Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Born Today in 1886: Character Actress Spring Byington

Spring Byington was born today, October 17, in 1886, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  She was a popular character actress. Her career included a 7-year run on radio and television as the star of December Bride. She was a former MGM contract player who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1960s. Byington received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Penelope Sycamore in You Can't Take It with You in1938.

Byington's films included Little Women and Mutiny on the Bounty, but she became a household name in The Jones Family series of films.

In 1952, she starred as the widowed Lily Ruskin, in the radio sitcom December Bride. In 1954, the show moved to TV and lasted till 1959. She also was on the TV series, Laramie, as the housekeeper and she played Larry Hagman's mother on I Dream of Jeannie. Her final role was in 1968 as Mother General on The Flying Nun, starring Sally Field.

Byington was married in 1909 and had two daughters, but divorced in 1920. A number of Hollywood historians have claimed that Byington was a lesbian. It was reported that she had a long-term relationship with actress Marjorie Main, who was known for playing Ma Kettle in the Ma and Pa Kettle movies.  Main's biographer Michelle Vogel wrote that when asked about Byington's sexual orientation, Main said, "It's true, she didn't have much use for men."

On September 7, 1971, Byington died of cancer at her home in the Hollywood Hills. At her request, her body was donated to medical research.

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