Marion Lorne (August 12, 1883 – May 9, 1968) was an American actress of stage, film, and television. After a career in theatre in New York and London, Lorne made her first film in 1951, and for the remainder of her life, played small roles in films and television.
Her recurring role, between 1964 and her death in 1968, as Aunt Clara in the comedy series, Bewitched (1964–1972) brought her widespread recognition, and for which she was posthumously awarded an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
She was born Marion Lorne MacDougall in West Pittston, Pennsylvania, a small mining town halfway between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, of Scottish and English immigrant parents. While her year of birth is listed as 1885 on her tombstone, it was usually listed as 1888 when she was alive and the Social Security Death Index lists it as 1883. She studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.
Career Lorne debuted on Broadway in 1905; she also acted in London theaters, enjoying a flourishing stage career on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
In London she had her own theater, the Whitehall, where she had top billing in plays written by Walter Hackett, her husband. None of her productions at the Whitehall had runs shorter than 125 nights.
After appearing in a couple of Vitaphone shorts, including Success (1931) starring Jack Haley, she made her feature film debut in her late 60s in Strangers on a Train (1951), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
The role was typical of the befuddled, nervous, and somewhat aristocratic matrons that she usually portrayed.
From 1952-55, Lorne was seen as perpetually confused junior high school English teacher Mrs. Gurney on Mr. Peepers. From 1957–58, she co-starred with Joan Caulfield in the NBC sitcom Sally in the role of an elderly widow who happens to be the co-owner of a department store. Although afraid of live television, declaring “I’m a coward when it comes to a live [television] show”, she was persuaded to appear a few times to promote the film The Girl Rush with Rosalind Russell in the mid-1950s.
Between 1958–64, she made regular appearances on The Garry Moore Show (1958–64). Her last role, as Aunt Clara in Bewitched, brought Lorne her widest fame as a lovable, forgetful witch who is losing her powers due to old age and whose spells usually end in disaster. Aunt Clara is obsessed with doorknobs, often bringing her collection with her on visits.
Lorne had an extensive collection of doorknobs in real life, some of which she used as props in the series. Death She appeared in twenty-seven episodes of Bewitched, and was not replaced after she died of a heart attack in her Manhattan apartment, just prior to the start of production of the show’s fifth season, at the age of 84 on May 9, 1968. Lorne is buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in Greenburgh, New York.
Posthumous The producers of Bewitched recognized that Lorne’s performance as Aunt Clara could not be replicated by another actress. Comedic actress Alice Ghostley was recruited to fill the gap as “Esmeralda”, a different type of befuddled witch with wobbly magic whose spells often went astray.
Coincidentally, Lorne and Ghostley had appeared side-by-side as partygoers in the iconic comedy-drama film The Graduate , made the year before Lorne’s death. She received a posthumous Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on Bewitched. The statue was accepted by Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery. Personal life She was married to playwright Walter Hackett, who died in 1944. WIKIPEDIA SOURCES Personal life She was married to playwright Walter Hackett, who died in 1944.