Jane Wyatt (August 12, 1910 – October 20, 2006) was an American actress best known for her role as the housewife and mother on the NBC and CBS television comedy series, Father Knows Best, and as Amanda Grayson, the human mother of Spock on thescience fiction television series Star Trek. Wyatt was a three-time Emmy Award-winner.
Jane Wyatt was born on August 12, 1910 in Campgaw (now part of Mahwah, New Jersey), but was reared in New York City. Her father, Christopher Billopp Wyatt, Jr., was a Wall Street investment banker, and her mother, the former Euphemia Van Rensselaer Waddington, was a drama critic for the Catholic World. Both of her parents were Roman Catholic converts.
One of her ancestors, Rufus King, was a signer of the U.S. Constitution, a U.S. Senator and ambassador, and the Federalistcandidate in the 1816 United States presidential election. She was also a descendant of British Royal Navy captain Christopher Billopp. Through her connection with Captain Billopp she is also related to James Willis. She was a distant cousin of Eleanor Roosevelt and the poet Harry Crosby, through their shared descent from Philip Livingston, also a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
While in New York City, Wyatt attended the Chapin School and later attended two years of Barnard College. After leaving Barnard, she joined the apprentice school of the Berkshire Playhouse at Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where for six months she played a varied assortment of roles.
Stage and film
One of her first jobs on Broadway was as understudy to Rose Hobart in a production of Trade Winds–a career move that cost her her listing in the New York Social Register (she later was relisted upon her marriage). Receiving favorable notices on Broadway and celebrated for her understated beauty, Wyatt made the transition from stage to screen and was placed under contract by Universal Pictures.
She made her film debut in 1934 in One More River. In arguably her most famous role, she co-starred as Ronald Colman's character's love interest in Frank Capra's Columbia Pictures film Lost Horizon (1937). Of her experience in Lost Horizon, she noted in an article in the St. Anthony Messenger newsletter, "During the war, they cut out all the pacifist parts of the film—the High Lama talking about peace in the world. All that was cut because they were trying to inspire those G.I.'s to get out there and go 'bang! bang! bang!' which sort of ruined the film." Other film appearances included Gentleman's Agreement with Gregory Peck, None but the Lonely Heart with Cary Grant, Boomerang with Dana Andrews, and Our Very Own.
Her film career suffered because of her outspoken opposition to Senator Joseph McCarthy, the chief figure in the anti-Communist investigations of that era. Her career was temporarily damaged for having assisted in hosting a performance by the Bolshoi Ballet during the Second World War, even though it was at the request of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As a result, she returned to her roots on the New York stage for a time and appeared in such plays as Lillian Hellman's The Autumn Garden oppositeFredric March.
For many people, Wyatt is best remembered as Margaret Anderson on Father Knows Best, which aired from 1954 to 1960. She played opposite Robert Young as the devoted wife and mother of the Anderson family in the Midwestern town of Springfield. This role won Wyatt three Emmy Awards for best actress in a comedy series. Billy Gray, Elinor Donahue, and Lauren Chapin played the Anderson children.
After Father Knows Best, Wyatt guest starred in several other series. On June 13, 1962, she was cast in the lead in "The Heather Mahoney Story" on NBC's Wagon Train. In 1963, she portrayed Kitty McMullen in "Don't Forget to Say Goodbye" on the ABC drama, Going My Way, with Gene Kelly and Leo G. Carroll, a series about the Catholic priesthood in New York City. In 1965, Wyatt was cast as Anne White in "The Monkey's Paw--A Retelling" on CBS's The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
Wyatt portrayed Amanda Grayson, Spock's mother, in the 1967 episode "Journey to Babel" of the original NBC series, Star Trek, and the 1986 film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Wyatt was once quoted as saying her fan mail for these two roles exceeded that of Lost Horizon.
Late in her career, she played Katherine Auschlander, the wife of hospital administrator Dr. Daniel Auschlander (Norman Lloyd), on the 1980s medical drama St. Elsewhere. She also appeared as Anna, mother of the Virgin Mary, in the 1978 television film The Nativity.
Though one of her early suitors was John D. Rockefeller III, Wyatt was married to investment broker Edgar Bethune Ward from November 9, 1935, until his death on November 8, 2000, just one day short of the couple's 65th wedding anniversary. The couple met in the late 1920s when both were weekend houseguests of Franklin D. Roosevelt at Hyde Park,New York.
She suffered a mild stroke in the 1990s, but recovered well. She remained in relatively good health for the rest of her life.
Jane Wyatt died on October 20, 2006 of natural causes at her home in Bel-Air, California. She was ninety-six years old. She is interred at San Fernando Mission Cemetery, next to her husband. Wyatt is survived by her sons, Christopher and Michael Ward (according to an obituary in The Washington Post, a third son died in infancy in the early 1940s), three grandchildren and five great grandchildren.