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Elizabeth Hartman

Elizabeth Hartman (1965)
Born Mary Elizabeth Hartman
December 23, 1943(1943-12-23)
Youngstown, Ohio, U.S.
Died June 10, 1987 (aged 43)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.

Mary Elizabeth Hartman (December 23, 1943 – June 10, 1987) was an American actress, best known for her performance in the 1965 film A Patch of Blue, playing a blind girl called Selina, opposite Sir Sidney Poitier, a role for which she won the Golden Globe Award for New Star Of The Year - Actress and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama. The next year, she appeared in You're a Big Boy Now as Barbara Darling, for which she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.


Early life

Hartman was born in Youngstown, Ohio, where she became known to patrons of the Youngstown Playhouse as "Biff" Hartman.[1] After gaining valuable experience in community theater, she relocated to New York City. In 1964, Hartman was signed to play the ingénue lead in the Broadway comedy Everybody Out, the Castle is Sinking.

Film and theatre career

In 1964, Hartman was screen-tested by MGM and Warner Brothers.[1] In the early autumn of 1964, she was offered a leading role in A Patch of Blue, opposite Sidney Poitier and Shelley Winters. The role won Hartman widespread critical acclaim, a fact proudly noted by the news media in her hometown.[2] The role also won Hartman an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. At the time of her nomination in 1966, Elizabeth Hartman (who was 22 years old) was the youngest nominee ever in the Best Actress category. That same year, Hartman received an achievement award from the National Association of Theater Owners.[3]

She went on to star in three well-received films, The Group, You're a Big Boy Now and The Beguiled. A role as wife of former Sheriff Buford Pusser in Walking Tall (1973) was followed a decade later by integral voice work in 1982's The Secret of NIMH, wherein she voiced mouse-heroine Mrs. Brisby. This proved to be her last Hollywood film role.

In 1975, Hartman starred in the world premiere of Academy and Emmy Awards nominee Tom Rickman's[4] play Balaam, a play about political intrigue in Washington, D.C. Her costar was veteran actor Peter Brandon[5], with supporting roles played by Howard Whalen[6][7] and Ed Harris. The performance was mounted in Old Town Pasadena, California, by the Pasadena Repertory Theatre located in The Hotel Carver. It was directed by Hartman's husband, Gill Dennis[8] and produced by Duane Waddell.

Final years

Throughout much of her life, Hartman suffered from depression[9] In her later years, her mental health continued to decline and she moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to be closer to her family. In 1984, she divorced her husband, screenwriter Gill Dennis, after a five-year separation. In the last few years of her life, she gave up acting altogether and worked at a museum in Pittsburgh while receiving treatment for her condition at an outpatient clinic. However, on June 10, 1987, Hartman fell to her death from the fifth floor window of her apartment, in what was believed to be a suicide.[9] Earlier that morning, she had reportedly called her psychiatrist to say that she was feeling low.[10] Hartman was subsequently buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in her hometown. [11]


Year Film Role Notes
1965 A Patch of Blue Selina D'Arcey Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer - Female
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
A Cinderella Named Elizabeth Herself
1966 The Group Priss
You're a Big Boy Now Barbara Darling Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1968 The Fixer Zinaida
1970 Pursuit of Treasure
1971 The Beguiled Edwina Dabney
Night Gallery Judith Timm Episode "The Dark Boy"
1973 Walking Tall Pauline Pusser
Love, American Style Wilma More (uncredited) (segment "Love and the Locksmith")
1975 Wide World Mystery Camilla Episode "A Little Bit Like Murder"
Doctors' Hospital Bobbie Marks Episode "Come at Last to Love"
1980 Willow B: Women in Prison Helen aka A Matter of Survival (USA: original pilot title)
1981 Full Moon High Miss Montgomery
1982 The Secret of NIMH Mrs. Brisby (voice)


  1. ^ a b "Biff Hartman of Playhouse Roles Has Broadway Lead". The Steel Valley News: p. 24. 1964-11-22.  
  2. ^ Childress, Fred (1965-12-16). "Elizabeth Hartman Wins Praise As "Patch of Blue" Opens". The Youngstown Vindicator: p. 44.  
  3. ^ "Elizabeth Hartman Given Award of Theater". The New York Times. 1966-09-30.  
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  9. ^ a b "Elizabeth Hartman, 'Patch of Blue' Star, Is Suspected Suicide". New York Times. 1987-06-12.  
  10. ^ The Vindicator Youngstown, Ohio. 1987-06-11.  
  11. ^ "No film stars attend Miss Hartman rites". The Youngstown Vindicator: p. D-19. 1987-06-14.  

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