Melissa Yandell Smith, the actress who played the sister of Frances McDormand’s character in the Oscar-winning film. Nomadland, has died. She was 64 years old.
She died of colon cancer on September 7 at her home in San Francisco surrounded by family and friends, according to her. obituary printed in The New York Times.
A Yale classmate and longtime friend of McDormand’s, who would win the Best Actress Oscar for NomadlandSmith appeared in some important scenes in the film as Fern’s sister, Dolly. Its appearance in Nomadland was the highlight and the only film credit of Smith’s career, as she spent much of her professional life working in theater and teaching, and served as the director of the conservatory at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco for 25 years.
In a statement to the Chronicle of San Francisco, McDormand said of her “best friend” Smith: “We had a 42-year friendship that incorporated our ambitions, our dreams, our successes and our failures. I am as proud of that deep friendship as I am of my 38-year marriage and of being the mother of my beloved son. “
Born on June 8, 1957 in Louisville, Kentucky, Smith attended Louisville Collegiate School and Kentucky Country Day School, graduating from the latter in 1975. She went to Yale and graduated with a BA in English and theater in 1979 and then He enrolled in the Acting Program at the Yale School of Drama.
In her first week at Yale Drama School, she would meet Warren David Keith, who would later become her husband, and also McDormand. He moved to New York in 1982 to work in theater, but also began his long career in teaching, first at the Honolulu Youth Theater in Hawaii and in Purchase, New York at SUNY, Purchase Youth Theater.
After working as an acting teacher at Princeton and the Caymichael Patten Studio in New York, she joined ACT as the director of the conservatory in 1995 and for many years oversaw the master’s program, which remains one of the leading acting graduate programs in the US position in 2020 for health reasons.
Despite his focus on teaching, he continued acting, performing in various theater productions in New York and at ACT, Berkeley Repertory Theater, and California Shakespeare Theater.
She is survived by her husband, actor Warren David Keith, and her son, Owen.
The ACT announced that it is planning a celebration of his life at a later date.