Dorothy Stickney (1896-1898) was primarily a creature of the stage, although she was also in some well known film and television projects.
The daughter of a North Dakota doctor, she attended a theatre school in Minneapolis, and then went on to appear with stock companies and with a vaudeville act called Four Southern Belles. Her Broadway career was practically charmed. After her first show The Squall (1926), she was in the original productions of Chicago (1926-27), The Front Page (1928-29), Philip Goes Forth (1931, by George Kelly), On Borrowed Time (1938), Life with Father (1939-47) and its sequel Life with Mother (1948-49), among numerous other less remembered shows and revivals.
In movies Stickney was always a supporting player. She’s in fewer than two dozen films, although many of them are memorable. Her debut was in George Abbot’s My Sin (1931) with Tallulah Bankhead. Other notable ones were Murder at the Vanities (1934), The Uninvited (1944), The Catered Affair (1956) and I Never Sang for My Father (1970). She had always played nervous and strange characters; as she grew older, she added biddies to the repertoire. She played one of the Brewster Sisters in a TV version of Arsenic and Old Lace (1962) and one of the Baldwin Sisters in the TV movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971), which went on to become the TV series The Waltons. Stickney was unable to stay on in the role because by 1972 she had returned to the Broadway stage to appear in Pippin, replacing Irene Ryan, who had died (during a performance, no less). Stickney stayed with Pippin until it closed in 1977, retiring after that. She published her memoirs in 1979.
Stickney’s husband from 1927 until his death in 1968 was Howard Lindsay, with who she acted in Life with Father, and the original 1957 TV production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Lindsay was part of the Broadway writing team of Lindsay and Crouse, and much else besides. His own post awaits.
Dorothy Stickney passed away in 1998 at the age of 102!
To find out more about vaudeville, where Dorothy Stickney got her start, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous