January 18, 2005
NEW YORK - She played the icy first wife of Orson Welles in "Citizen Kane" and a mysterious housekeeper on "Peyton Place," but one role seemed to resonate the most with Ruth Warrick - that of Phoebe Tyler Wallingford, an inveterate busybody on "All My Children."
"I understand her. I may not be all Phoebe, but she is all me," Warrick wrote in her 1980 autobiography, "The Confessions of Phoebe Tyler."
Warrick, who was honored last May with a Daytime Emmy Award for lifetime achievement, died at her New York home Saturday of complications from pneumonia, ABC-TV said Monday. She was 88.
In "All My Children," which debuted in 1970, Warrick played the grande dame of the fictitious affluent town of Pine Valley. She portrayed the meddlesome and over-the-top personality so believably that her fans often had trouble distinguishing between the stylish actress and her equally sophisticated character.
Producer Jorn Winther once said of the actress: "Obviously Ruth and Phoebe are separate and unique, yet they have much in common. All I can say with confidence is that they are both great ladies and that I love them."
Twice nominated for an Emmy for the role, she made her final appearance less than two weeks ago to commemorate the show's 35th anniversary.
Susan Lucci, who plays Erica Kane on "All My Children," said Warrick was her first mentor. "Over the years she not only shared with me her talent and grace, but she did so with the entire country," Lucci said in the ABC statement.
Warrick, born and raised in St. Joseph, Mo., left for New York after graduating from the University of Kansas City. Her interest in acting led her to the Mercury Theater troupe, headed by Welles.
She made her Hollywood debut in 1941 in "Citizen Kane" as Emily Norton Kane. Welles, who co-wrote, directed and starred in the film, hand-picked her for the role of his wife because he said there were no "ladies in Hollywood" who fit the bill.
In 1991, Warrick was honored with a caricature on the wall of the famous New York restaurant Sardi's in honor of the 50th anniversary of her performance in the film.
Warrick later appeared in other movies, including "The Corsican Brothers," with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and "The Great Bank Robbery" with Zero Mostel. Her Broadway credits include appearances with Debbie Reynolds in the 1973 musical "Irene" and with Jackie Gleason in the 1959 musical "Take Me Along."
But television turned out to be her medium. Before landing the role of Phoebe Tyler, Warrick had the starring role in the series "Father of the Bride" and received an Emmy nomination for her role as Hannah Cord in the long-running "Peyton Place." She also appeared in two other TV series - "As the World Turns," from 1956-60, and "The Guiding Light," from 1953-54.
Warrick seemed to find her niche in the role of Phoebe Tyler. She said that it was Welles' "compelling hand" that was indirectly responsible for the character's development.
Besides her acting, Warrick had a strong commitment to the arts in education. She taught at Julia Richman High School in New York as part of former President Carter's City in Schools program and was a dropout prevention consultant for the Department of Labor under former President Kennedy and for former President Johnson's Job Training Corps.
Warrick, who married five times, is survived by three children, a grandson and six great-grandchildren.