Mary Alice, the Tony and Emmy-winning actress who played the mother of three singing children in Sparkle, featured in the original Broadway production of Fences, and played The Oracle in The Matrix Revolutions, has passed away. 85 years old.
An NYPD spokeswoman confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that Alice passed away on Wednesday at her home in New York City.
In movies released in 1990, Alice portrayed Nurse Margaret in Penny Marshall’s Awakenings alongside Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, the family matriarch in Charles Burnett’s To Sleep With Anger dealing with a disruptive guest (Danny Glover), and a mother whose son was struck by a car in the South Bronx in Brian De Palma’s The Bonfire of the Vanities.
In 1992 and 1993, the former Chicago schoolteacher garnered back-to-back Emmy nods for her supporting performance as Marguerite Peck, whose kid is murdered, in the NBC courtroom drama I’ll Fly Away with Sam Waterston and Regina Taylor. She won the award the following year.
In the 2009 edition of the Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television, Bob McCann noted that Alice, who was only in her mid-30s at the time she portrayed the character, “beautifully crystallized — and praised — all the moms who went the additional mile for their children.”
In The Matrix Revolutions, Alice took over as The Oracle when Gloria Foster, who played The Oracle in the original two Matrix films, passed away in 2001. (2003). It was mentioned that The Oracle’s exterior shell had been damaged by the evil software known as the Merovingian to explain the shift in appearance.
In 1979, she said, “Equity obliged the company to utilize one local actor, and I was hired to perform a few roles and the laundry. I enjoyed it. Even though I had to do the laundry and ironing twice a week, I actually like it.
Before performing on stage for the Negro Ensemble Company and Wynn Handman’s American Place Theater, Alice arrived in New York in 1967 and trained with Lloyd Richards, who had directed the original 1959 Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun and would also mentor her in Fences.