Jane Wyatt Dies at 96

By Michelle
October 23, 2006 - 1:46 PM

Jane Wyatt, who played Spock's mother Amanda on the original series and in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, died Friday at age 96 in her home in Los Angeles. She was best known for playing another television mother - Margaret Anderson on Father Knows Best.

Though the three-time Emmy winner had suffered a stroke more than a decade ago that left her with health problems, her mental faculties were unimpaired, said her son Christopher Ward in an Associated Press interview (via MSNBC).

The daughter of an investment banker and a theatre critic descended from one of America's oldest Dutch families, Wyatt came from an affluent family and attended Barnard College before joining the Berkshire Playhouse and soon appearing on Broadway. She made the ability to continue to work onstage a condition of signing a contract with Universal Pictures in 1934. She married college sweetheart Edgar Ward in 1935; the pair had two sons, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

The six years Wyatt spent on Father Knows Best made her instantly recognizable to many Americans even as it perpetuated family stereotypes of the 1950s while ignoring social realities like poverty, racial struggle and feminism. (The Simpsons' Springfield is named in mocking tribute to the Springfield of Father Knows Best.) In 1966, Wyatt commented that the actors "tried to preserve the tradition that every show had something to say. The children were complicated personally, not just kids. We werenít just five Pollyannas."

She played a less conventional mother on Star Trek: a human woman married to a Vulcan and living on his world. Amanda first appeared in "Journey to Babel", where she acted as an intermediary between Spock and his estranged father, Sarek. One of the more memorable female guest roles on a series with numerous exotic women, Amanda told Dr. McCoy that Spock had been very fond of a pet she compared to a teddy bear and admitted to Captain Kirk that it took her many years to learn to pronounce her Vulcan family name.

In Star Trek IV, Amanda reminded her son not to neglect integrating his human aspects after Spock died and was reborn in the previous two films. Amanda herself reportedly had died by the time of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Sarek had married another human woman.

Wyatt's film career encompassed such movies as Lost Horizon (in which a body double appeared for Wyatt's character's nude scene) and Gentleman's Agreement, the 1947 Gregory Peck classic directed by Elia Kazan. Her husband of 65 years passed away in 2000.

The lengthy Associated Press obituary is here.

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