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08 November 2013

Sara Haden: What a Character!

sara hadenThis post is written in conjunction with the second annual What a Character! blogathon hosted by Kellee at Outspoken and Freckled, Aurora at Once Upon a Screen, and Paula at Paula's Cinema Club. Read my contribution to last year's blogathon about black character actress Louise Beavers.

Classic film fans will immediately recognize Sara Haden as Mickey Rooney's spinster Aunt Milly in the Andy Hardy films.

I recognize Sara Haden from her debut film, a long lost and forgotten Katharine Hepburn flick called SPITFIRE (1934). It's actually one of my favorite Hepburn movies, though Hepburn herself would rather nobody ever saw the raw hillbilly movie ever again.

Wild Kat
Hillbilly Hepburn threatens Sara Haden with a stick in SPITFIRE (1934). Don't mess.
 Sara Haden also appeared in another hallmark Hepburn film, the first she made with Spencer Tracy - WOMAN OF THE YEAR (1942). In this movie about a jetsetting political journalist (Hepburn) and her sportswriter husband (Tracy), Haden plays the matron of a home for Greek refugee children, whom Tess and Sam briefly adopt.

Sara Haden (far left) with the cast of ANDY HARDY MEETS DEBUTANTE (1940)
Throughout the 1950s and 60s Haden appeared in several television dramas, often as a spiky old spinster woman. Notable films in which she appears as a side character include CAPTAIN JANUARY (1936), THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940) and THE BISHOP'S WIFE (1947).

Charlotte Walker
Sara Haden's mother Charlotte Walker had also been a prolific stage and screen actress. She worked for such directors as Cecil B. DeMille and David Belasco, and even appeared opposite the great Ethel Barrymore. She was married and divorced twice, working on stage since she was nineteen and eventually making the transition to moving pictures in 1915. Walker retired from acting a year before her daughter Sara's film debut in SPITFIRE (1934). Walker died in 1954 at the age of 81. Sara Haden was 82 when she passed away in 1981. Both mother and daughter were born and raised in Galveston, Texas.

I wish I could tell you more about Sara Haden and her mother. Unfortunately, it's difficult to find information about the lesser known character actors from Hollywood's golden age. It's a shame, really, because they must have had such wonderful stories to tell about the business and the people with whom they worked over the years. Sometimes it's those on the sidelines who are best able to describe the exciting goings on around them.

Although I can't tell you much more about Sara Haden, I'd like to think she was a nice person. I've always enjoyed her characters on screen, and now that you know who you are watching, I hope you'll notice her next time you see one of her films!


  1. It is a shame that more info isn't available on these lesser-known, but equally talented actors. Happily, your spotlight on Sara Haden will help introduce her to a new generation.

  2. I always associate Sara Haden as "Aunt Milly" in the Andy Hardy film series but love her in whatever role she plays. I had forgotten she appeared in Captain January as the schoolteacher. Thank you for spotlighting this talented woman! Gosh, her mother was a real beauty too- she looks rather like Dolores Costello in that photograph you included. Wow!

  3. Oh, I love it when someone completely unknown to me is spotlighted. Good luck in the quest for more info about his elusive lady.

  4. Although this isn't as much info as you would like, it's still more than I knew, and I've put SPITFIRE on my to-see list as a start. Thanks Margaret!

  5. Wonderful of you to bring what background you could find on Sara Haden. The quiet dignity she brings to "The Shop Around the Corner" is a joy. One of her larger screen roles is in "She-Wolf of London", a must-watch on Hallowe'en and a rare female-centric werewolf story.

  6. I remember her well from Woman of the Year, because the Greek adopted boy is a highlight of the film for me. Yet, I remembered the mother but didn't know the actress' name. Too bad there is not a lot of information about her.
    Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)


Can't wait to hear your thoughts!