Mary Steenburgen Biography

Mary Steenburgen is an Academy Award winning American Actress. Check out this biography to know about her childhood, family life, achievements and fun facts about her life.

Quick Facts

Birthday: February 8, 1953

Nationality: American

Famous: Actresses American Women

Age: 67 Years, 67 Year Old Females

Sun Sign: Aquarius

Also Known As: Mary Nell Steenburgen

Born in: Newport, Arkansas, United States

Famous as: Actress

Height: 5'8" (173 cm), 5'8" Females


Spouse/Ex-: Ted Danson (m. 1995), Malcolm McDowell (m. 1980–1990)

father: Maurice Steenburgen

mother: Nellie Mae Wall

children: Charlie McDowell, Lilly McDowell

U.S. State: Arkansas

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Mary Steenburgen is an American actress famous for her Academy Award winning role of ‘Lynda Dummar’ in Jonathan Demme's 1980 classic ‘Melvin and Howard’. She also won the ‘Golden Globe Award’ for the same role along with several other awards. She has featured in some very popular movies and has also been critically acclaimed for her roles in the film industry. She has worked with many celebrities and has appeared in over sixty films till now in her career. She has worked in some classics like ‘Goin' South’ alongside Jack Nicholson, ‘Time After Time’ and ‘What's Eating Gilbert Grape’. She has also made her name in the television world; in a career stretching over 30 years, she has appeared in around as many shows, working with various production houses. In her illustrative career she has won numerous awards and has been nominated in various award categories. Apart from her acting career, she has also worked hard for various Human Rights and environmental awareness drives.

Childhood & Early Life
Career in Films
  • After winning the audition for New York City's ‘Neighborhood Playhouse’, Mary Steenburgen moved to Manhattan, New York City in 1972 to study acting. She did odd jobs to sustain herself for a few years.
  • Her first big break came in 1978 when she was discovered by Jack Nicholson in the reception room of Paramount's New York office. He signed her for the lead actress role in his second directorial movie ‘Goin' South’. The next year Mary worked in the film ‘Time After Time’ alongside Malcolm McDowell. She was featured as the leading female character who falls in love with an author.
  • Steenburgen gained considerable fame for her third film ‘Melvin and Howard’ in 1980. She played the role of Lynda Dummar. She was nominated for six different awards for this role and won all of them including an Academy Award and a Golden Globe award.
  • She appeared in many movies after her first big success. Some of the hit movies in which her work was praised by both the critics and the audiences are ‘Cross Creek’ (1983), ‘Parenthood’ (1989), ‘Back to the Future Part III’ (1990), and ‘What's Eating Gilbert Grape’ (1993).
  • Her other popular films include ‘Philadelphia’ in 1993, ‘Elf’ in 2003, ‘Four Christmases’ in 2008, ‘The Proposal’ in 2009, and ‘Dirty Girl’ in 2010.
Career in Television
  • Mary Steenburgen did not limit herself to the film industry. She also had an equally successful career in the television industry after making her TV debut in 1983 in ‘Faerie Tale Theatre’.
  • She has featured in many television series like ‘Back to the Future’ in 1991-92, ‘Ink’ in 1996-97, ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ in 2000, ‘Justified’ in 2014-15, and ‘The Last Man on Earth’ in 2015. Apart from these big roles, she has also appeared in some shows for short periods or in guest appearances.
  • In addition, she has done some television films like ‘The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank’ in 1988, ‘The Gift’ in 1994, ‘Noah's Ark’ in 1999, ‘Living with the Dead’ in 2002, and ‘7 Days in Hell’ in 2015.
Major Works
  • In 1980 Mary Steenburgen played the role of Lynda Dummar, the wife of Melvin Dummar, in the movie ‘Melvin and Howard’. She won several accolades for this film including the Academy Award and the Golden Globe Award.
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  • In 1990 she played Clara Clayton in the movie ‘Back to the Future Part III’. She portrayed the role of a school teacher who falls in love with the character ‘Doc Brown’, played by Christopher Lloyd.
Awards & Achievements
  • Mary Steenburgen was nominated for the a Golden Globe Award in 1978 for the film ‘Goin' South’
  • She won the Saturn Award for Best Actress for the film ‘Time After Time’ in 1979.
  • She won a total of six awards including an Academy Award in the category of ‘Best Supporting Actress’ and a Golden Globe Award in the category of ‘Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture’ for the movie ‘Melvin and Howard’ in 1980.
  • In 2004 she won the Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Television Series for her role in ‘Joan of Arcadia’.
  • She won the Screen Actors Guild award in the category ‘Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture’ for her work in ‘The Help’ in 2011.
Personal Life
  • In 1978, Mary Steenburgen started dating Malcolm McDowell, her co-actor from the movie ‘Time After Time’. They married two years later in 1980 and had two children: son Charlie McDowell and daughter Lilly. They divorced in 1990 after separating a year before.
  • In 1993 she met actor Ted Danson on the set of the film ‘Pontiac Moon’ and they married in 1995.
  • Mary Steenburgen is a close friend of former Senator and ‘Secretary of State’ Hillary Clinton and supported her in the 2008 Presidential campaign along with husband Danson.
Net Worth
  • As of February 2017 Mary Steenburgen had a net worth of US $12 million.
  • Her next door neighbor in Manhattan was Steve Martin.
  • She is a well-known humanitarian, and has worked with several organizations for human rights and environmental causes.

Mary Steenburgen Movies

1. The Help (2011)


2. Fight for Your Right Revisited (2011)

  (Comedy, Short, Music)

3. What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)


4. Ragtime (1981)


5. Philadelphia (1993)


6. I Am Sam (2001)


7. Time After Time (1979)

  (Adventure, Drama, Thriller, Sci-Fi)

8. Cross Creek (1983)

  (Biography, Romance, Drama)


Academy Awards(Oscars)
1981 Best Actress in a Supporting Role Melvin and Howard (1980)
Golden Globe Awards
1981 Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Motion Picture Melvin and Howard (1980)

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