|Full Name Margaret Feury|
Name Peggy Feury
|Years active 1948—1985|
Occupation Actress, teacher
Born June 30, 1924 (1924-06-30) Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
Other names Peg Feury, Margaret Traylor
Spouse William Traylor (m. 1961–1985)
Children Stephanie Feury, Susan Traylor
Movies The Witch Who Came from the, All of Me, The Last Tycoon
Similar People William Traylor, Susan Traylor, Matt Cimber, Jesse Dylan, Carl Reiner
Grandchildren William Dylan, Feury Mae
Died November 20, 1985 (aged 61) West Hollywood, California, U.S.
Peggy Feury (30 June 1924 — 20 November 1985) (born Margaret Feury) was an actress on Broadway, in films, and on television. She became a highly regarded acting teacher in New York and then in Los Angeles. Her students included Sean Penn, Meg Ryan, Johnny Depp, Ellen Burstyn, Jeff Goldblum, Vonetta McGee, Lou Gossett, Jr., James Cromwell, Crispin Glover, Eric Stoltz, Laura Dern, Lily Tomlin, Charlie Sheen, Annette O'Toole, Anjelica Huston, Meg Tilly, Nicolas Cage, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Oscar-winning screenwriters Bobby Moresco and Callie Khouri.
Feury was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. Her father was Richard Feury; her mother, born in Ireland, was also Margaret Feury; and her younger sister was Elinor Feury. She graduated from Barnard College, then attended the Yale School of Drama, later studying with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio, and with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse. While at Yale, Feury met and then married her first husband, playwright Louis S. Peterson.
As Margaret Feury she appeared on Broadway in Me and Molly; Sunday Breakfast (staged by noted acting teacher Stella Adler); Enter Laughing; Peer Gynt, starring John Garfield, Mildred Dunnock, and Karl Malden, directed by Lee Strasberg; The Grass Harp, directed by Actors Studio co-founder Robert Lewis; The Lady of the Camellias, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, Chekov's Three Sisters, directed by Strasberg (with Feury eventually replacing Geraldine Page as Olga), and The Turn of the Screw. Off-Broadway she starred in Frank Wedekind's Earth Spirit at the Provincetown Playhouse.
Between 1956 and 1969, the Actors Studio undertook a project to record and archive work that was being done there, including performances of scenes from dramatic literature. These recordings have been archived as part of the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections. Feury participated in this project from its inception until her relocation to Los Angeles in December 1968.
Feury appeared in a number of television dramas beginning in the Golden Age of Television, including, in 1961, a significant role she played in “Murder is a Face I Know”, an episode from The Naked City, which can be found on the internet.
In November 1961, an early draft of the first scene of Edward Albee’s play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, was presented on the public television program Playwright at Work. The characters George and Martha – which would later be originated on stage by Arthur Hill and Uta Hagen, and on screen by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor – were portrayed by Shepperd Strudwick and Feury.
On October 2, 1977, Feury appeared in "Iowa," the second season premiere of Visions, PBS's Peabody Award-winning dramatic anthology series; it was also playwright Murray Mednick's television debut. Though critical reaction to the show was lukewarm at best, the actors fared markedly better, Feury in particular. As the unwilling nursing home resident whose disjointed recollections provide her granddaughter an invaluable connection to her Iowa roots, Feury's portrayal was judged "[b]y far the best acting performance of all" by The Hartford Courant, while her able embodiment of dementia-fueled digression – "from family feeling to suspicion to self-absorbed recollection" – was duly noted by The Boston Globe, with The Los Angeles Times citing her "almost effortless grace" and "marvelous ferocity." Even James Wolcott's otherwise resounding thumbs down found one moment to cherish:
One scene teems with unruly life: Eileen visits her grandmother (Peggy Feury) in the nursing home, and the grandma's semi-senile outbursts have a crazy, cawing theatricality. "This is a cattle yard," says Feury's crone as the camera stares down the discarded people. "Bellowing, constant bellowing." Another patient – babbling "Operator, operator, operator" – is wheeled across the screen and grandma, like an Alice-in-Wonderland queen, issues a command: "Choke her!" This disreputably funny scene is capped when a nurse happens by and – perfect joke – turns out to be a Lily Tomlin lookalike.
In 1982, Feury appeared as "Colonel Buckholtz," a perfectionist colonel who inspects Margaret Houlihan and the nurses in "Hey, Look Me Over," the opening episode of M*A*S*M*A*S*H Season 11.
