She is perhaps best remembered today for her brief role as Clark Kent’s mother in 1978′s Superman. But Phyllis Thaxter’s more sizeable parts are to be found in the 1940s and 1950s. Having apprenticed in the theater, she caught M-G-M’s attention and made her debut as Van Johnson’s wife in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944). This was followed by Arch Oboler’s film version of his radio play Alter Ego, titled Bewitched (1945), in which Thaxter was top-billed and got to play a troubled character with a split personality, one of them a very bad girl. Bewitched turned out to be an anomaly in her film career, as Thaxter, usually as second lead, would become typecast as the patient, understanding woman keeping to her man through thick and thin. She was Spencer Tracy’s dutiful daughter in The Sea of Grass (1947), the widow of a GI in Living in a Big Way (1947), a victim of Susan Peters’ machinations in The Sign of the Ram (1948), Margaret O’Brien’s mother in Tenth Avenue Angel (1948), Barbara Bel Geddes’ sister in Blood on the Moon (1948), Robert Ryan’s wife in Act of Violence (1948), the expectant mother whose death ignites the plot of No Man of Her Own (1950), John Garfield’s suffering consort in The Breaking Point (1950), Burt Lancaster’s love interest in Jim Thorpe — All-American (1951), the girl James Cagney loses owing to his alcoholism in Come Fill the Cup (1951), and the spouse of professor Ronald Reagan in She’s Working Her Way Through College (1952) and Army officer Gary Cooper in Springfield Rifle (1952). After a bout with polio in 1952, Thaxter resumed her career, mostly on television. Her last appearance was in a Murder, She Wrote episode from 1992.
Phyllis Thaxter died August 14th in Longwood, Florida.