Eileen Ryan, an actress who worked alongside her late husband, actor-director Leo Penn, and her two-time Oscar-winning son, Sean Penn, on Broadway and in movies and TV shows, passed away on Sunday at her Malibu home, according to a publicist. She was 94.
Michael Penn, another son who is a composer and songwriter, is also a survivor. Actor Chris Penn, her youngest child, passed away in 2006.
When Ryan decided to become a full-time mother, she gave up her acting career and once declined the lead role in a John Frankenheimer-directed movie. She later came back, though, to play minor roles in films like At Close Range (1986), in which she played the grandmother of Sean and Christopher’s characters.
Eileen Annucci, one of three sisters, was born in New York on October 16, 1927. She made her Broadway debut in 1953 with Sing Till Tomorrow before performing in Comes a Day in 1958 with Judith Anderson, George C. Scott, and Larry Hagman.
In the outstanding Twilight Zone episode “A World of Difference” from the first season, Ryan played the hostile wife of a bewildered Hollywood actor (Howard Duff). She later made appearances on episodes of numerous other shows, such as The Detectives, Ben Casey, and Bonanza, where Leo directed her in 1972.
Additionally, he assisted her on the 1988 film Judgment in Berlin as well as episodes of Cannon, Little House on the Prairie, Marcus Welby, M.D., Matlock, and Marcus Welby, M.D.
The Indian Runner (1991), The Crossing Guard (1995), I Am Sam (2001), The Pledge (2001), The Assassination of Richard Nixon (2004), and All the King’s Men were among the movies in which Ryan appeared with Sean (2006).
In 1957, after he had assumed the role originally intended for Jason Robards, she first encountered the recently divorced Leo while attending rehearsals for a Circle in the Square performance of The Iceman Cometh in New York. After only one week of dating, they got married and moved in together. They remained together until his death at age 77 in September 1998.
Sean was born in 1960, Chris in 1965, and Michael was born in 1958. Heart disease claimed Chris’ life in January 2006 at the age of 40.