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'Father Knows Best' mother Wyatt dead at 96

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(CNN) -- Actress Jane Wyatt, the prototypical housewife and mother in the television series "Father Knows Best," has died at age 96, her spokeswoman told CNN Sunday.

Wyatt died Friday of natural causes in her sleep at her house in Bel Air, California, said Meg McDonald, Wyatt's goddaughter and publicist.

A spokesman for Gates Kingsley & Gates Funeral Home in Santa Monica confirmed the death.

Before taking her role in the television series, Wyatt had already established herself as a television pioneer, serving as host of the "Bell Telephone Hour."

But it was her co-starring role with Robert Young on "Father Knows Best" that catapulted her to stardom and led her to become the first consecutive winner of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Emmy Award.

In the late 1960s, she appeared in an episode of "Star Trek" as Spock's mother, a role she reprised in 1986 in "The Voyage Home," a Star Trek movie.

Born August 12, 1910, to an investment banker and a drama critic, Wyatt attended Barnard College and made her Broadway debut as an understudy at 19.

She played roles that included ingenue and leading lady in about 50 plays, including "Autumn Garden" with Fredric March.

In 1934, Universal hired her and moved her to Hollywood. Over the next 30 years, she appeared in 30 films and a number of plays, often in the role of the understanding wife.

She acted in "Great Expectations" (1934); "Lost Horizon" (1937); "None but the Lonely Heart (1944); "Gentleman's Agreement" (1947); "Task Force"; and "The Voyage Home" (1986).

In 1935, Wyatt married investor/inventor Edgar Bethune Ward, who died in 2000.

Wyatt is survived by her sons Christopher and Michael Ward, three grandchildren and five great grandchildren.


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