- The Washington Times - Monday, October 23, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jane Wyatt, the lovely, serene actress who for six years on “Father Knows Best” was one of TV’s favorite moms, has died. She was 96.

Miss Wyatt died Friday in her sleep of natural causes at her Bel Air, Calif., home, according to publicist Meg McDonald. She experienced health problems since suffering a stroke at 85, but her mind was sharp until her death, son Christopher Ward said.

Miss Wyatt had a successful film career in the 1930s and ‘40s, notably as Ronald Colman’s lover in 1937’s “Lost Horizon.”

But it was her years as Robert Young’s TV wife, Margaret Anderson, on “Father Knows Best” that brought the actress her lasting fame.

She appeared in 207 half-hour episodes from 1954 to 1960 and won three Emmys as best actress in a dramatic series in the years 1958 to 1960. The show began as a radio sitcom in 1949. It moved to television in 1954.

“Being a family show, we all had to stick around,” she once said. “Even though each show was centered on one of the five members of the family, I always had to be there to deliver such lines as ‘Eat your dinner, dear,’ or ‘How did you do in school today?’ We got along fine, but after the first few years, it’s really difficult to have to face the same people day after day.”

It was a tribute to the popularity of the show that after its run ended, it continued in reruns on CBS and ABC for three years in primetime, a TV rarity.

“In real life, my grandmother embodied the persona of Margaret Anderson,” said grandson Nicholas Ward. “She was loving and giving and always gave her time to other people.”

The role wasn’t the only time in her 60 years in films and TV that Miss Wyatt was cast as the warm, compassionate wife and mother. She even played Mr. Spock’s mom in the original “Star Trek.”

She got her start in films in the mid-‘30s, appearing in “One More River,” “Great Expectations,” “We’re Only Human” and “The Luckiest Girl in the World.” When Frank Capra chose her to play the Shangri-la beauty in “Lost Horizon,” her reputation was made. Moviegoers were entranced by the scene — chaste by today’s standards — in which Mr. Colman’s character sees her swimming nude in a mountain lake.

Miss Wyatt was born in Campgaw, N.J. Her father, an investment banker, came from an old-line New York family, as did her mother, who wrote drama reviews. Miss Wyatt left Barnard College after two years to apprentice at the Berkshire Playhouse in Stockbridge, Mass.

During college, she attended a party at Hyde Park, N.Y., given by the sons of Franklin D. Roosevelt. There she met a Harvard student, Edgar Ward. In 1935, she married Mr. Ward.

The family will gather for a funeral Mass Friday, followed by a private interment, family members said.

She is survived by sons Christopher, of Piedmont, Calif., and Michael of Los Angeles; three grandchildren, Nicholas, Andrew and Laura; and five great grandchildren.

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