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Elizabeth Hartman

Elizabeth Hartman
Elizabeth Hartman in A Patch of Blue, her debut film
Born Mary Elizabeth Hartman
(1943-12-23)December 23, 1943
Youngstown, Ohio, U.S.
Died June 10, 1987(1987-06-10) (aged 43)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Cause of death
Resting place
Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Youngstown, Ohio
Occupation Actress
Years active 1964–1982

Mary Elizabeth Hartman (December 23, 1943 – June 10, 1987) was an American actress, best known for her performance in the 1965 film A Patch of Blue, playing a blind girl named Selina D'Arcy, opposite Sidney Poitier, a role for which she won the Golden Globe Award for New Star Of The Year – Actress and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama. The next year, she appeared in You're a Big Boy Now as Barbara Darling, for which she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.

Early life

Hartman was born in Youngstown, Ohio, where she became known to patrons of the Youngstown Playhouse as "Biff" Hartman.[1] After gaining valuable experience in community theater, she relocated to New York City. In 1964, Hartman was signed to play the ingénue lead in the Broadway comedy Everybody Out, the Castle is Sinking.

Film and theatre career

In 1964, Hartman was screen-tested by MGM and Warner Brothers.[1] In the early autumn of 1964, she was offered a leading role in A Patch of Blue, opposite Sidney Poitier and Shelley Winters. The role won Hartman widespread critical acclaim, a fact proudly noted by the news media in her hometown.[2] The role also won Hartman an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. At the time of her nomination in 1966, Elizabeth Hartman (who was 22 years old) was the youngest nominee ever in the Best Actress category. That same year, Hartman received an achievement award from the National Association of Theater Owners.[3]

She went on to star in three well-received films, The Group, You're a Big Boy Now and The Beguiled. A role as wife of former Sheriff Buford Pusser in Walking Tall (1973) was followed a decade later by voice work in 1982's critically acclaimed animated feature The Secret of NIMH, wherein she voiced mouse-heroine Mrs. Brisby. She was highly praised for her performance as Mrs. Brisby, however this proved to be her last Hollywood film role.

In 1975, Hartman starred in the world premiere of Academy and Emmy Awards nominee Tom Rickman's play Balaam, a play about political intrigue in Washington, D.C. Her costar was veteran actor Peter Brandon, with supporting roles played by Howard Whalen and Ed Harris. The production was mounted in Old Town Pasadena, California, by the Pasadena Repertory Theatre located in The Hotel Carver. It was directed by Hartman's husband, Gill Dennis and produced by Duane Waddell.

Later years and death

Throughout much of her life, Hartman suffered from depression.[4] In her later years, her mental health continued to decline and she moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to be closer to her family. In 1984, she divorced her husband, screenwriter Gill Dennis, after a five-year separation. In the last few years of her life, she gave up acting altogether and worked at a museum in Pittsburgh while receiving treatment for her condition at an outpatient clinic. On June 10, 1987, Hartman committed suicide by jumping from the window of her fifth floor apartment.[4] Earlier that morning, she had reportedly called her psychiatrist saying that she felt despondent.[5] Hartman was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in her home town.[6]


Year Title Role Notes
1965 A Patch of Blue Selina D'Arcey Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer – Female
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
1965 A Cinderella Named Elizabeth Herself MGM promotional film for A Patch of Blue
1966 The Group Priss
1966 You're a Big Boy Now Barbara Darling Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1968 The Fixer Zinaida
1970 Pursuit of Treasure
1971 The Beguiled Edwina Dabney
1971 Night Gallery Judith Timm Episode: "The Dark Boy"
1973 Walking Tall Pauline Pusser
1973 Love, American Style Wilma More Segment: "Love and the Locksmith"
1975 Wide World Mystery Camilla Episode: "A Little Bit Like Murder"
1975 Doctors' Hospital Bobbie Marks Episode: "Come at Last to Love"
1980 Willow B: Women in Prison Helen Alternative title: A Matter of Survival
1981 Full Moon High Miss Montgomery
1982 The Secret of NIMH Mrs. Brisby Voice

See also


  1. ^ a b "Biff Hartman of Playhouse Roles Has Broadway Lead". The Steel Valley News. 1964-11-22. p. 24. 
  2. ^ Childress, Fred (1965-12-16). "Elizabeth Hartman Wins Praise As "Patch of Blue" Opens". The Youngstown Vindicator. p. 44. 
  3. ^ "Elizabeth Hartman Given Award of Theater". The New York Times. 1966-09-30. 
  4. ^ a b "Elizabeth Hartman, 'Patch of Blue' Star, Is Suspected Suicide". New York Times. 1987-06-12. 
  5. ^ The Vindicator Youngstown, Ohio. 1987-06-11.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ "No film stars attend Miss Hartman rites". The Youngstown Vindicator. 1987-06-14. p. D-19. 

External links

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