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Friday 21 June, 2024
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Joan Hotchkis Dead at 95, Cause of Death

BY Sharmeen Hussain Oct 04, 2022. 12:11 pm UPDATED: Oct 04, 2022. 12:11 pm

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The Odd Couple and Legacy actor, dramatist, and screenwriter Joan Hotchkis passed away on September 27 in Los Angeles. 95 years old. Congestive heart failure was the cause of Hotchkis’ death, according to her daughter Paula Chambers.

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Hotchkis was the last surviving child of Preston Hotchkis and Katharine Bixby, influential civic figures in Los Angeles who throughout the course of the last century oversaw organisations like the California Historical Society and the Metropolitan Water District.

After receiving an M.A. in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street Teacher’s College and a B.A. in Psychology from Smith College, Hotchkis first worked as a nursery school teacher in New York before turning professional actor in 1954 at the age of 27.

At the Players Ring theatre in Hollywood, she was cast in the lead role of Lizzie in The Rainmaker. When she moved back to New York, she joined The Actors Studio and started getting offers for guest roles and TV advertisements. She met the filmmaker Bob Foster at this time, and the two later got married and had a daughter named Paula.

Before making her Broadway debut in 1960 with Advise and Consent, Hotchkis would go on to star in the drama Streetcar Named Desire and the soap serial The Secret Storm.

After divorcing in 1967, she relocated back to Los Angeles and appeared as a guest star on a number of television programmes, including General Hospital and Bewitched.

She starred as the female lead opposite William Windom in the 1969–1970 films My World and Welcome To It, and she also appeared in The Odd Couple as Dr. Nancy Cunningham, Oscar Madison’s former lover (1971).

She appeared as a guest star on numerous shows throughout the 1970s, including Marcus Welby, Barnaby Jones, Lou Grant, Charlie’s Angels, Mannix, The New Dick Van Dyke Show, St. Elsewhere, and The Life and Times of Eddie Roberts in 1980.

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She appeared in The Late Liz, Old Boyfriends, and Clint Eastwood’s 1973 picture Breezy starring William Holden as Anna “Mama” Hartley. She also appeared alongside Robby Benson and Glynnis O’Connor in the cult classic Ode to Billie Joe (1976).

In addition to writing the acting manual “Not Acting Please,” Hotchkis also wrote the play Legacy in 1974, which she later adapted into a movie.

After finishing Legacy, Hotchkis was diagnosed with a meningioma, a benign brain tumour, which was successfully removed through surgery. This allowed her to continue writing for decades longer.

Hotchkis’ goals altered after surviving brain surgery; she gave up acting in TV and movies and went back to performing on stage.

Hotchkis had a strong commitment to social justice, and she supported progressive organisations and menteees from disadvantaged backgrounds. She gave crucial assistance to activists like Torie Osborne, who would go on to lead the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and Bogaletch “Boge” Gebre, who fought for the rights of Ethiopian women.

With her enthusiasm, boldness, generosity, and exquisite fusion of elegance and playfulness, Joan Hotchkis influenced numerous people as an actor, writer, producer, performance artist, philanthropist, mentor, and friend. Paula, her daughter, and many more loved ones are still alive and will sorely miss her.

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