Stage and screen actress Jean Speegle Howard, mother of actor-director Ron Howard and actor Clint Howard, died Sept. 2 of complications from heart and respiratory illness in Burbank, Calif. She was 73.
Howard’s film career included roles in the Christmas comedy Scrooged (as Mrs. Claus), Matilda, Traveler, and son Ron’s Apollo 13, in which she played the mother of imperiled astronaut Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks). She’s granted one of the film’s most memorable lines: After being told that her son might not make it home, she insists, “If they could get a washing machine to fly, my Jimmy could land it.”
Stage and TV CreditsThe late actress also appeared in several TV shows, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Wonder Years, Roseanne, Ellen, and Married … With Children.
Prior to her screen career, Howard toured with a children’s theater company and performed professionally in the theater before settling down to raise a family with her husband in the 1950s.
After sons Ron and Clint were established in their careers, she began acting on-screen, appearing in 10 films and many TV shows before ill health forced her into retirement last year.
Howard is survived by her husband of 51 years, Rance; sons Ron and Clint; and four grandchildren.
Donations can be made in her memory to the Motion Picture and Television Fund. Reuters/Variety contributed to this story.