Ruth Warrick, the darling of the daytime soap opera “All My Children” who launched her career in Orson Welles’ classic film “Citizen Kane,” has died, ABC-TV said Monday. She was 88.
Warrick died at her New York home Saturday of complications from pneumonia, the network, which issued an obituary Monday night, announced.
In “All My Children,” which made its debut in 1970, Warrick played Phoebe Tyler Wallingford, the grande dame of the fictitious 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 fictitious, equally sophisticated, character.
Twice nominated for an Emmy for the role, Warrick often talked about how Phoebe Tyler had become an integral part of her life.
“I understand her. I may not be all Phoebe, but she is all me,” Warrick wrote in her autobiography, “The Confessions of Phoebe Tyler.”
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.”
Warrick, who was born and raised in St. Joseph, Mo., left for New York after graduating from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Her interest in acting led her to the Mercury Theater troupe, which was 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, chose her for the role of his wife because, he said, there were no “ladies in Hollywood” who fit the bill.
Warrick later appeared in other movies, including “The Corsican Brothers,” with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and “The Great Bank Robbery.”
But television turned out to be her medium. Before landing the role of Phoebe Tyler, Warrick had a 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 to 1960, and “The Guiding Light,” from 1953 to 1954.
Warrick seemed to find her niche as Phoebe Tyler. She often said that Welles was indirectly responsible for the character’s development.
“It is as if the imaginary girl who was Kane’s wife had grown into the woman who influences so many lives in the imaginary world of Pine Valley,” she wrote in her autobiography. “Since Emily’s character owes much to the compelling hand of Orson Welles, so, indirectly, must Phoebe’s.”
In addition to acting, Warrick was strongly committed to the arts in education. She taught at Julia Richman High School in New York as part of President Carter’s City in Schools program and was a dropout prevention consultant for the Department of Labor under President Kennedy and for President Lyndon Johnson’s Job Training Corps.
She is survived by three children, a grandson and six great-grandchildren.