Familiar Faces

By Charlie Lambert

From time to time I see actors or actresses in an old film or television program that I recall seeing before. I often wonder who they are in their personal lives and how successful they are. Just last night I was watching a 33-year-old episode of COLUMBO and noticed a handsome, middle-aged actress playing the competent secretary of Patrick McGoohan (the villain of the episode). I looked her up this morning, knowing I’d seen her over the years in lots of popular movies and TV shows, even commercials.

Voila! Her name is Anne Haney and she was born (pertinent to this column) in Memphis in 1934. Her family (Robert Lee Thomas and Dorothy Ryan Thomas) lived at 3607 Cowden  in midtown.  On the Internet I even found an old Edwin Howard “The Front Row” column from the Press-Scimitar devoted to Miss Haney. Evidently, she did not live in Memphis much beyond her teen years. She began her professional acting career in 1980 at age 46 after she moved to Hollywood.”

Howard’s column sheds some light on the early activity of this memorable lady. She attended Southwestern in Memphis (now Rhodes College) and was a member of Ray Hill’s Southwestern Players. She worked briefly at a Memphis TV station. He traces her years at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she studied drama, radio, and television and where she met her spouse, John Haney. Her husband was director of programming at the Georgia Educational Television Station in Atlanta and they had a daughter, Melissa.

Edwin Howard in the same column written in 1973 explored Haney’s full year of amateur, on-stage activities playing mostly maids in a series of comedies and dramas in Atlanta, Jacksonville, Norfolk, and other locales during that period. Among her co-stars at that time were Dorothy Lamour (in Anne’s first outing as a maid in FALLEN ANGEL) and later Jerry Stiller, Mickey Rooney, and Hans Conried. Howard said Haney stole scenes from all of them in every show she did. She concluded the season with the lead (not a maid, this time) in Paul Zindel’s dark comedy, AND MISS REARDON DRINKS A LITTLE, as a sardonic teacher.

In 1980 her husband died of kidney disease, her daughter went off to college, and her maid quit. She decided it was time for her to broaden her acting career beyond local plays. She joined the Screen Actors’ Guild, moved to Hollywood, and got an agent. She obtained a small role in a movie called HOPSCOTCH (starring Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson).  She was off and running.

Anne was very memorable as a court supervisor in the film MRS. DOUBTFIRE (a missed chance for Oscar to recognize her strong performance), as Greta in LIAR, LIAR, and in various live and filmed parts in an array of work that includes: NORTHERN  EXPOSURE, L. A. LAW (recurring role as a judge), STAR TREK: The Next Generation, CHANGING HABITS (as a nun), THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT, and her final role in CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM in 2000.  She had a full and varied career and seemingly a happy personal life as well.

Getting back to the COLUMBO episode I began with, Haney’s role highlights her fussiness citing the direction,”Upon entering the building, he (Colombo) confronts an officious secretary spraying air freshener with a vengeance to mask the aroma of an offensive cigar that had been smoked there at some point after closing time the night before. She eyes the cigar-holding detective with distaste.” The reviewer notes, “It is particularly nostalgic to see Anne Haney in the role of Finch’s fussy secretary, Louise, as I seem to remember seeing her in hundreds of things growing up.”

That’s what I thought, too, and is why I went to the trouble to profile her here.  I am sure many of you will recognize her face but never knew she was a Memphian. Her name appears on Wikipedia in the scant listing of other Memphis-born actresses (Kathy Bates, Cybill Shepherd, Barbara Anderson, Leslie Jones (SNL comedian), and Stella Stevens).

She was easy to work with and popular among her peers. Robert Reed, the father of the BRADY BUNCH, was a close friend of hers.  She helped his family accept his homosexuality and helped administer medications to him in his last days.  Anne Haney died in 2001 of heart failure in her Studio City, California  home.



Wikipedia, Anne Haney, actress

Edwin Howard (December 28, 1973) “Kid Down The Street Clicking in Atlanta”, THE FRONT ROW column, Memphis Press Scimitar, Page 33.

Pamela Stone (2001)”A Woman’s guide to Living Alone”, Rowen and Littlefield. Pages 47-49

“Anne Haney 67”, Chicago Tribune/Los Angeles Times, obit, June 8, 2001

Colombophile InternetData. 1990, Episode, “Agenda For Murder”, Aired February 10, 1990.

Rhode College archives, “Ray Hill Players, Southwestern College.

Anne Ryan Haney, Wikipedia, Images.

8 thoughts on “Familiar Faces

  1. Good research and good article. We should make a list of all Memphis-origin actors of both sexes (e.g. Ellis rabb, Bill Ching, Michael Jeter, Barbara Cason, etc, etc.)

    1. Felix –I think we may have been at Uof M Law School together although we were not in any classes together. I would have written about Kathy but she is so well-known as a Memphian. This lady is not as famous as Kathy but is not known as a local. I have a few others in mind such as Hermes Pan. Do you know him? Thanks for you comment and I hope you keep reading my stuff.

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