Michael Learned Biography

Michael Learned is an actress best known for her role as Olivia Walton on ‘The Waltons’. This biography of Michael Learned provides detailed information about her childhood, life, achievements, works & timeline.

Michael Learned
Quick Facts

Birthday: April 9, 1939

Nationality: American

Famous: Actresses American Women

Age: 80 Years, 80 Year Old Females

Sun Sign: Aries

Born in: Washington, D.C.

Famous as: Actress

Height: 5'7" (170 cm), 5'7" Females

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Glenn Chadwick (1974–1977), IV (1979–?), John Doherty (1988–present), Peter Donat (1956–1972), William Parker

father: Bruce Learned

mother: Elizabeth Duane

children: Caleb Donat, Chris Donat, Lucas Donat

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The feisty lady who played the loving and loyal Olivia Walton on the television series ‘The Waltons’, Michael Learned is a famous actress who has found great success in American television. With her pleasant matronly looks she was no doubt the best choice to be cast as Olivia Walton even though she was largely unknown at that time. It is quite weird that someone as feminine as Michael Learned should have such a masculine name! In fact, people could not believe that such a pretty lady could actually be called Michael! But once she carved a niche for her, she became more famous for her acting skills than for her masculine name. Even as a young girl she realized her interest in acting and decided to pursue it professionally. She began her acting career on the stage and has appeared in many plays with her then-husband. Married as a teenager, she soon became a mother of three boys—she often states that motherhood at a young age prepared her for many of her television roles. Today she is counted amongst the best known female character actors in American television. In spite of her professional successes, she could not achieve stability in her personal life and has been married four times.

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Michael Learned
Childhood & Early Life
  • She was born as the oldest daughter of Elizabeth Duane and Bruce Learned in Washington, D.C. Her father was a diplomat in the U.S. State Department. She had five sisters.
  • The family moved to Austria when Michael was 11 due to her father’s job responsibilities.
  • She was always interested in pursuing acting as a profession and thus went to Arts Educational School in England.
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Career
  • Married as a teenager, she began appearing in stage productions along with her husband during the 1960s. She mostly performed with the American Conservatory Theatre (ACT) in San Francisco.
  • She was once performing in a production of Noel Coward’s ‘Private Lives’ when producer Lee Rich noticed her. He recognized her potential and cast her as Olivia Walton in his new television series, ‘The Waltons’.
  • ’The Waltons’, which premiered in 1972, was about the story of a large family during the Depression era, and Michael was chosen to play the matriarch, a mother of seven children. Since Michael too had married early and become a mother, she could relate with the character she played.
  • With her soft features and pleasant though not glamorous looks, the actress fit the role perfectly. She played a patient, soft-spoken and loving woman in the series and soon became synonymous with Olivia Walton. She remained with the series till 1979.
  • She played the role of Sister Janet in the religious anthology series ‘Insight’ which was about man’s search for meaning, freedom and love. She appeared in two episodes during 1973-74.
  • In 1978, she played a supporting role in ‘Little Mo’, the biographical TV film about the story of Maureen Connolly Brinker, the tennis player who became the first woman to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in the same calendar year.
  • She played Nurse Mary Benjamin in the American medical drama, ‘Nurse’ that premiered on CBS in 1981. It was about the story of a supervising nurse at a major hospital who returns to work following the death of her physician husband.
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  • The year 1986 saw her perform a role in the drama film ‘Power’ which was about political corruption and how power is yielded by the ones holding it. She co-starred with prominent actors like Richard Gere and Denzel Washington in the film.
  • She played Trish Carlin, the owner of a modeling agency in the sitcom, Living Dolls’ whose first episode was aired in 1989. It was the show in which Halle Berry made her acting debut.
  • In 1993, she played a supporting role in the biographical drama film, ‘Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story’ which was written and directed by Rob Cohen. It was about the story of the actor and martial artist Bruce Lee.
  • In the television movie, ‘A Father for Brittany’ (1998), she played the role of Edna Humphreys. The movie was about a childless couple who choose to adopt a baby and what ensues when the baby arrives and the mother gets diagnosed with cancer.
  • She appeared as Judge Turner in one of the episodes of ‘All My children’, a soap opera in 2005 and acted in two episodes of ‘One Life to Live’ the same year.
  • In spite of her advancing age she remained active on television and in 2011 she appeared in 11 episodes of ‘The Young and the Restless’ as Katherine Chancellor.
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Major Works
  • She is best known for her portrayal of Olivia Walton in the television series ‘The Waltons’ in which she plays a homemaker who is mother to a large brood. Her performance was critically appreciated and she won several awards and nominations for it.
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Awards & Achievements
  • She won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series thrice for her role of Olivia Walton in ‘The Waltons’—1973, 1974, and 1976.
  • She also won another Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for playing Nurse Mary Benjamin in the television series ‘Nurse’ in 1981-82.
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • Her first marriage was to Canadian-American actor Peter Donat in 1956. She was just 17 at the time of her marriage and soon went on to become a mother of three boys. The marriage ended in 1972.
  • She married Glen Chadwick in 1975 and divorced in 1977. Her third marriage to William Parker also ended in divorce. She married again in 1988. Her fourth husband is a lawyer, John Doherty.
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Awards

Primetime Emmy Awards
1982 Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Nurse (1981)
1976 Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series The Waltons (1971)
1974 Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series The Waltons (1971)
1973 Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Drama Series - Continuing) The Waltons (1971)

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How To Cite

Article Title
- Michael Learned Biography
Author
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
Website
- TheFamousPeople.com
URL
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/michael-learned-5396.php
Last Updated
- November 07, 2017

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