Jacqueline Brookes, 82; stage actress had film, TV roles

Jacqueline Brookes with John Holland at a San Diego Shakespeare festival.
Old Globe Theater
Jacqueline Brookes with John Holland at a San Diego Shakespeare festival.

Jacqueline Brookes, 82, an actress who appeared in films and on television but who won her widest acclaim on the stage in New York and across the country, performing the works of Shakespeare, Moliere, Pirandello, Edward Albee, and other dramatists over a 60-year career, died April 26 in New York.

The cause was lymphoma, said E. Colin O’Leary, executive director of Circle in the Square Theater School, where Ms. Brookes taught acting from 1974 until her death.

Ms. Brookes won awards for her early work in off-Broadway theater, including an Obie in 1963 for her performance in Luigi Pirandello’s ‘‘Six Characters in Search of an Author’’ and a Theater World Award in 1955 for an outstanding debut performance as the tragic heroine Phaedra in a Provincetown Playhouse production of ‘‘The Cretan Woman,’’ an adaptation of Euripides’s ‘‘Hippolytus’’ by the poet Robinson Jeffers.


Theater World cited her as among ‘‘the most promising personalities of the stage”; others included Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.

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The performance also drew the attention of Life magazine, which called her ‘‘an exciting new dramatic actress resembling a younger Judith Anderson’’ and noted that while playing the role, she worked as a ‘‘cheery breakfast hostess in New York’s Park Sheraton Hotel (salary $26.80 a week).’’

Ms. Brookes played many of Shakespeare’s leading female characters off Broadway, ­including Katherine in ‘‘The Taming of the Shrew,’’ Desdemona and Emilia in ‘‘Othello,’’ Portia in ‘‘The Merchant of Venice,’’ and Gertrude in ‘‘Hamlet.’’

In 1956, The New York Times called her depiction of the flirtatious, gossipy Celimene in Moliere’s ‘‘Misanthrope’’ “attractively insincere.’’

Her Shakespearean roles took her to prominent stages across the country, among them the Old Globe Theater in San Diego, the McCarter Theater in Princeton, N.J., and the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Conn.


Often described as a classic beauty, Ms. Brookes continued to take on difficult roles as she aged. In 1993, Ben Brantley in the Times called her interpretation of a character known only as the Woman in Albee’s ‘‘Listening’’ “centered, rivetingly taut performance’’ that held the production together.

Ms. Brookes reached a wider audience in movies such as ‘‘The Gambler’’ (1974), with James Caan; ‘‘The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear’’ (1991), with Leslie Nielsen; and ‘‘Losing Isaiah’’ (1995), with Jessica Lange and Halle Berry.

She also appeared on many prime-time television shows, including ‘‘Miami Vice,’’ “Law & Order,’’ and ‘‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’’ and on the soap operas ‘‘Ryan’s Hope,’’ “As the World Turns,’’ “Another World,’’ “The Secret Storm,’’ and ‘‘A Flame in the Wind.’’