Mary Steenburgen Biography

(Actress and Comedian Best Known for Her Films: ‘Goin' South’, ‘Melvin and Howard’ and ‘Ragtime’)

Birthday: February 8, 1953 (Aquarius)

Born In: Newport, Arkansas, United States

Mary Steenburgen is an American actress famous for her ‘Oscar’ award-winning role as ‘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, receiving critical appreciation for many of her roles. She has worked with many celebrities and has appeared in over 60 films till now in her illustrious career. She has worked in some classics like ‘Goin' South,’ ‘Time After Time,’ and ‘What's Eating Gilbert Grape.’ She has also made a name for herself in the television industry. In a TV career spanning over 30 years, she has appeared in several shows, working with various production houses. In her lucrative career, she has received numerous awards and nominations under various categories. Apart from her acting career, she has also worked towards the welfare of society and environment.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Mary Nell Steenburgen

Age: 71 Years, 71 Year Old Females


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

father: Maurice Steenburgen

mother: Nellie Mae Wall

children: Charlie McDowell, Lilly McDowell

Born Country: United States

Actresses Comedians

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

Notable Alumni: William Esper Studio, Hendrix College

Ancestry: British American, Dutch American

U.S. State: Arkansas

More Facts

education: Hendrix College, William Esper Studio

  • 1

    What movies has Mary Steenburgen starred in recently?

    Some of Mary Steenburgen's recent movies include "Book Club," "Happiest Season," and "Zach Braff's Short Film: 'A Good Person.'"

  • 2

    Is Mary Steenburgen a singer as well as an actress?

    Yes, Mary Steenburgen is known for her singing talent and has performed in various projects, including the film "The Last Man on Earth" and the TV show "Zooey's Extraordinary Playlist."

  • 3

    Has Mary Steenburgen written any books?

    Yes, Mary Steenburgen co-authored a book titled "The Gift of a Good Start: How to Boost Your Child's Brain Power from Birth Through Age 4."

  • 4

    What are some interesting facts about Mary Steenburgen's career?

    Mary Steenburgen won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film "Melvin and Howard" and has also had success in both film and television throughout her career.
Childhood & Early Life

Mary Nell Steenburgen was born on February 8, 1953, in Newport, Arkansas, USA. Her father Maurice Steenburgen was a freight-train conductor who worked at the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Her mother Nellie Mae was a school-board secretary. She has a sister named Nancy Kelly who is a teacher by profession.

After her graduation, Mary joined ‘Hendrix College’ to study drama. During her time at ‘Hendrix College,’ one of her teachers suggested that she audition at New York City's ‘Neighborhood Playhouse.’

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Career in Films

After a successful audition at New York City's ‘Neighborhood Playhouse,’ Mary Steenburgen moved to Manhattan in 1972 to study acting. She took up odd jobs to sustain herself for a few years.

Her 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 role in his second directorial movie ‘Goin' South’. The next year, Mary worked in the film ‘Time After Time’ alongside Malcolm McDowell. She played the leading female role of ‘Amy Robbins’ who falls in love with an author.

Steenburgen gained considerable fame in her third film ‘Melvin and Howard’ in 1980 where 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 ‘Golden Globe Award.’

She landed many movie roles after appearing in ‘Melvin and Howard.’ She received appreciation from both critics and audience for her performance in films like ‘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 went on to have an equally successful career in the television industry after making her TV debut in 1983 in ‘Faerie Tale Theatre.’

She was featured in many television series like ‘Back to the Future’ (1991-92), ‘Ink’ (1996-97), ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ (2000-17), ‘Justified’ (2014-15), and ‘The Last Man on Earth’ (2015-18). Apart from these series, she has also made guest appearances in several shows.

In addition, she has also appeared in 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.

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She was seen in the 2015 biographical comedy-drama film ‘A Walk in the Woods’ where she played ‘Jeannie.’

In 2018, she appeared in the romantic comedy film ‘Book Club.’ The same year, her composition ‘Glasgow (No Place Like Home) was featured as the climactic musical moment in the film ‘Wild Rose.’

She was cast in a musical dramedy television series titled ‘Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist’ in 2020.

Major Works

In 1980, Mary Steenburgen played the role of ‘Lynda Dummar,’ the wife of ‘Melvin Dummar,’ played by Paul Le Mat, in the movie ‘Melvin and Howard.’ She won several accolades for this film, including the ‘Academy Award’ and ‘Golden Globe Award.’

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 ‘Doc Brown,’ played by Christopher Lloyd.

Awards & Achievements

Mary Steenburgen was nominated for 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’ under the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ category and a ‘Golden Globe Award’ under the ‘Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture’ category for the movie ‘Melvin and Howard.’

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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’ under the ‘Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture’ category for her work in ‘The Help’ in 2011.

She won the ‘Critics' Choice Movie Award,’ ‘Hollywood Critics Association,’ and ‘Houston Film Critics Society’ for ‘Glasgow (No Place Like Home).’

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.’ They got married in 1995.

Mary Steenburgen is a close friend of former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She supported her during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Facts About Mary Steenburgen

Mary Steenburgen is an accomplished musician who plays the accordion and has even performed with renowned artists such as Willie Nelson.

She is a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and has worked with various organizations to raise awareness about mental health issues.

Mary Steenburgen is a talented writer and has published a children's book called "The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles."

She is known for her love of gardening and has a thriving garden at her home where she grows a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Mary Steenburgen is a dedicated philanthropist and has supported numerous charitable causes over the years, including organizations focused on environmental conservation and animal welfare.

Mary Steenburgen Movies

1. The Help (2011)


2. What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)


3. Fight for Your Right Revisited (2011)

  (Comedy, Short, Music)

4. Ragtime (1981)


5. Time After Time (1979)

  (Adventure, Drama, Thriller, Sci-Fi)

6. Philadelphia (1993)


7. I Am Sam (2001)


8. Cross Creek (1983)

  (Biography, Romance, Drama)

9. Life as a House (2001)


10. The Whales of August (1987)



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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