Earl Jones’ Troy and mother of Courtney B. Vance’s Corey, in August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Fences.

“Ms. Alice’s performance emphasizes strength over self-pity, open anger over festering bitterness,” Frank Rich wrote in his New York Times exam. “The actress finds the spiritual quotient in the acceptance that accompanies Rose’s love for a bruised and deeply complicated man.”

She landed another Tony nomination in 1995 for playing Bessie Delany in Have our saya two-handed film in which she and Foster were sisters living past their 100th birthday and reflecting on life.

In 2000, she was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.

Image loaded lazily

From left to right: Mary Alice, Ray Aranha and James Earl Jones in “Fences”

Ron Scherl/Courtesy of Everett Collection

One of five children, Mary Alice Smith was born on December 3, 1936, in Indianola, Mississippi, and raised in Chicago. Her father, Sam, worked in a laundry and her mother, Ozelar, worked in a factory. After college, she was secretary for Social Security and then a teacher before joining a community theater troupe.

She landed her first paid job as an actress in 1966 when Douglas Turner Ward, co-founder of the New York-based Negro Ensemble Company, brought a touring band to Chicago to perform pieces such as Days away and happy endings.

“Equity required the band to use a local actor, and I was hired to do a few roles and the laundry,” she said in 1979. “I loved that. I really loved that and that didn’t mind doing laundry and ironing twice a week.”

Alice came to New York in 1967 and studied with Lloyd Richards – he had directed the original 1959 Broadway production of A raisin in the sun and guide her Fences – before appearing on stage for Wynn Handman’s Negro Ensemble Company and American Place Theatre.

In 1974 Alice starred in a PBS adaptation of Philip Hayes Dean’s The Pigpen of the Blind Pigdirected by Ivan Dixon, and made his film debut in Sonny Carson’s education. A year later, she starred in episodes of Police woman, Good time and Sanford and sons (like Fred’s sister, Frances, who just married a white man).

Alice said she never really considered herself an actress until she worked for producer Joseph Papp and his New York Shakespeare Festival, and she received an Obie Award for her performance as Portia in Julius Caesar in 1979.

Eleven years later, she gives the reply to Denzel Washington at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park in The tragedy of Richard III.

Image loaded lazily

Mary Alice and Keanu Reeves in “Matrix Revolutions” in 2003

Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection

Alice created the character of Rose in Fences during a 1983 workshop at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut.

“I based it not just on myself, but on my mom, my aunts, my grandmother, and other women I knew growing up in Chicago in the 1950s. Sometimes you just feel a affinity; you immediately know who a person is, and it’s one of those roles that I identified with very early on,” Alice told the Time in 1987.

“These were women who were uneducated, who lived in a time before women’s liberation and whose identity was tied to their husbands. They endured a lot of indignities and humiliations because they were women and were attached to men, and their life outside the home was very limited. Other than going to church, it was family.

Alice’s big-screen resume also included Spike Lee’s Malcolm X (1992), by Clint Eastwood A perfect world (1993), The inkwell (1994), Back home (1994), Bed of Roses (1996), Maya Angelou In the delta (1998), The wishing tree (1999) and John Sayles The state of the shining sun (2002).

His last screen credit came with a 2005 episode of the rebooted kojakwith Ving Rhames.

Abbey White contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment