'Father Knows Best' actress dies at home in California

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Jane Wyatt, the lovely, serene actress who for six years on "Father Knows Best" was one of TV's favorite moms, has died, her publicist said Sunday. She was 96.
Wyatt died Friday in her sleep of natural causes at her Bel-Air home, according to publicist Meg McDonald. Her death also was confirmed by Bernard Johnson of the funeral home Gates, Kingsley & amp; Gates Moeller Murphy Funeral Directors.
Wyatt had a successful film career in the 1930s and '40s, notably as Ronald Colman's lover in 1937's "Lost Horizon." But it was her years as Robert Young's TV wife, Margaret Anderson, on "Father Knows Best" that brought the actress her lasting fame.
She appeared in 207 half-hour episodes from 1954 to 1960 and won three Emmys as best actress in a dramatic series in the years 1958 to 1960.
The role wasn't the only time in her 60 years in films and TV that Wyatt was cast as the warm, compassionate wife and mother. She even played Mr. Spock's mom in the original "Star Trek" series and the feature "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home."
She got her start in films in the mid-'30s, appearing in "One More River," "Great Expectations," "We're Only Human" and "The Luckiest Girl in the World."
Wyatt was born in Campgaw, N.J., into a wealthy family in 1910, according to McDonald, her publicist. Her father, an investment banker, came from an old-line New York family, her mother was a Van Rensselaer and wrote drama reviews.
While acting with Lillian Gish in "Joyous Season" in 1934, she got a contract offer from Universal Pictures. She agreed, on condition she could spend half each year in the theater.
In 1935 she married Harvard student Edgar Ward, then a businessman, in Santa Fe, N.M. They had two sons, Christopher and Michael.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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