Herta Ware photo

Herta Ware

Birth name:
Date of Birth:
15 August 1917 Wilmington, Delaware, USA
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The meek, docile, child-like aura and unassuming tiny frame of this veteran character lady belied a surprising survivor instinct and strong, liberal fortitude. Actress Herta Ware was born in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1917, the daughter of an actor father and musician mother. Her grandfather was a union activist who joined the Socialist Party in America during the early 1900s and grandmother a labor activist. Following stage training she made her Broadway debut in "Let Freedom Ring" co-starring husband Will Geer. The couple appeared together in other New York plays as well, including "Bury the Dead" (1936), "Prelude" (1936), "200 Were Chosen" (1936) and "Journeyman (1938). The politically-minded couple moved to Los Angeles in the early 1940s and settled in Santa Monica where Geer pursued a movie career. The couple had three children. In 1951, the passionately liberal Geer was blacklisted by Hollywood for taking the Fifth Amendment and refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Financially strapped with his film career destroyed, they eventually lost their Los Angeles home. Geer and Ware subsequently co-founded the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum on land that Herta bought in Topanga Canyon. The theater remained an invitation for targeted artists to continue to hone their creative skills. Outspoken friends and performers such as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger frequently came to their aid and often promoted and performed in their outside productions. The burgeoning theater officially opened as a summer theater in 1973. Will and Herta divorced in the 1950s but remained steadfast friends. She published her own memoir "Fantastic Journey, My Life with Will Geer" in 2000 and was at Geer's bedside when he passed away of a respiratory ailment in 1978. Herta continued performing at the Botanicum as the "Matriarch of the Topanga Community." By age 60, she had moved occasionally into TV and movie-making playing sweet old things. She is probably best known for her role as the altruistic wife of grouchy oldster Jack Gilford in the popular senior citizen film Cocoon (1985), and also guested on a variety of "The Golden Girls" (1985), "ER" (1994), and "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987). Many of her children and grandchildren have gone on to becoming performers at the Botanicum. Of her acting children Kate, Thad and Ellen (by actor Geer), Ellen Geer has been a longstanding artistic director of the theater. Her other daughter Melora Marshall, (by second husband/actor David Marshall) is also a consistently vibrant presence on the outdoor stage.
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