Feury's film credits include Matt Cimber's The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976), Richard C. Sarafian's The Next Man (1976) starring Sean Connery, Elia Kazan's film of The Last Tycoon (1976), starring Robert De Niro, Carl Reiner's All of Me (1984), starring Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin, Ken Russell's Crimes of Passion (1984), and Feury's final screen performance, in 1918 (1985), written by Horton Foote. A brief appearance in Donald Shebib's Heartaches (1981) was singled out by New York Times critic Vincent Canby: "That very fine actress Peggy Feury appears in a tiny but important scene as the doctor who advises Bonnie about a possible abortion."
By far Feury's most substantial film role (in terms of both sheer size and importance to a film's narrative) came in a little seen low-budget psychological horror film – John Ballard's Friday the 13th: The Orphan (1979), based on the short story Sredni Vashtar by Saki – that's long since been eclipsed by its hugely successful namesake. In Nightmare USA (his 2007 study of lesser-known American exploitation filmmakers), Stephen Thrower writes:
Then there's Peggy Feury, a skilled and thoughtful actress who demonstrates here how she came to be one of the leading lights in her profession. (She taught acting at the Actors Studio, alongside Lee Strasberg.) The role of Aunt Martha is already well-written, but Feury brings her own amazingly subtle shadings to the part.
Feury was a charter member of the Actors Studio and frequently led sessions there when Lee Strasberg was unavailable. She also taught her own classes in the same building where Strasberg taught, behind Carnegie Hall.
In December 1968, at Strasberg's suggestion, Feury moved to Los Angeles with her husband William Traylor and their two daughters. After a brief stint teaching at Jack Garfein's Actors and Directors Lab, Feury helped establish the west coast branch of the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, where she would double as instructor and artistic director until 1973, when she and Traylor started their own acting school, the Loft Studio, on LaBrea Avenue.
Sean Penn was 18 when he arrived at the Loft; he remained for two years, attending class twenty-five hours a week. Feury's "very gentle," "very personal" approach quickly won over the fiercely independent young actor, as did her emphasis on discovering "how [to] bring yourself to the material rather than the material to you." To Anjelica Huston, who began her studies in 1981 at age 30, Feury was "a revelation," with "a vast knowledge of playwrights" and "an extraordinary gift for making one feel understood." Huston describes her teacher as "beautiful," " quite small and delicate," with a "half way to heaven look." On the other hand, notes Huston, Feury was "extremely intelligent and mordant, Irish, with certain very visceral preferences", and yet had "a way of commenting on a scene that was never destructive. [Even when] you knew she thought it was pretty terrible, she had a way of translating it positively to actors – her process was very reinforcing, I think."
Feury was occasionally called upon to coach an individual actor in a role, as she did Michelle Pfeiffer in Brian De Palma's Scarface (1983) and Lily Tomlin in her one-woman stage show The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. The evolution of Tomlin's show formed the basis of a 1986 documentary in which Feury appeared posthumously; Tomlin dedicated the film to her memory.
Others who have studied with Feury include actors Richard Dean Anderson, Albie Selznick, Sam Behrens, Bruno Kirby, Joanna Kerns, Dean Cameron, Christopher Penn, Kate Vernon, Irene Tsu, Daphne Zuniga, Melissa Gilbert, Ed Begley, Jr., Arthur French, Sachi Parker, Taylor Miller, Michelle Phillips, Michelle Meyrink, Robert R. Shafer, Grainger Hines, Rosalie Williams, Marilyn Hassett, Hallie Foote, and Hart Bochner, as well as director Antero Alli, playwright Milcha Sanchez-Scott, and filmmaker John Gulager.
From the mid 1970s until her death, Feury and her students frequently showcased the work of playwright Horton Foote, presenting four of his plays in their entirety plus a number of individual scenes from Foote's magnum opus, The Orphans' Home Cycle. In 1984, in what would prove to be her final film role, Feury was cast, appropriately enough, in the film version of Foote’s 1918, the seventh of The Orphans' Home Cycle's nine plays.
Illness and death
Feury struggled with narcolepsy. When she would come out of one of its spells she could be lucid as though she had been alert during the episode. She died Wednesday, November 20, 1985 in a car accident, a head-on collision, in West Los Angeles.
Stage credits (partial listing)
These are acting credits except where otherwise indicated.