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As time goes on, it’s inevitable that actors who were powerhouses and trailblazers in the entertainment sphere for decades eventually pass away. Just yesterday, it was announced that Blazing Saddles and The Mary Tyler Moore Show actress Cloris Leachman died at age 94. Now today brings word that Oscar-nominated actress Cicely Tyson, whose extensive resume included The Help and Fried Green Tomatoes, has passed away at age 96.
Cicely Tyson’s death comes just two days after her memoir, Just As I Am, was released to the public. Tyson’s death was announced by her manager, Larry Thompson, who said the following in a statement (via Variety):
I have managed Miss Tyson’s career for over 40 years, and each year was a privilege and blessing. Cicely thought of her new memoir as a Christmas tree decorated with all the ornaments of her personal and professional life. Today she placed the last ornament, a Star, on top of the tree.
Cicely Tyson began her professional acting career in 1951 by appearing on the NBC series Frontiers of Faith, and five years later, she made her film debut in Carib Gold. Tyson’s cinematic work in the immediate years that followed included Odds Against Tomorrow, A Man Called Adam and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, but it was her performance as Rebecca in 1972’s Sounder that propelled her to stardom. Among the accolades she collected from that movie were Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations.
Nearly two decades later, Cicely Tyson starred alongside Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy in Fried Green Tomatoes, based on the same-named book by Fannie Flag. Younger moviegoers, however, might know her best as Constantine Jefferson in 2011’s The Help, which starred Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone. Tyson’s other notable film credits included Hoodlum, Because of Winn-Dixie, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Last Flag Flying and A Fall from Grace, the latter of which was her final movie. In 2018, Tyson received an honorary Oscar, making her the first African-American woman to earn such an honor.
Cicely Tyson also leaves behind an impressive body of work in the television realm. Before Sounder, she appeared on shows like I Spy, The F.B.I., Gunsmoke and Mission: Impossible. 1977 saw her starring as Binta in the critically acclaimed miniseries Roots, and she hosted Saturday Night Live two years later. During the 1994-1995 TV season, Tyson led the short-lived legal drama Sweet Justice, for which she scored an Emmy nomination. As far as modern TV goes, she’s arguably best know for her guest spots on ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder as Ophelia Harkness, mother of Viola Davis’ Annalise Keating, which netted her five Emmy nominations. Tyson’s final TV credits include House of Cards, Madam Secretary, Cherish the Day and the TV movie The Trip to Bountiful.
We here at CinemaBlend express our condolences to Cicely Tyson’s family and friends during this difficult time. If you have a favorite movie and/or TV appearance of hers, feel free to share it in the comments section below.