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Martha Ellen Scott (September 22, 1912 – May 28, 2003) was an American actress. She was featured in major films such as Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1956), and William Wyler's Ben-Hur (1959), playing the mother of Charlton Heston's character in both films. She originated the role of Emily Webb in Thornton Wilder's Our Town on Broadway in 1938 and later recreated the role in the 1940 film version, for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress.[1] Martha played the recurring role of Helen Elgin, the mother of Colonel Steve Austin (Lee Majors) on both The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman.


Martha is best known for her film debut playing "Emily" in Our Town (1940), costarring with William Holden, which led to an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her critically acclaimed performance. She later made notable appearances in such films as The Howards of Virginia, The Desperate Hours (1955) and The Turning Point.

She played Charlton Heston's mother in both "The Ten Commandments]] and Ben-Hur (1959) as well as costarred with him in Airport 75. Heston was a frequent co-star with her on both the stage, and in film. As she later told an interviewer in 1988, "I played his mother twice and his wife twice. I was his mother in Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments. I was his wife on the stage in New York in Design for a Stained Glass Window and The Tumbler in London."

In 1968, Martha co-founded a theatrical production company called "The Plumstead Playhouse" along with Henry Fonda and Robert Ryan. The company produced such fare as First Monday in October, both on stage and on film (Walter Matthau and Jane Alexander appeared in the film). Scott co-produced both versions. Her last production was 12 Angry Men, which was performed at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, California.

In the 1970s, she appeared in a recurring role playing Bob Newhart's mother. She also portrayed Linda Gray's mother on the CBS-TV series Dallas. Scott was also a frequent TV guest star in the 1970s. She had recurring roles as Bob Newhart's mother on CBS-TV sitcom The Bob Newhart Show, as well as Patricia Shepard, Sue Ellen and Kristin's mother on Dallas during its early years and later during the 1986 season. Scott was cast in single-episode guest appearances on several hit shows of the era, such as CBS-TV's The Sandy Duncan Show, NBC-TV's Columbo: Playback (1975), ABC-TV's The Mod Squad, Marcus Welby, M.D., and The Love Boat. She played the role of Jennifer Talbot, Terri Brock's nasty grandmother, on General Hospital for six months (1986–1987), which ended when her character was murdered and stuffed in a drain pipe.

In the 1980s, she had a regular role on the short-lived series Secrets of Midland Heights and appeared in several television movies and in single episodes of shows such as CBS-TV's Magnum, P.I., The Paper Chase|The Paper Chase, and NBC-TV's Highway to Heaven. In the late 1980's, she costarred with Jeffrey Lynn in an episode of CBS-TV's Murder, She Wrote, which was a direct sequel to their 1949 feature film Strange Bargain. Scott's final acting role on television was in 1990 in the television movie Daughter of the Streets.

Scott has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, next to the Fonda Theatre.


  1. Hollywood Winners & Losers A to Z, by Mark Thise, 2008, published by Limelight Editions. ISBN 978-0-87910-351-4.

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