We are saddened to report the passing of Phyllis Thaxter, who had a long career in film but is best known to at least two generations as Ma Kent in 1978’s Superman. She was 92.
Her movies teamed her with many of the leading actors of the 1940s and ‘50s including Gary Cooper (Springfield Rifle), Ronald Reagan (She’s Working Her Way Through College), Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn (The Sea of Grass), Burt Lancaster (Jim Thorpe - All American), and Robert Mitchum (Blood on the Moon), among others. Her last noted performance came on an episode of Murder, She Wrote in 1992.
“Frequently praised for bringing a quiet intelligence to her roles, Ms. Thaxter made her movie debut in 1944 in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Mervyn LeRoy’s film based on the true story of the first American bombing raid of Tokyo, led by Lt. Col. James Doolittle (played by Spencer Tracy). Ms. Thaxter played the wife of a pilot, played by Van Johnson, who volunteers for the mission with her support even though she is expecting a baby. He comes home badly wounded,” Denise Grady wrote in The New York Times.
The Times also reported that her daughter, Skye Aubrey, said that Thaxter had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease over the past eight years.