Jane Alexander

Actress Jane Alexander won Emmy Awards for her roles in Playing for Time and Warm Springs. In 1992, she became chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts.


Jane Alexander was born on October 28, 1939, in Boston, Massachusetts. In the 1960s, she made her Broadway debut in The Great White Hope. During the 1970s, she continued to perform on stage, TV and in films. She received her first Emmy Award in 1980 for Playing for Time. In 1992 she became chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts. She won her second Emmy for the 2005 TV film Warm Springs.

Early Career

Actress Jane Alexander was born Jane Quigley on October 28, 1939, in Boston, Massachusetts. A talented stage, film and television actress, Alexander has been nominated for or won nearly every major award in her field. The daughter of a doctor, she grew up in an affluent home with lots of exposure to culture and the arts. Alexander discovered her love of acting while attending Sarah Lawrence College in the late 1950s.

Alexander’s career really took off in the late 1960s with her Broadway debut in the original drama The Great White Hope co-starring James Earl Jones. The play explored life of black boxer Jack Jefferson (played by Jones) and the racial issues surrounding his relationship with a white woman, Eleanor Bachman, played by Alexander. She won the 1969 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play, and was nominated for Academy Award for Best Actress in 1970, after reprising her role for the film version.

Career Highlights

During the 1970s, Jane Alexander continued to turn in stellar performances on stage and in films. She was nominated twice for Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She was first up for 1976’s Watergate scandal film All the President’s Men with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as famed journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, respectively. Alexander played a bookkeeper who helped out the pair on their quest for the truth. She scored her second supporting actress nomination in the divorce drama Kramer vs. Kramer with Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep.

On Broadway, Jane Alexander wowed audiences and critics alike, earning Tony Award nominations for her roles in 1973’s 6 Rms Riv Vu, 1974’s Find Your Way Home and 1978’s First Monday in October. Alexander also won raves for her stunning portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt in two miniseries – Eleanor and Franklin (1976) and Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years (1977) for ABC, garnering an Emmy nomination for each production.

Jane Alexander found more success in the 1980s and 1990s. She received her first Emmy Award for the 1980 Holocaust drama Playing for Time, winning in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Special category. Continuing to tackle challenging roles, Alexander was again nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in Testament (1983), in which she played Carol Wetherly, a wife and mother, trying to look after her family during the catastrophe that followed nuclear war. Returning to Broadway, she won a Drama Desk Award and received a Tony Award nomination for her work on Wendy Wasserstein’s play, The Sisters Rosensweig, in 1993.

Personal Life

Outside of acting, Jane Alexander assumed an important advocacy role in 1992 when she became chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts. She took the reins of the agency at a difficult time – by the mid-1990s there was political pressure to cut funding to the organization. Leaving the NEA in 1997, Alexander wrote about her experience in the book Command Performance: An Actress in the Theater of Politics (2000).

Most recently, Jane Alexander has tackled some interesting real-life characters. She won her second Emmy Award for playing Sara Delano Roosevelt in the cable television film Warm Springs. On the big screen, Alexander played the mother of famed photographer Diane Arbus in 2006’s Fur.

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